Families protest breastfeeding discrimination at Barnett’s office; is he about to flip?


Thirty to forty adults and their children and grandchildren today protested the lack of breastfeeding discrimination laws in Western Australia. The group, organised through Joyous Birth and Facebook, rallied outside Premier Colin Barnett’s office in Cottesloe.

Many passers-by were supportive. Despite the peaceful nature of the gathering, however, local business owners were reportedly not impressed.

While other states in Australia have explicitly added breastfeeding discrimination to Equal Opportunity laws, Western Australia has held back on this clarification. Unfortunately, this leads to situations like the one Mandy Crabtree found herself in at the Hyatt Regency a couple of weeks ago.

Interviewed on 6PR, Ms Crabtree explained that she and her seven month old had been in the “Cafe” buffet eatery at the Hyatt when Taj became hungry. Ms Crabtree asked whether she could move to a quieter, unpopulated area of the restaurant to feed the baby. She was told to leave.

WA is the only place in Australia that protects the right of a restauranteur to evict women and children for breastfeeding.


Liberal Premier Colin Barnett promptly ruled out considering the clarification of anti-discrimination laws to include breastfeeding, saying that women should use courtesy and feed in a discreet, “modern” way. I’m not sure what “modern” means in this context, except that I’m pretty sure it involves some sort of plastic. We wouldn’t want to be like those primitive folk, after all, would we? This is Perth! We’re white! We’re Modern!

But there’s a chink in Barnett’s armour. He’s done an about-face today, reluctantly agreeing that he might vote for laws protecting the right of mothers and children to breastfeed, though he still maintains in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary that such a law isn’t “necessary”, and refuses to introduce such legislation himself.

Continued community protest is essential to push this process along.


Though Ms Crabtree has received a lot of community support, she and the cause she didn’t want to have to champion have also received ridiculous and virulent opposition. You need only read the comments at The West’s blog “Should breastfeeding mothers be protected under the law?” to see that opposition to this law comes from an entitled and sexist place. A sampling:

If I dine at a restaurant of any standing (fine dining) and it is assumed that this took place in one of those eateries in the Hyatt then why should I be subjected to someone breastfeeding a child. Firstly its my right as a diner to be able to dine with a degree of decorum and that includes not having to put up with screaming babies annoying uncontrolled children. Leave the child home or dont go out.

I also have a right to be able to enjoy myself without something I don’t want to witness taking place. I can’t believe you would suggest the Equal Opportunity Act should protect women […]

They think that the world revolves around them and their baby, and that we must all rearrange our lives to suit them.

While I totally support breast-feeding infants and the right of women to breast-feed in (most) public places, at the same time I am put off my food watching someone else breast feed. This is why i do not support legislating to allow women to feed in eateries.

I appreciate that breast feeding is natural, but step away from the hippy ideal that you should inflict it upon strangers at every opportunity. Oh, and I REALLY dislike paying for an expensive meal and adult atmosphere then having screaming food-throwing kids thrust upon me.

But for arguments sake: if you knew you were going out and you think the ‘b-f’ word might be an issue and you know that you’ll have to feed the bub while you’re there, why not transfer it into a bottle before you leave home?

If I go out for dinner I do not want to see children running around let alone breast feeding mothers and if I am paying top dollar for it then I am entitled to that. There is no need for a another special law to protect breast feeding mothers we already have to many protecting every half wit out there who just wants to proof a point.

You can see from these forums that there are plenty of people who would prefer not to see baby stuff happening in an expensive restaurant.

Breastfeeding is good for mum and child but hey lets do it with commonsense and without the usual baloney from the tree hugging, unwashed, hairy armpitted brigade.

For the majority it seems to be about life choices being forced on others in adult places. Would you take a 2 year old to a strip club?

“Not necessary”, Premier Barnett? Oh, it’s necessary. It might not directly affect you and other rich white men, but it’s necessary.

Newsflash, folks. No, make that two newsflashes. Three. Four.

1 – Mothers don’t expect you to “rearrange your lives” around their breastfeeding. They expect you to do nothing. Absolutely nothing. Not one thing. All you have to do is sit there. Why is this so difficult?

2. You do not have the right to go out in public and never see anything you don’t want to see. Breastfeeding? It’s going to happen. Gay folks holding hands? Yup, that’s likely to happen too. There are even people with disabilities out in public these days. And you might cop the odd glance of plumber’s crack or glimpse of exposed ankle. No matter how you feel about these things, everyone else has a right to exist and a right to take part in the commercial, political, and cultural life of this lovely State.

