• Adjournment Speech – Veterinarians Mental Health

    A series of studies conducted in recent years have identified elevated rates of depression, anxiety and suicide among Australian veterinarians, with a suicide rate four times higher than the general population. These figures are consistent with studies conducted in Great Britain and America. There is clearly a common thread concerning the mental health challenges of the profession. Murdoch University is currently conducting research on the mental health of Australian veterinarians, which will hopefully assist the profession in improving the mental well-being of its members.

    Multiple studies cite risk factors such as long hours and highly stressful decision-making, the difficulty of recruiting locums to take much needed breaks, and in rural areas these difficulties are compounded by professional isolation. These are common stressors across many professions, but there are additional emotional stressors, such as the regular killing of animals, combined with easy access to lethal drugs, that are unique to the veterinary profession. The 2016 Australian National Coronial Information System report noted a history of self-poisoning suicides linked to drugs available in veterinary clinics.

    While there are no equivalent Australian figures, British studies showed that 81 per cent of veterinarians entered the profession due to their desire to work with the human-animal bond. Women veterinarians in particular were identified as having high levels of empathy towards animals. This empathy towards animals may, in a large part, be the cause of the mental distress experienced by veterinarians. Across a range of international studies, young and female veterinarians are at greatest risk of job dissatisfaction, leading to mental health difficulties and suicidal ideation. “Compassion fatigue” or “vicarious trauma” was identified as a risk factor leading to suicide.

    The realities of veterinary practice can be emotionally gruelling. Many vets speak of the distress of being responsible for ending animals’ lives, either directly in the case of euthanising sick or injured animals, or worse, being required to kill perfectly healthy unwanted animals, or indirectly in the case of the slaughter of farmed animals. Vets also found themselves in professionally challenging situations where they encountered animal abuse and neglect. Some studies have questioned whether the routine euthanising or killing of animals impacted on attitudes towards death more generally.

    In surveys, vets showed higher support for human voluntary euthanasia than the general population. This attitude to death may even facilitate self-justification and lower their inhibitions towards suicide as a rational solution to their personal problems.

    As a society we could do a much better job of providing funding and resources to ensure that no vet is required to kill perfectly healthy animals that have been abandoned or surrendered to council pounds or RSPCA shelters. The growth of no-kill shelters not only is a more humane approach to companion animals but also removes the risk of psychological harm to vets who are forced to administer the “green dream” to healthy animals. Even the upside of being a veterinarian—having clients with strong emotional ties to their companion animals—could create distress. The emotional intensity of that bond adds stress when the time arrives for euthanising sick or aged animals that are considered part of the family.

    I commend the work of our veterinarians in alleviating animal suffering. My personal heroes are those vets who find the time to work pro bono or provide discounted fees to companion animal rescue groups, wildlife carers and farmed animal sanctuaries. Perhaps the Australian Veterinary Association may consider supporting veterinarians as they deliver these services as a way of providing a channel for their compassion and empathy towards animals.

  • Mark visits the South Coast to meet grassroots AJP members

    Mark Pearson addressed an enthusiastic and concerned local crowd of animal lovers and advocates at the Soldier’s Bay club in Batemans bay on Monday 19th of February.

    Mark discussed his work in parliament and his proposed bills on banning the whipping of racehorses, banning animals in circus and the Right to Release bill. Many local people expressed their concern at the annual Huntfest in Narooma which takes place on the June long weekend, in particular, the fact that organisers are billing this as a family friendly event. Concern was also expressed about the ongoing legitimacy of ‘sport’ fishing in the area given the extreme cruelty involved.

    There was a great amount of will in the room to start up a local South Coast branch of the Animal Justice Party in the region. Louise Ward the NSW State Director of the Animal Justice Party will be returning to the South Coast next month to work with local people in establishing a South Coast Animal Justice party regional group.

