CHILDREN AND YOUNG PERSONS (CARE AND PROTECTION) AMENDMENT (CHILDREN'S EMPLOYMENT) BILL 2009
The Hon. PENNY SHARPE
(Parliamentary Secretary) [11.06 a.m.], on behalf of the
Hon. Ian Macdonald: I move:
That this bill be now read a second time.
I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard
The Hon. ROBYN PARKER
The bill before the House will amend the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998 to make the existing child employment provisions of the Act applicable to children up to 16 years of age who are employed as models.
The existing child employment provisions in the Act apply to, children up to the age of 15 years who are employed for still photography, entertainment or exhibition work. Exhibition work includes modelling before a live audience, for photographs and for film, TV or video recording.
The effect of the age amendment in this bill will be to extend the application of those provisions to children between the ages of 15 and 16 who are employed for modelling.
This bill will also make a consequential amendment to the Code of Practice in the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection—Child Employment) Regulation 2005.
That amendment will extend the daily time restrictions on the employment of children to include children between the ages of 15 and 16 years who are employed for modelling.
Importantly, the bill will also increase the penalty for employment of a child in contravention of the child employment provisions of the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998.
The existing maximum penalty for which the Act provides is 10 penalty units, which currently means $1,100. This bill will increase the maximum penalty for that offence to 100 penalty units.
Employment is defined in the legislation as work by a child for which payment is made or some other material benefit is conferred on the child or another person. The Act requires all employers of children for still photography, entertainment, modelling or other exhibition work to hold an employer's authority and to comply with the mandatory Code of Practice in the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection—Child Employment) Regulation 2005.
It is acknowledged in the provisions of the mandatory Code of Practice that child employees may be less capable than adults of negotiating conditions of their employment.
For that reason the Code of Practice contains specific requirements in relation to matters such as working hours, travel time, amenities, supervision and the effect of work on the child's education.
There are additional sets of requirements relating to the employment of children under 3 years of age and babies less than 12 weeks old.
The Children's Guardian has delegated authority to permit variations to the limits in the Code of Practice. That authority is only exercised when an assessment shows the welfare of employed children would not be compromised.
The Code of Practice prohibits casting of a child in a role or situation that is inappropriate in view of his or her age, maturity, emotional or psychological development and sensitivity.
The Code of Practice requires that details about each proposed instance of employment are notified in advance to the Children's Guardian. That notification provides an opportunity for the Children's Guardian to assess whether each proposal is likely to comply with the "appropriateness" test in the code of practice for each child involved.
One effect of this bill will be to give models between the ages of 15 and 16 years the benefits of the safeguards that the legislation already provides for models below the age of 15.
I believe that is appropriate in view of the concern expressed in our community about the dangers for young people who are drawn into an adult world at an age when they are more mature physically than they are emotionally.
It is difficult to define a precise age at which models are likely to be able to look after themselves in the workplace, but there is a broad consensus that it is older than 15 years for most children.
The extension of the legislative safeguards in New South Wales to apply to models up to 16 years of age is consistent with community opinion in New South Wales and elsewhere.
For example, in the cities of London, Milan and Sao Paolo the fashion industry peak bodies have responded to community views by making a voluntary commitment not to engage models under the age of 16 years.
The legislative scheme in New South Wales recognises that children do work as models and is designed to regulate the activities of employers to promote the welfare of the children for whom they are responsible.
I am sure all Members would agree that it is preferable to extend the existing legislative protection to children between the ages of 15 and 16 who are employed as models, rather than leave them to fend for themselves.
The other significant effect of this bill will be to increase the maximum penalty that a court may impose on an employer for failure to comply with this legislation in relation to any child it is intended to protect.
Failure to comply with the legislation is already an offence for which the maximum penalty prescribed in the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998 is currently 10 penalty units.
Non compliance could occur in a range of ways, including failure to obtain an employer's authority from the Children's Guardian or to notify the Children's Guardian about a proposed instance of employment. The most extreme form of an offence under this provision would be for an employer to proceed with an employment proposal in defiance of a notification from the Children's Guardian that it would contravene the code of practice.
The maximum penalty prescribed for a comparable offence under the Industrial Relations (Child Employment) Act 2006 is 100 penalty units. That provision applies where an employer fails to comply with requirements contained in a compliance notice.
This bill will increase the existing maximum penalty under the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998 to match the corresponding provision in the Industrial Relations (Child Employment) Act 2006. That would enable the Courts to impose similar fines on employers who deliberately flout either of these laws.
