Posted on 12 May 2017

    This Politician Was Surprised By The Reaction To Her Breastfeeding Her Daughter In Parliament

    Australian senator Larissa Waters said it's "tragic" that it's taken this long for someone to be able to breastfeed in the parliament.

    Greens politician Larissa Waters was left with "mixed feelings" after photos of her breastfeeding her 11-week-old daughter in the Australian Senate made their way around the globe this week.

    Mick Tsikas / AAPIMAGE

    Waters was breastfeeding her second child, Alia Joy, in her office just before 4pm on Tuesday when she received a phone call saying the motions in the Senate were moving faster than expected.

    "She was still on the boob, so I had to take her off, run down there, [and] put her back on when I was back in the chamber," Waters told BuzzFeed News.

    "Then a vote was called, so I had to move down into the proper bit of the chamber, and then immediately stand up and give my speech."

    The photos made headlines across Australia and internationally, taking Waters by surprise. She told BuzzFeed News she had "mixed feelings" about the whole affair.

    While breastfeeding has been allowed in the Senate since 2003, Waters was the first to actually do it.

    "The fact that it is news that a young woman... can breastfeed in parliament, goes to show how far we have to go in making our parliament look like our community," she said.

    "It's been 116 years in the coming, and it's tragic that it's taken that long."

    As Waters spoke to BuzzFeed News, her daughter Alia Joy was with Waters' partner Jeremy Gates in the next room. Gates has taken time from his marketing job to be a full time dad.

    Waters laid out two main policy changes she sees as essential for equality in the workplace: flexible working hours and affordable childcare.

    The Greens Party has put forward legislation on more than one occasion in federal parliament that would grant employees the right to request flexible working hours, but it hasn't passed.

    "We want to encourage young fathers to step up, embrace their role as fathers, and have that ability to take more time off work and themselves request flexible working hours, so we can share those duties, and the joy of those duties, more equally in the home," Waters said.

    "Obviously you've got to balance the needs of employers, but we think a right to request is a fair position to have."

    Affordable childcare is a big issue too: "It's either not affordable or it's not accessible either because it's full or not there, depending on where you live, if you're in the cities or the regions."

    Lukas Coch / AAPIMAGE

    Waters is not the only new mum in parliament. Government frontbencher Kelly O'Dwyer recently had a baby boy – and just over a week after he was born, faced a push to unseat her as the Liberal candidate for the next election.

    Waters labelled the entire affair "absolutely disgusting".

    "It really paints the Liberal Party with their true colours of not wanting to welcome women," she said. "It's why we've got historic low female representation in the Liberal Party, and why there's still barely any women in the Cabinet."

    But, as Waters was quick to point out, this kind of attitude is far from restricted to politics.

    "One in five women have experienced discrimination on either the basis of their pregnancy or becoming a parent. It's against the law, it's not meant to happen, and yet it still does. I thought [the statistic] was horrific, but sadly it's not uncommon.

    "John Howard made that infamous remark about how women will always be effectively subjugated in the workplace because we have these caring duties. I'm like well, we're not obligated to have these caring duties. We could share them equally. It's just that historically we haven't been able to do that yet as a society."

    And has life as a politician changed with a new baby?

    "It's different in that I used to be solely focused on work, and now I have to juggle a bit," Waters said. "But women and modern families juggle all the time, no matter what job they do. It's no different in that regard.

    "But yeah, I've been getting my boob out a bit more than normal. I've been learning how to position the nappy so people I'm meeting with don't get a bit of extra information!"


    Lane Sainty is the editor of BuzzFeed News in Australia and is based in Sydney.

    Contact Lane Sainty at lane.sainty@buzzfeed.com.

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