    Mark also met with representatives of Wildlife rescue South coast, south coast animal rescue, Coast to Coast animal friends along with other individual animal carers and rescuers. Of great concern is the loss of habitat for our native animals coupled with the threats posed by both legal and illegal hunting, leaving wildlife carers fear and fear safe places to release animals. We also heard of the incredible, personal, emotion and financial burden experienced by carers and rescuers, who spend thousands and sometime hundreds of thousands of dollars on the animals in their care, without any government assistance.

    Mark with a wildlife and rat rescue volunteer in Nowra.

    Mark with Leon from the Animal Justice Party Southern Highlands RG, as well as Woody, Kirsten, Greg and Justine from Wildlife Rescue South Coast.
  • Mark visits WW1 killing fields to pay respects to animals fallen in war

    Lest We Forget

    Throughout history, in war and in peace, animals and mankind have worked alongside each other.

    As “beasts of burden”, messengers, protectors, mascots, and friends, the war animals have demonstrated true valour and an enduring partnership with humans.

    The bond is unbreakable, their sacrifice great – we honour the animals of war.

    Mark has been spending the parliamentary break visiting the WW1 killing fields of Northern France.

    One destination was particularly poignant; the Animal War Memorial at Pozieres. Amidst the war graves of fallen soldiers there lies a small memorial garden set aside to honour those horses, donkeys, dogs, and pigeons that were conscripted into war service and killed in action. These forgotten heroes finally have a place where their sacrifice can be remembered.

    The Animal War Memorial at Pozieres was only opened in July 2017 and has already become a focal point for visitors around the world. The establishment of this memorial is owed in large part to Nigel Allsop, a former veteran who worked in all aspects of military canine operations and training, and who established the Australian War Animal Memorial Organisation. Allsop raised the funds for the Pozieres memorial, and has intentions to further enhance the the site with more statuary, in honour of animal war service.

    “I will honour and pay tribute to all those fallen in WWI – both human and non-human. Animals did not choose nor were conscripted to war but forced by our hand. Despite this, their loyalty and trust still came through.

    I am so appreciative of the French government and, in particular, the village residents and Mayor of Poziers for establishing a special Memorial for them there. A place where so many horses and dogs died from gun shot or a long lingering death from injuries whilst trapped in mud.

    What I discovered on this visit to Pozieres Australian Animal War Memorial is something I will never forget. Here, in only three weeks, more Australian soldiers and animals fell than anywhere else during WW1. These were just kids in uniforms and animals forced into a living hell. Despite this, even upon hearing the discharge of a bomb shell which they sensed could target them, horses and dogs were seen to lean over and ‘cover’ their soldier comrade to shield them from the impact. Horses with their heads, dogs with their bodies.

    Extraordinary.”

    Lest We Forget them too.

    Mark Pearson will be wearing a purple poppy during his visit, signifying the sacrifice of those animals who endured the horrors of the battlefields. Some 9 million horses and unknown numbers of other animals were killed during wartime. Tragically, surviving horses were denied return to Australia and soldiers were traumatised at having to leave their companions behind to an uncertain fate. Many shot their horses rather than risk their ill-treatment or slaughter for food.

    The “Animal” Poppy

    Most people are unaware that as well as the traditional red poppy worn to mark the Armistice Day of 11 November 1918, that there is also the purple poppy, worn in remembrance of the animals who died during conflict.

    The Australian War Animal Memorial Organisation (AWAMO) issued this purple poppy, intended to be worn alongside the traditional red one, to signify and pay respect to the sacrifice the animals made alongside their human comrades.

     

    Mark Pearson with Mayor Bernard Delattre at the Australian Animal War Memorial, Pozieres, France

  • Love is Love – Why I support Marriage Equality

    I fully support the right of each person to marry the partner of their choice, regardless of their gender or sexual orientation.

    Marriage has changed throughout the ages, reflecting the values and aspirations of each succeeding generation. Up until the 1950s, children could legally marry; brides as young as twelve and grooms fourteen years of age. It is not that long ago that wives pledged to ‘honour and obey’ their husbands and married women were unable to own property or earn an equal wage. Matrimony was once an obligatory life-time commitment, regardless of the breakdown of the marriage, with divorce a rarity until the family law reforms of the 1970s. Reliable contraception, smaller families, changing social attitudes and longer lifespans mean that marriage is no longer primarily about raising children. Our current ideal of a loving marriage between two consenting adults who wish to share their lives together as equals is very much a 21st century concept.