3. Breastfeeding babies are, by definition, not screaming, running around, or throwing food. Oops, your fuckknucklery is showing.

4. It’s “breastfeeding”. Or just “feeding”, if your tongue stumbles at the thought of OMGboobyboobies. Not “the b-f word”.

The exclusion of breastfeeding women from public spaces is sex discrimination. Breastfeeding should occur wherever mothers and children are. Breastfeeding is not obscene, breastfeeding is not sex, breastfeeding is not excretion. Breastfeeding is food, and to attempt to prohibit it – where adults are eating, at that! – is just one more way in which women are not permitted to live the full, public lives that men are.

Confinement to the domestic space is also a factor in mothers choosing not to breastfeed, or to wean earlier than they wish. At a time when Australia’s breastfeeding targets are nowhere near being met, this is a health issue as well as a sexual discrimination issue.

Western Australia needs to get with the program and no longer sanction this flavour of discrimination against women.


[Photos reproduced with permission from protest organisers]

Addit to comment policy for this post: If you’re planning to Bingo me: don’t.

Categories: culture wars, gender & feminism, health, law & order, Politics, social justice

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21 replies

  1. A fifth newsflash: Mothers don’t go around seeking out opportunities to “inflict” breastfeeding on people.
    For the majority it seems to be about life choices being forced on others in adult places.
    That does indeed seem to be what the anti-breastfeeding people are trying to do.

  2. There’s certainly a hefty case of pot-kettle syndrome going on. Or maybe kettle-teapot, or something.

  3. Let’s get the immaturity out of the way first: Woohoo! My picture is on Hoyden! How cool. 🙂
    Ok, you might have gleaned from the above that I was there. 🙂 It was good and the support from drivers on Stirling Hwy was fantastic. The man who came out to lecture us on how he thought it was awful that we were putting our children at risk by being next to the highway and that Colin Barnett actually supported our cause (um, whateva) was a little annoying. Especially when he stood on the top balcony of the building and stared at us for quite some time. Creepy, anyone?
    I *do* want to say that I, personally, have had nothing but good experiences feeding in public in Perth (and I am a used to take PT everywhere so I’ve done lots of public feeding … including of a toddler). I have even had grannies sit next to me, pat me and pat my son’s head and tell me “good for you, you’re a good mama for doing that” and then tell my son that he was lucky and that he had a good mama. That was nothing short of awesome. I loved it. 🙂 Anyway, I guess my point is that, for the most part, Perth is very breastfeeding friendly and, for the most part, legislation like this would be unused. However, it needs to be there for the rare time when the locals are, to be less than mature, total dickwads.

  4. I cant belive that there are so many people out there that think BF in public is such an issue and that bf mamas are these tree hugging hippies puh-lease.
    Some resatrants do have a no children policy this is often illistrated by no childrens menu being present, the Hyatt is atcually a place that caters for familes as well as those that stay at the hotel , belive it or not some women travel with thier babys and need to eat .Is it important to have legislation to protect a babys birthright Yes I belive this even more now after reading the coments shown in this article. Babys need to be fed this is not an issue about if babys/children are allowed in certain public places this is about a mother being able to feed her baby with out the fear of someone imposing there own issues on her and asking her to leave. It is time we realised that this is how babys are fed this is the normal healthy way to feed a baby Well done to all the women that made a stand today and by the way I didnt see one tree hugging hippee in any of the photos but lots og caring loving mums, well done ladies.

  5. Hmmm – what about a baby’s right to eat when they need to?
    Perhaps we should suggest the dude paying top dollar take himself out onto the balcony to eat his meal where is foul oppinions wont upset other diners.
    As breastfeeding editor on an American Mothers site – I am appalled at the backwards, uneducated and narrowminded approach to breastfeeding that is still so prevalent.
    I wonder what kick backs the Premier is getting from breastmilk substitute companies? Or the contributions to his campaign fund recently? Yeah call me a cynic.

  6. Yes, how dare women feed their babies at an eatery! Eateries are not places to feed or to eat, merely to dine!
    So appalling I had to laugh loudly…

  7. It wouldn’t even matter if they *were* all tree-hugging hippies. Or indeed crazed neo-nazis. The baby will still be hungry and will still need to be fed, and the politics of the mother has fuck all to do with whether you want the baby to go hungry.
    And, as was pointed out in the post: hungry babies cry. If you don’t want to hear the baby crying, don’t make a fuss when it gets fed.

