“I have seen the tsunami of chronic disease around me and I have felt the impact of its force.“

I was honoured to speak with Joanna Hewson on Thursday night, on behalf of the Vibrancy Project ‘A Healthy Happy You’ for Jean Hailes Women’s Health Week 2016.

I loved being part of the night, weaving Dr. Jean Hailes story into my message, highlighting the importance of advocacy in Women’s Health, questioning ‘Am I Normal’, and explaining my concept of the ‘Balance of Life’.

The evening created a safe space to share stories of women’s health and hear from a diverse panel of women in our community, and included Naomi Walsh. Tameeka Lynch, Tenille Pentland, Sophie Skipper, Anita Brunacci, Jo and I, as we answered questions from the panel chair and from the audience.

The Tasmanian Minister for Health, Michael Ferguson, was there with his wife Julie. To me that showed great leadership and a real commitment for Women’s Health in our community and to the Healthy Tasmania 2025 plan.

As I looked around the audience I was proud to see some of the Nutrition for Life team, a few special friends and familiar faces, but I was also excited to see so many women I didn’t know. Women who had come because they wanted to be part of this amazing event.

I loved having Gary in the audience, hearing me speak publicly for the first time as the previous times I have spoken were at women only events.


I was proud to expose ‘the elephant in the room’ and will continue to be a passionate and LOUD advocate for Women’s Health in Tasmania

Here is my 20 minute talk if you are interested;

“Hello – my name is Belinda Fettke.

I apologise, but I will have to use notes for my talk tonight.

There are 2 major hurdles to going ‘freestyle’ without them. The first hurdle is that I am an Aquarian and my family will assure you that I can talk and talk… even underwater! The second is to point out that the byline to my photography business, BPhotography, is ‘The Art of Storytelling’. So, if you want to hear from anyone else tonight, I need a structured framework or my stories could go on all night 

The theme for this year’s Jean Hailes Women’s Health Week is “AM I NORMAL?” This question intrigued me and I must admit, this isn’t the first time I have asked this of myself!

“Am I Normal?” to be so passionate about something I believe in, that my purpose in life, my mission, blurs the lines of Work/Life balance?

The more I think about this question, the more I think that I am.

But this does not mean that my version of ‘normal’ is anyone else’s idea of normal.

For me…
Normal is making time for family, who will always be my priority.
But, it is also accepting that I am a passionate advocate of women’s (and men’s) health.

I have to say I am, and have been, a huge supporter of the Jean Hailes Foundation and I wear my Pink Elephant pin tonight, with pride. <3

I love what Women’s Health Week stands for and when Sarah Yates and Ari Powell, cofounders of the Vibrancy Project, asked me to share my story with you tonight, I was honoured. I also can’t wait to hear from the women who will be joining me on the panel, shortly. They truly inspire me!

I would like to start tonight by sharing the story of Dr. Jean Hailes because it aligns with my story. She too, was a passionate and VOCAL advocate of women’s health.

It wasn’t only in my nursing many years ago, or through my work at Nutrition for Life now, but as a wife, a mother, a daughter and a friend. In fact, even as a photographer I have seen what chronic illness does to people and the strain that it puts on families.

When you see first hand how devastating ‘sickness’ can be, you can never unsee it …

I would like to share this quote with you “If a woman is in good health, her family, her community and society around her, also benefit” Dr. Jean Hailes.

Dr. Dorothy Jean Hailes began her career in a centre for intellectually disabled children in 1950. Through her work in this area she came to realise the importance of a mothers’ good health for the wellbeing of her family, especially a family with a disabled child. Over time she became more and more interested in women’s health.

Moving into general practice, Jean was disbelieving of her colleagues’ neglect of the so-called ‘minor symptoms’ that many ageing women complained of. Minor symptoms that were barely acknowledged and women had endured in silence from one generation to the next.

Jean set out to make it her mission to address the gap of the health needs of menopausal women. She spent time in America and on her return; Jean sought to extend the control women had gained over their fertility, since the introduction of the birth control pill, with the acceptance of hormone replacement therapy in the management of menopause symptoms.

Despite her thoughtful advocacy for women’s health and her ability to deconstruct the MYTHS surrounding the topic, there was a lot of resistance within the male dominated medical community of the 1950’s and 60’s.

Jean became skilled in raising public awareness and was the first doctor to use the social media platform of the time – Talk Back radio – to her advantage. She also spoke to community groups whenever the opportunity arose.

A professor at Prince Henry’s Hospital finally supported her cause and Jean Hailes opened the first Women’s Health Clinic in 1971. She received such an incredibly positive response from women in her community that by 1976 a second clinic had opened at the Royal Women’s Hospital in Sydney.

The Jean Hailes Foundation for Women’s Health was founded in 1992, four years after Dr. Jean Hailes passed away from cancer, at the age of 62.