    I consider that our society is well and truly ready for another change; to include same sex couples in the modern definition of marriage. It is in reality a very small step; widening the arc of love and legal commitment to include two adults that are of the same gender. The Netherlands enacted same sex marriage in 2001 and the dykes haven’t collapsed into the sea. Belgium still makes the best chocolate, even vegan chocolate and in Australia any wailing or gnashing of teeth as a consequence of gaining marriage equality, will all be over by morning tea.

    I believe that the public celebration of loving, happy and respectful relationships in all their diversity is a social good. Every Australian should have the same rights under law, including the expression of their sexual love in a State-approved marriage. Marriage equality fosters inclusiveness and acceptance which advances the physical, mental and spiritual health of same-sex attracted people. Surely such an emotionally mature and enriching relationship will provide a strong foundation for a loving family environment in which to raise children. I believe the right to marry is an inalienable and fundamental human right for all consenting adults, regardless of gender.

  • Notice of Motion – Threatened Species Children’s Art Competition

    THREATENED SPECIES CHILDREN’S ART COMPETITION 2017

    On Threatened Species Day 2017, I was privileged to host the Threatened Species Day Children’s Art Competition. This is an amazing event which has grown by 250% since last year. It is exciting to see the connection children have with individual animals and their right to a free life in this world. Interestingly, ever piece of art I saw showed animals in the natural habitat, free from the bars of zoos and cages of captivity. To commend the event and congratulate the winners and organisers I gave a Notice of Motion to the House which was unanimously agreed to.

    Children have an inspiring connection with animals and this is a trait that must be nurtured into adulthood so that we can have a better life for ALL.