I commend the bill to the House.
[11.07 a.m.]: On behalf of the Liberal-Nationals Coalition I speak to the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Amendment (Children's Employment) Bill 2009. The Opposition supports this bill, which seeks to amend the legislation regarding the employment of children. This bill deals specifically with the public's point of view about young children undertaking modelling, and more specifically its concerns about young men and women who undertake modelling in adult fashion. There are great concerns about children modelling adults' clothes, but the concern is more about image, projection and age appropriateness for young people modelling in a world that presents an image that can be misinterpreted. They need adult guidance and support when they are modelling to look like adults or portraying an inappropriate image. The bill will extend the existing safeguards relating to the employment of children aged under 15 years to children aged 15 years and over, but under 16 years, who are employed as models, and will increase the maximum penalty for certain offences in relation to the employment of children from 10 penalty units to 100 penalty units, which is currently $11,000.
The child provisions in the Act apply to children up to 15 years who are employed for still photography, entertainment and exhibition work such as modelling for a live audience, photographs, films, television or video recordings. By way of background, it is important to discuss the debate that led to this legislation. Last year the editor of Vogue Australia
, Kirstie Clements, refused to go ahead with an editorial and cover shoot of a Polish model who came to Sydney for Australian Fashion Week after discovering that the model was just 14 years of age. Kirstie Clements is to be commended for her stance on that occasion, and also for her stance on a number of issues regarding the image of young women, and women generally as portrayed in the media. She has taken a courageous stance on body image, and what is perceived to be normal weight and appearance. She is quite a leader in giving Australians a more realistic attitude. At that time Kirstie Clements said:
What are we doing to our girls? When will casting agents think that, maybe because a 10-year-old looks beautiful, that it's OK to have her representing a woman of 30 or more. I think as women we need to make a stand.
That stand saw the organisers, the International Management Group, follow suit by issuing this statement:
Effect immediately, both male and female models participating in Rosemount Australian Fashion Week will need to be at least 16 years of age and must be represented by a model agency.
has published photographs of girls under the age of 16. The United States of America publication of Vogue
famously had Brooke Shields, at the age of 14, on its cover in 1980. Recently in the Australian
, Kirstie Clements said:
We had shot girls that were younger than 16 but I started to feel uneasy about it. Nothing actually untoward happened I just started to think it was ridiculous that we could only find 15-year-olds to fulfil our idea of feminine beauty, when we are a magazine for grown-ups.
Not long after Australian Fashion Week last year, David Jones announced that it would ban underage models from its fashion parades. David Jones' new policy means that models have to be 18 years or over and identification would be required at castings. Responsible people in the modelling and fashion industry are leading the way with their own guidelines and regulations. This bill is catching up with that. It is often the case that responsible operators, in effect, show leadership; perhaps we should have taken the lead sooner, but nevertheless it is important that we are doing so today.
David Jones' parades have shown a more age-appropriate demographic for its customers. That move was welcomed by modelling agencies such as Chic Management, which described the decision as a positive step and good for the industry. This debate raises some very important issues affecting girls and young women. It concerns the sexualisation of young women and it involves making a clear difference between what is physical and emotional maturity. Questions were raised about the weight of models and pressure on them to attain thinness. The debate raises also the exposure of girls to an adult model environment that they may not be socially able to cope with, and without adult supervision.
Order! There is too much audible conversation. Members who wish to engage in conversations should do so outside the Chamber.
The Hon. ROBYN PARKER:
Another issue raised was the fashion industry's tendency to use young models whose youthful looks are unattainable by older consumers. As a mother of a teenage daughter and teenage sons, I am acutely aware of the pressure directed at teenagers, particularly young women, to have a certain look—as other members would be aware—a look that is defined by advertisers and marketers. It is important that we do not make this an issue for women only to deal with. It is a rare occurrence for a product to be sold to women purely on the basis of that product and not on the basis that it can make a woman look like a teenage model if she uses this or that advertised wrinkle cream or whatever.