  8. Huzzah! Photos of me on the intarwebz.
    I, too, haven’t had any issues breastfeeding in public – and now would have the confidence to give ‘em what for. It just should not be an issue, though – babies have the right to eat, period.

  9. Well done to everyone who took part in this! My sympathy for having such a douchebag of a premier (not that you’re alone in that one).
    So much misogyny, anti-child prejudice and middle-class privilege, intersecting in those blog posts that were quoted, and that last one blew my mind, comparing breastfeeding mums to strippers? So we still have people thinking that feeding babies is about “exhibitionism”?
    I used to hear that one a lot, myself. Sure, mothers couldn’t possibly be putting their child’s needs first or anything, they just want to show off their breasts in public. Cos women are *that* selfish and stupid.
    Also, great to see people getting together and protesting. So important not to let that practice disappear, now more than ever, maybe.

  10. yeeees, no eating in the eatery, everyone get out! It’s disgusting and depraved. I just want a nice sit down and there are people all around me noisily shoveling food into their mouths, can’t they just eat in the privacy of the toilet or something? I don’t want to have to see that!
    I just want to be in public without annoying drunken uncontrolled adults screaming obscenities constantly. (that’s what all adults do right? If all kids are food-throwing screaming brats, then surely they all grow up to be obnoxious adults, the kind of people who might think public spaces are only for those they personally deem worthy of being in the presence of their Very Important Selves.)

  11. In contrast, the SA government has recently sponsored TV ads promoting breastfeeding. (Child Youth Health _CYH dept.) It is a simple ad. that shows a turning the page calendar style of photos of breastfeeding, some even showing round skin…The kind that have been banned on Facebook…
    The message is simply that every month counts. It puts a smile on my face seeing it and all those slings and womenz and babeez (definite cluckiness) at the protest. (If i wasn’t in dispute with Telstra and continuing to suffer using dial up i’d try and find a copy and post it) Onya and good luck changing discriminatory laws in WA. “Our daughters daughters will adore us and will sing in grateful chorus well done, well done, sister suffragettes.
    btw Isn’t it weird that these images are being banned on the net and shown on TV!? Bizarre.

  12. It’s important to remember that the people who are having babies now are from the generation that had the lowest breastfeeding rates EVER. So it’s also quite likely that the commenters haven’t ever been exposed to breastfeeding as the normal and natural way to nourish a child, that they come from a place of prejudice associated with the appalling misinformation and pseudo science of Australia in the 70’s.
    The best thing that we can do to address this is to legislate the rights of breastfeeding mothers and their babies, and then get out there and feed our babies. The more we do it, the more these ignorant people will get it into their consciousness that it’s normal, and it doesn’t infringe on their rights in any way.
    Breastfeeding in public normalises breastfeeding in public.
    And much as the me of two years ago would have freaked out about this, the me of now sees this as an important issue. The first time I ever fed my baby in a public place, I nearly couldn’t breathe because I was so shy about it – the more resistance there is to “public” feeding, the more willing I will be to make an issue of it, and use my breasts as a means of protest.
    Congratulations to the brave women who made this happen.
    Lara’s last blog post..Fake Pelicans

  13. Is it wrong that I want to go flap my giant breastfeeding boobies into some of the commenters faces and accidentally squirt milk into their very expensive meal?
    Seriously though, in 5 years of breastfeeding I’ve never had an issue feeding in public. But I guess for the most part people keep their discriminatory opinions to themselves, knowing that they infact don’t really have any right to complain.

  14. I find the anti-breastfeeding in public views so reeking in ‘unresolved issues – you need therapy’ that it is increasingly hard for me to engage at all with them. Their prejudices just seem so, so ridiculous, I mean who would even want to admit to being so freaked out by a breast?
    I think Lara has raised a good point about breastfeeding rates and previous generations, we’re probably just turning around from a high tide mark in opposition to public breastfeeding – it is difficult to imagine the babies born now growing up to be so freaked out by breast milk. Of course legislation doesn’t happen on its own so good on everyone for fighting the good fight here.

  15. I’m far too amused by the notion of being “subjected” to someone else breastfeeding.

  16. Great post and congrats to all who participated in the successful event! It’s amazing to me that this battle has to be fought all over the world for the most fundamental act of a mother nurturing her child!
    Angela’s last blog post..New Washington State Civil Rights Law

  17. Trying to picture a child breastfeeding while screaming, running around and throwing food made me laugh until I cried.

    Mother-toddler breastfeeding races sound like way more fun then three-legged or sack races.


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