    1. That this House commends Forestmedia Network Incorporated for facilitating the 2017 Threatened Species Children’s Art Competition, which helps children unleash their artistic creativity while learning about the extinction crisis facing our native plants and animals; and which aims to encourage the next generation of environmental leaders.
    2. That this House acknowledges that with more than 1,000 species now threatened in New South Wales alone, environmental leaders have never been more needed.
    3. That this House congratulates the organisers of the event held on Threatened Species Day at Parliament House: Lorraine Bower, Susie Russell, Lindie Ward, Penny Walton, Stephanie Knox, Jenny Ellyard, Jenny Symons and Bri gid Dowsett.
    4. That this House thanks the Hon. Gabrielle Upton, MP, Minister for the Environment, Minister for Heritage , and Minister for Local Government, and Dr Mehreen Faruqi, MLC, for their attendance and contributions to the discussion.
    5. That this House notes:
      1. entries to the 2017 competition have grown by 250 per cent, with more than 1,600 children entering, involving 68 schools and 14 other programs;
      2. the quality of the artistic work was inspiring and it is a testament to the future environmental leaders concerns for the future of our unique threatened species of flora and fauna—a future where they may never be able to see their chosen species in the wild, or see it at all;
      3. two exhibitions are being held—one at Surry Hills from 9 to 23 September 2017 and one in the open space at the Botanic Garden from 15 to 29 September 2017; and
      4. that the following schools and children’s programs participated in the competition: Alma Public, Beecroft Public, Ben Venue Public, Blue Mountains Steiner, Booligal Public, Broadwater Public, Brighton Le Sands Public, Burraneer Bay Public, Canley Vale Public, Capa Marks Point Public, Castle Cove Public, Cessnock West Public, Corndale Public, Jerrabomberra Public, John Colet School Belrose, Lawson Public, Lane Cove West Public, Largs Public, Larnook Public, Maribyrnong Primary, Middle Dural Public, Molong Central, Mother Teresa School, Mount Keira Demonstration School, Mullion Creek Public, Murray Farm Public, Murwillumbah public, Neville Bonner Primary; North Wagga Public, Ocean Shores Public, Oxley Park Public, Parramatta North Public, Paxton Public, Peterborough School [SSP], Plunkett Street School, Point Clare Public; Quakers Hill Public, RED inc—In school support, Roseville College, Sherwood Grange Public, St Clair Public, St Mark’s Catholic Primary, St Joseph’s Catholic Primary, St Patrick’s Primary, Sydney Children’s Hospital School, Sylvania Heights Public, Tamworth Public, Telopea Park Public, Tambelin Independent School, The Channon Public, Thomas Acres Public, Waitara Public, Weethalle Public, Westdale Public, West Ryde Public, Young Public, Ultimo children’s program, King George V children’s program The Rocks, Pyrmont children’s program, Crown Street children’s program, Redfern children’s program, Woolloomooloo children’s program, Girls and Boys Brigade holiday program Surry Hills, Girls and Boys Brigade after school program Surry Hills, Naidoc Festival, Art Box Workshops, Class Artz at Woollahra, Clovelly, Paddington, Kensington, Waverley and Randwick school s, Young Artists, and Art Zone- Lake Macquarie City Art Gallery.
    6. That the House thanks the following supporting organisations and individuals for their considerable contribution to the event and subsequent exhibitions: the Animal Justice Party; the City of Sydney Matching Grants program; Sophie Daniel, Team Leader, Community and Education Programs—Botanic Garden, and Mary Bell, Education Coordinator, School Programs—Botanic Garden ; Bren Weatherstone and the ACT Chapter of the Australian Association of Environmental Educators; Victoria Johnstone, Creative Director, Surry Hills Festival; Cassie Tilbrook, Gillian Elliott and the Surry Hills Neighbourhood Centre; Trish, Robyn, Georgia and the Byles Creek Valley Association; Donna Upton and the Capertee Valley Association; Jill; Helen and STEP Inc; Taronga Zoo; Featherdale Wildlife Park; Hoyts; the National Parks Association NSW; the Wilderness Society Sydney; Nature Conservation Trust; WIRES; Humane Society International; Nature Conservation Council NSW; Australian Forests and Climate Alliance; Animals Australia; North Coast Environment Council; South East Coast Regional Council; Nambucca Valley Conservation Association; and Caldera Environment Centre.
    7. That this House congratulates all the entrants in the competition and makes special note of the 2017 award winners:
      1. Kevin Yeh, (6)—first place in the category of five – to seven -year- olds;
      2. Emily Nees, (6)— second place in the category of five – to seven -year- olds;
      3. Amelia Gutwenger, (6)— highly commended in the category of five – to seven -year- olds;
      4. Jasper Hartmann, (8)—first place in the category of eight – to 10-year- olds;
      5. Anneliese Gutwenger, (10)—second place in the category of eight – to 10-year- olds;
      6. Jaccob Trevisan, (10)— highly commended in the category of eight – to 10-year- olds;
      7. Natalie Barclay, (9)— highly commended in the category of eight – to 10-year- olds;
      8. Claire Camilleri, (11)—first place in the category of 11 – to 12-year- olds;
      9. Sarah Chen, (11)—second place i n the category of 11 – to 12-year- olds;
      10. Sonia Pillai, (11)— highly commended in the category of 11 – to 12-year- olds;
      11. Michelle Ciu, (9)—first place in the category of Most Unusual Entry;
      12. Mahli Barnes, (9)—second place in the category of Most Unusual Entry;
      13. Buraneer Bay [Skeleton]—First place in the category of Group Work;
      14. Art Box Workshops [Lepidopteras] —second place in the category of Group Work [equal];
      15. Oxley Art Group [Fragile Beauty]—second place in the category of Group Work [equal];
      16. Art Box Workshops [Rosenberg’s Goanna]— highly commended in the category of Group Work;
      17. Forrest Public School [Golden Sun Moths]— highly commended in the category of Group Work;
      18. Jake Fergusen, (11)—first place in the category of Best Written Explanation;
      19. Alyssa Sim, (8)—second place in the category of Best Written Explanation; and
      20. Kieren Kelly, (9)— highly commended in the category of Written Expression.
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