Too often advertisements use younger models, implying that "you too could look like a 16-year-old" if the advertised product is used. We are saturated by mainstream media images that are aimed at creating an idealised version of a woman to which women are meant to aspire and to whom men are meant to be attracted. This is an important debate; it is not a new debate. Honourable members may remember the rise of Kate Moss in the 1990s. At that time she was described as having the new androgenous waif look—an extremely slight frame. In what was a new era in modelling during a grunge period of pop culture, models were horrifically thin, gaunt, unsmiling and unhappy in photographs. They were described by some feminists as de-sexualised, with flat chests, no hips, no curves. Feminist author Naomi Wolfe in her book The Beauty Myth
The gaunt youthful model has supplanted the happy housewife as the arbiter of successful womanhood.
The question of how young is too young to be a model also made headlines in 2007 when 12-year-old Maddison Gabriel was named as the face of Gold Coast Fashion Week. Kristy Hinze, a successful model who is currently mentioned in the media for other reasons, is the face of Sportscraft. In her twenties she was considered a veteran of the business. She has commented on the appropriate age of models. She said:
I think it's awful. I was a baby at 15 when I started, but 12? That's taking it to a whole new level. I don't care what she looks like. It is an adult's world and adult products she is selling that is quite sick actually.
Kristy Hinze was photographed for the cover of Vogue Australia
in 1994 at the age of 14. Platform Models Managing Director Gordon Charles, who said that 12 years of age was always considered too young, echoed her concerns. He said:
There are no exceptions. No Sydney agency would have considered this girl. The Gold Coast seems to have gone out on a limb for this event.
Although many agree that girls mature more quickly than boys, particularly from 16 years of age, the use of models who are still children to sell women's products and clothes has an impact on the model's development. Many young models have been caught up in a glamorous world of parties, travel, promotional activities, alcohol and sex. While there are those who go on to have successful careers, the childhoods of others are gone forever. In recent years several cases have been reported of young models from overseas literally dying of starvation to stay in the profession. Some are completely starving themselves to fulfil their dream of walking down a catwalk and being a model. But no modelling job is worth that.
The lure of large sums of money and a glamorous lifestyle can be inviting for models and their families. Why should young people not have the opportunity of a successful modelling career similar to the successful sporting careers that many of our young sports stars enjoy when they perform well, particularly on the international stage? This debate is not about curbing that opportunity; it is about providing some restrictions and regulations to protect young people. The bill puts safeguards in place for such children. The bill does not constrain employment opportunities or provide that people under the age of 16 can no longer model. Rather, it provides additional safeguards for both girls and boys in the modelling industry. These amendments will ensure that the code of practice on work times, supervision, travel, and balance between work and school are applied to girls aged 15 going on 16.
The code of practice includes work directions, the appropriateness of the role a child has been placed in, and the child's age, emotional security, psychological development and sensitivity. Shortly we will be debating the age at which a child should leave school for full-time employment. I guess we are trying make sure that we have not only safeguards when they are in employment but also the appropriate age at which they should move from an educational environment into a working environment, and that they are protected and supported along the way.
Australia is not unique in its discussion about the welfare of models. The British Fashion Council, for example, established a model health inquiry in 2007 and its chief executive, Hilary Riva, said at the time:
The British Fashion Council has established this panel to review current practice and issue clear guidance on the important issues of model health and age so that, as an industry, we can ensure that we are behaving responsibly and in the interest of those models who work in this country.
Although we are yet to see recommendations from the inquiry implemented, the industry has given a voluntary commitment not to hire girls under the age of 16 in London and Milan.
A State-by-State comparison of legislation shows that there is a common theme in all regulatory regimes that the employment of children as models should not have an unreasonable effect on the education of the child who attends school. The New South Wales legislation goes further, as provisions are intended to address the vulnerability of children who are employed as models because they are working in an adult environment. It is fantastic to see that this issue is being taken up not only through this legislation and by the modelling industry but also by role models in the music industry who are pushing for an acceptance of women's appearance and shape.
We are about to undertake an inquiry into bullying. Many issues arise for young people, particularly with cyber bullying, relating to self-confidence and appearance. We are sending a strong message with this legislation. I note that the music industry is picking up on some of these things, which is really commendable. Lily Allen is controversial in a number of ways, but sings songs such as Everything's Just Wonderful
and an Australian band called Little Birdy sings a song called Bodies
. Both songs highlight the guilt women feel for having normal healthy bodies that are not of model size and the wish for acceptance of women just as they are. Their lyrics are humorous and honest. In Everything's Just Wonderful
Lily Allen sings:
Why can't I sleep at night,
Don’t say it's gonna be alright,
I wanna be able to eat spaghetti bolognaise,
and not feel bad about it for days and days and days.