And while the messenger might be silent now … her strong advocacy and compassionate messages of health touch each one of us in this room tonight.

Inspired by so many brave stories like this, my mind doesn’t stop thinking of ways that I can promote Women’s Health. Tonight is the perfect opportunity to quote the mission of the Jean Hailes Foundation and ‘expose the elephant in the room’. This national campaign is all about opening up conversations on Women’s Health that impact each and every one of us at some time in our lives.

Over the week there have been 5 different focuses’ – Am I normal?, body image, healthy weight, mental health, and I am sure this would have been closest to Jean Hailes heart – healthy sex.

For me, exposing the elephant in the room during Women’s Health Week is opening up the conversation about nutrition and the link to chronic disease, asking that we consider “Food as Medicine” … Because, there is no doubt in my mind that what we eat affects our health, whether we want to admit it or not!

I have seen the tsunami of chronic disease around me and I have felt the impact of its force.

Changing the way we eat can make a difference. I have seen it in my family, I have seen it with friends and I hear so many stories in our community.

You see… ‘Sick care’ doesn’t just drain our health resources; it drains our community; it impacts workplaces; it impacts families, and it impacts individuals.

Sick care also impacts healthcare workers.

How can we possibly change that?

Well, I am proud to be supporting the Tasmanian Healthy 2025 plan. I have been one of many voices contributing to the government’s consultation draft earlier this year and I attended the panel discussion at the University of Tasmania (UTAS), chaired by Dr. Norman Swan, last week.

It is about making healthcare a priority in Tasmania.

When we started Nutrition for Life in 2014 as an allied healthcare centre, we offered clinical appointments in a clinical setting. It was about helping people in our community to take back control of their health with personalised nutrition advice.

Within a very short time, the team understood that in order to make effective changes, people needed their families to support them; they needed their workplaces to support them; and they needed the community to support them to help achieve the best health outcomes.

Our team continued to develop resources to use in small group sessions and create fun and interactive workshops for workplaces. As we got busier, we understood a need to make sure the health and wellbeing of our team became our priority.

Sarah, our business manager, encouraged us to become involved with Work Skills Tasmania and we began attending seminars and breakfast meetings supporting the health and wellbeing of Tasmanian employees. Through the Employer of Choice Awards process we met valuable and supportive mentors in the health and well-being space and continued to reach out to businesses that were aligned with ours. I can’t recommend this networking opportunity highly enough and encourage other allied healthcare businesses to become involved.

Which brings me back to my original question… Am I Normal?

‘Am I Normal’ to be so passionate about something I believe in, that my purpose in life, my mission, blurs the lines of Work/Life Balance.

I have loved taking on a leadership role at Nutrition for Life. I have read widely and been mentored as I have mentioned, but it was at a recent breakfast meeting in Hobart that my real ‘AHA’ moment was realised.

I was attending a Tas Skills conference in Hobart, as part of the Tasmanian Employer of Choice Awards, and sat there mesmerized as Nic Stephen (Forte Consulting) challenged us to consider ’work’ as part of our ‘life-balance’ rather than as a separate part of our identity.

I have to admit – It fitted me like a glove!

I have such a strong mission and purpose in my life, and in acknowledging and allowing work to become part of my Life Balance, I have taken away the guilt I think many of us here may feel as working mums.

The concept of work becoming part of my Life Balance gives me permission to prioritise. It allows me to enjoy my work and not see it as a chore or as a negative experience.

And it makes me question … when did Life Balance break into separate parts?

I think school is the perfect example of pre the whole Work/Life Balance theory.

School students are encouraged to blur the lines of the start and finish of their school day with homework being the best example. They may choose to take on more work in more senior years, be a part of the school band, a musical or play, involved in extra curricular sporting activities, volunteer and/or attend social functions. Most camps are compulsory.

Over the years it is up to each individual as to how involved they get and how much of their life gets taken up by ‘School’.

I would like you to take a moment to consider this…

Why is it that learning is considered ‘life’ and work isn’t?

It is also important to acknowledge that Life Balance evolves. Life Balance at 10 is very different to that at 20, 30, ….. 52 and 70. And that’s the amazing thing! Each individual can put a different emphasis on THEIR interpretation of their LIFE BALANCE.

I believe Women’s Health is about prioritising a healthy lifestyle and finding a balance that includes health eating, physical activity, sleep and laughter. Unfortunately, many women juggle work and a busy family life and often ignore their own health needs until it is too late.

If we don’t start valuing Preventative Healthcare as individuals, how can we possibly expect our family, our community or our government to?

I am a passionate and vocal advocate for Women’s Health and I will continue to strive for a Life Balance that allows me to become the best version of ‘Normal’ I can be.

Thank you.