In the magazines they talk about weight loss,
If I buy those jeans I can look like Kate Moss,
Oh no it's not the life I chose,
But I guess that's the way that things go.
Lily Allen is articulating some of the issues. Making them appealing to young people sends a good message, and we should commend them. Little Birdy's song Bodies
has the following lines:
I'm sick of feeling this way
My body's ok
You only give what you can
To my emotions.
The song refers to emotions and feelings on the inside and appearances on the outside. We can go further in this debate and I look forward to the broader community discussing it. We are seeing media programs currently where stereotypical images of women are being broken down. Slowly but surely there is a movement to demonstrate that physical appearance should not be a barrier in any way. There is a long way to go and this legislation is but one of a number of measures we need to take. I give credit to all in the modelling industry, those in the media and the role models who are projecting a good image for women and men. They are putting the right safeguards behind young women and young men in the fashion industry in particular as well as projecting those images so that we do not have inappropriate sexualisation of young people.
I know other members will want to comment on this bill and that the Hon. Greg Donnelly has a great interest in this field. I welcome this bill and the debate. It is a positive step. I hope that we continue to have this debate so that we can represent young women and men in a healthy way, so that our society respects people for the individuals they are regardless of their appearance, and so that the fashion industry can be age appropriate and have all of the protections needed to make it a safe and regulated environment while still maintaining its core business. I commend the bill to the House.
Reverend the Hon. Dr GORDON MOYES [11.25 a.m.]: I speak as member of the exiled centre-left faction of the Christian Democratic Party to the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Amendment (Children's Employment) Bill 2009. The purpose of this bill is to amend the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998 to extend the safeguards relating to the employment of children under 15 years to children up to 16 years who are employed as models, and to increase the maximum penalties for particular offences in relation to the employment of children from 10 penalty units to 100 penalty units.
This legislation is long overdue and the argument just presented by the Hon. Robyn Parker is very clear and succinct, and does not require me to elaborate. It is in response to intense community concern about the dangers for young people who are participating in the adult world of entertainment and fashion without sufficient safeguards, and it extends the current legislative protections to under 16-year-olds. By all means let us have that if it is needed, but maybe it should really be 18 or even 21-year-olds. The competitive, dog-eat-dog world of modelling is brutal, no matter what your age. Although we usually think of models as girls and women, this is not solely a gender issue because boys and men model also.
However, the dangers may be worse for young women, and certainly proportionally more girls and women seek to be models than boys and men. It is often the merely attractive ones who never make it onto the catwalk or in front of the camera that are most at risk, because they are the most desperate. They are all so easily taken advantage of because their dreams can blind them to people's real intentions and their own limitations. Last week the casting call for auditions for America's Next Top Model
reality television show saw thousands of girls standing in line overnight, some for up to 10 hours, for a chance to be in the limelight. Then some disorderly conduct on the part of three people who were later arrested triggered a stampede that injured a large number of girls. This sounds like a scene from some kind of nightmare, yet it illustrates the widespread desire of young women hoping for a shot at stardom.
Age is not necessarily the issue either. I believe personal vulnerability is the real issue. The temptation of fame, popularity, riches, travel, glory, wealthy suitors, and working in glamorous surroundings is immense. The wedding on Monday of a Queensland woman to a very wealthy suitor is a good example. These are all elements of social power, and who alive does not want some aspect of that? Money, sex and power are the intoxicating rewards that society promises to lavish upon the favoured. For the truly talented, beautiful and brilliant the world beckons and each one has to cope with their success with whatever character and inner resources they have. Many people do not have the resources to cope successfully and they end up seeking obliteration of consciousness in alcohol, drugs or other addictions in an attempt to control the complexities of their lives.
Many top models such as Kate Moss are well-known drug addicts. Being addicted is one way they stay so skinny. "Heroin chic" is the term used to describe the emaciated look so admired in the fashion industry—until recently. Moves are now underway in the industry to make body images more realistic. In the late 1980s I became quite concerned about the number of girls presenting to the psychiatric hospital being run by Wesley Mission. Eventually, in 1995, I established the Wesley Eating Disorders Unit at Wesley Hospital—the first unit of its type to be established in Australia. Incidentally, it won the gold medal of the 2005 International Psychiatrists Convention for outstanding programs for treating anorexia nervosa and bulimia, and it was the role model for subsequent eating disorders units that, fortunately, have now been established at hospitals such as Westmead.
For every successful model there is a horde of would-be models who compete intensely in their quest to succeed but who eventually fail because they do not have what it takes. They can be lured into doing almost anything if the right person promises them what they want to hear. They are easy pickings for those intending to exploit naivety and who know how to push the right buttons. During the years of operation of the Wesley Eating Disorders Unit it was one of the saddest places I visited of all the 500 centres operated by Wesley Mission. An entire industry orbits around young talent and wannabes: talent scouts, modelling agencies, photographers, magazines and websites. Many of the people involved are not from professional organisations with guidelines and standards in place; they are poseurs with flashy business cards who drop names and deliver a persuasive story to take advantage of vulnerable youth and, just as frequently, their hopeful parents.
This is not a new story; it is an old one. If one were to read any of the Hollywood memoires by the successes and failures on Hollywood directors' casting couches one would discover all the sleazy elements that prey upon innocence and dreams. Last week there was a news article about a Sydney woman being lured by a self-proclaimed talent scout from a major lingerie company who got her into his office and assaulted her. He was not what he claimed to be—he was a con man—and this trusting lady was over the age of 21. Gullibility does not diminish with the growing number of candles on one's birthday cake. Many modelling agency scams exist only to rip off people who have dreams of their photographs appearing in magazines. They lure the victims by advertising in local newspapers or online, encouraging potential models to meet company representatives for group screenings.
The advertisements usually state that there is no fee, but those who pass the screening—and everybody does—are asked to sign a contract agreeing to attend classes and to pay for a portfolio of photographs that can cost well over $1,000. Then the company vanishes, leaving the would-be models without any training, job leads or even a portfolio. This scam, or a variation of it, is popular worldwide because the number of gullible and vain people is unlimited and it always pays off handsomely. For those people who are successful in the legitimate world of modelling, being in the public eye can mean relentless pressure, and many people buckle under it. In the past year we have the seen the public meltdowns of seasoned entertainers such as Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan and Joaquin Phoenix, amongst others from many generations. As with Judy Garland, none of these people were teenagers when they fell apart emotionally and psychologically. Obviously, we cannot legislate to protect everybody who is lured into modelling, even though that is what I would prefer to be doing. However, at least we can do that for children under the age of 16. I commend the Government for introducing this bill, which I support.
Mr IAN COHEN
[11.34 a.m.]: On behalf of the Greens I indicate that the Greens do not oppose the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Amendment (Children's Employment) Bill 2009. I compliment the Hon. Robyn Parker and Reverend the Hon. Dr Gordon Moyes on their contributions to debate on this bill. The Hon. Robyn Parker, who has a lot of experience in parenting, gave us a thoughtful dissertation on the issue and Reverend the Hon. Dr Gordon Moyes has immense experience in this area. It is heartening that organisations in our State are deeply concerned about these issues and act accordingly to protect our young people. Under the current legislation employers of children engaging in particular employment activities, including entertainment industry activities or door-to-door selling, are required to obtain an employer's authority from the New South Wales Children's Guardian.
If children under 15 years are employed to undertake modelling work the employer is required to obtain an employment authority. This bill seeks to change the definition of "child" in section 221 of the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act for the purpose of requiring employers of child models under 16 years to seek the permission of the New South Wales Children's Guardian to employ a child model. In other words, the bill extends the requirement of an employer authority for child models to persons aged 16 years. This conservative and reasonable amendment would go a long way towards protecting young and vulnerable people from a rapacious and dangerous industry that plays on the sensitivities of impressionable young people.
Other members have alluded to the problems that beset our youth, such as anorexia and other health problems, when they are desperate to achieve their dreams. I am sure that in their youth many members would have had yearnings and wants. That, compounded with the mass media's penchant for a certain perfect body type, is extremely devastating in many levels of society. The fashion modelling industry has got it dreadfully wrong. In some circumstances fashion modelling is to sensuality what the pronouncements of the Daily Telegraph
are to news. It is a perversion of ideals—people expressing their views about what is beautiful and what is regarded as appropriate. The industry should be far more sensitive of, and appreciate the differences in, people, accept them for what they are and give young people some sense of worth as they are growing up rather than thrust down their throats this extremely destructive, shallow and damaging stereotype of the perfect body.
The real impetus for the bill is the desire to extend the requirement for an employer to obtain the necessary authority from the New South Wales Children's Guardian, which requires that employers abide by the code of practice contained in schedule 1 to the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection—Child Employment) Regulation 2005. Community sentiment appears to be that children under 16 should be covered by existing protections afforded to children aged 15. As has been noted, there is no definition of "modelling" in the bill and it will be at the discretion of the New South Wales Children's Guardian as to what constitutes modelling and what might constitute acting or theatre. There may be grey areas when a particular form of employment may not fit neatly into a particular entertainment category. When novel situations arise I am sure that the Children's Guardian will exercise common sense.
I also hope that Kerry Boland, the New South Wales Children's Guardian, will work with parents and children in a cooperative fashion to help all those in the decision-making process and to identify clearly the best interests of the child. Reflecting community concern over the vulnerability of young models in the fashion industry, penalties for employers who use child models without obtaining the required authority from the Children's Guardian have increased from $1,100 to $11,000. Last year the Senate Environment, Communications and Arts Committee delivered a report on the sexualisation of children in the contemporary media. Although the recommendations do not touch directly upon the employment of child models, the inquiry evidenced the magnitude of concern in all strata of Australian society about the increasing sexualisation of children in the media.
The spectacle surrounding the Bill Henson exhibition further thrust this issue into the public arena. I do not think this bill presents any significant incursion into or curtailment of the rights of children. Weighing up the potential dangers to and vulnerabilities of child models working in the fashion industry against the restriction and additional requirements for models aged between 15 and 16, I believe the legislation is a measured response to community concerns. I commend the bill to the House.
Reverend the Hon. FRED NILE
[11.39 a.m.]: The Christian Democratic Party supports the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Amendment (Children's Employment) Bill 2009. The bill will amend section 221 of the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998 to extend the applicability of the children's employment chapter to children between the ages of 15 and 16 years who take part in modelling. It will also amend section 223 of the Act to increase the maximum penalty for employment of a child in contravention of the Act from 10 penalty units to 100 penalty units. As other members have indicated, our society has widespread concern about the effects of forcing children into early modelling situations and about children who may be abused in the fashion industry or by photographers, as seen in the controversy over the Bill Henson photographs of nude 13-year-old children he used as models.
The Act requires all employers of still photography, entertainment, modelling or other exhibition work to hold an employer's authority and to comply with the mandatory Code of Practice in the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection—Child Employment) Regulation 2005. It is good to have those requirements, but one must ask how strictly will they be enforced by inspectors ensuring that the requirements are carried out as stipulated by the legislation? The code of practice contains specific requirements on matters such as working hours, travel time, amenities, supervision and the effect of work on the child's education. However, I believe another factor should be the welfare of the child both morally and physically in how they are employed, used or even abused.
This bill will give models between the ages of 15 and 16 years the benefit of the safeguards the legislation already provides for models below the age of 15. Perhaps we should monitor the situation to determine whether 16 years is the correct cut-off age or whether it should be up to 18 years of age. Because of widespread concern about the sexualisation of children, particularly young girls, a number of inquiries have been held. In fact, the British Government has just announced an investigation into the sexualisation of young girls. The review forms part of Together We Can and the Violence against Women and Girls Strategy, and will investigate also whether aggressive attitudes towards women in videos and song lyrics are linked to sexual abuse. British Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, said:
while some might see items such as Playboy T-shirts designed for 11-year-olds on sale in major chain stores as a "bit of a laugh," many parents were concerned that their daughters were being encouraged to appear sexually available at an inappropriately young age.
The American Psychological Association [APA] released an important report in March 2008 on the sexualisation of girls. The document details the detrimental impact of sexualisation of girls' development from childhood to pre-adolescence, and investigated the effects of sexualised media on girls. According to the study, "media images of sexy girls and adults posing as adolescents 'sexualises' girls, harming them both physically and psychologically". The association's report defines "sexualisation" as "when a person's value comes only from his or her sexual appeal or behaviour, sexuality is inappropriately imposed, or a person is sexually objectified". The report indicated:
girls' contact with sexual imagery from an early age has a devastating effect on mental and physical health. Possible ongoing effects identified by the research include: low self-esteem, poor academic performance, depression, and eating disorders
The report also warns that sexualisation may contribute to the prevalence of paedophilia. It went on to state the causes of sexualisation:
The proliferation of sexualised imagery in television, toys, on the internet and particularly in advertising poses a major risk to girls and young adolescents because "their sense of self is still being formed".
One member of the American Psychological Association Task Force, Dr Eileen Zurbriggen, said:
The consequences of the sexualization of girls in media today are very real and are likely to be a negative influence on girls' healthy development.
As a society, we need to replace all these sexualized images with ones showing girls in positive settings.
Bravehearts, an organisation set up by Hetty Johnston, obviously has been making its major issue protecting children from sexual abuse. It presented a very good submission in April 2008 to the Senate Standing Committee on Environment, Communications and the Arts. The submission repeated some of the results of the American Psychological Association's study. Bravehearts submission of 18 April 2008 covered a number of these issues. It stated:
For a long time the adage "sex sells" has been common place in the marketing industry. While this is an accepted strategy in terms of targeting adults, there has been a disturbing trend that has seen this message move over to marketing to children. Over a number of years there has been an increased sexualisation of children in the media and an increased acceptance of this as the norm by those in the industry. There appears to be a desensitisation that has occurred, with those working in the media normalising the sexual imagery ever present in various aspects of our popular and media culture.
It also expressed in the submission concern about advertising and stated:
There are two major issues here: the use of young girls to model adult clothes and the sexualisation of young girls in advertising children's products.
There has been an explosion of sexualisation of children in advertising with the fashion industry using younger and younger models to sell clothes to adult women. [In April 2008] the Australian Fashion Week organisers backed down after complaints that [a] 14 year old girl was to be the face of the event. They have since revised their industry policy to ensure that all models participating in the event must be at least 16 years of age. Employing children to model adult clothes and portraying these young girls as women is irresponsible.
Bravehearts also was critical about the use of clothing and cosmetics and stated:
Children tend to want to be more mature and sophisticated and when they see their idols dressing in a certain way they want to mimic them. In response to this, clothing companies are marketing clearly adult clothing to children: bra and underwear sets, g-string underwear, provocative clothing and clothing with inappropriate, sexually suggestive slogans.
While makeup has been available for young girls for many years, there has been a shift in the marketing and presentation of these products. No longer seen as "fun" accessories, these items are being marketed to children to make them glamorous and sexy.
I commend the Bravehearts submission to all members of the House and I am able to provided copies if they wish to read them. I am pleased to support the bill because it is a small step in the right direction. The Government should monitor very carefully the implementation of the bill to ascertain what further legislation is needed to protect children in our society.
The Hon. PENNY SHARPE
(Parliamentary Secretary) [11.49 a.m.], in reply: I thank honourable members for their contribution to the debate and support of the bill. This amending legislation is aimed at strengthening safeguards for our young people, male as well as female, who work as models. Specifically, it extends by one year—to the age of 15 years—the protection that is currently provided to models. The threshold age of 16 years aligns with voluntary codes of practice increasingly being put into place by the Australian and international fashion industries. It recognises that there can be a critical difference between a young person's physical maturity and their emotional maturity and ability to fend for themselves. As someone who took four screaming 10-year-olds to So You Think You Can Dance
this week, I can definitely confirm that.
The Hon. Catherine Cusack:
Did you win, Penny?
The Hon. PENNY SHARPE:
The first argument was about the length of the skirt, but I did win—albeit with much sulking. As other speakers have noted, last year the proposed appearance of a 14-year-old model from overseas on the catwalks of Australian Fashion Week led to a great deal of community and fashion industry concern. The concern is not that a 14-year-old was modelling but rather that she would be modelling adult clothing in an adult way. While her scheduled runway appearance was cancelled, it is important to make clear that this bill is not about banning young people from modelling. It is not aimed at restricting employment opportunities or career development. Instead the bill will ensure that employers of young models to the age of 16 are authorised by the New South Wales Children's Guardian. Most importantly, employers must adhere to a code of practice that specifies working hours, travel time, amenities, supervision and the effect of work on the young person's education.
The bill also will deliver increased penalties for employers who are in contravention of the child employment provisions of the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998. The increase from an existing maximum penalty of 10 penalty units, or $1,100, to 100 penalty units, or $11,000, is far more realistic and in line with current industrial relations penalties. The bill strengthens the protection of vulnerable young people who are working in a fast-paced, adult industry. I thank all members for their thoughtful contributions to this debate. We had a good discussion of this issue today and we have taken some of the issues a bit further than has been discussed in the past. I am pleased to support the bill and commend it to the Chamber.
Question—That this bill be now read a second time—put and resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted to proceed to the third reading of the bill forthwith.
Motion by the Hon. Penny Sharpe agreed to:
Bill read a third time and returned to the Legislative Assembly without amendment.
That this bill be now read a third time.