Senator Tammy Tyrrell advocates for people living with fibromyalgia in parliament

February 7, 2024 || Senator Tyrrell advocates for people living with Fibromyalgia at the first parliamentary sitting week for 2024. 

“Almost one million Australians, including many people close to me, are affected by fibromyalgia, and yet it’s still a misunderstood condition. It affects people of all ages—mostly women but also men—and they have to deal with debilitating symptoms including pain, fatigue, brain fog and many other symptoms.

For too long, calls from people with fibromyalgia have been ignored, with many being stigmatised because of their condition. Those unable to work because of their condition face the impossible task of navigating the welfare system and the NDIS to get the support they need. There needs to be more support, training and compassion. In my employment services days, I saw that backing those who need it can lift people up.

Just recently I met with Arthritis Australia—with Jane from Tassie, who lives with fibromyalgia and has worked with Arthritis & Osteoporosis Tasmania to help Tasmanians living with the condition. I also met with Dr. Sam Whittle, the vice president of the Australian Rheumatology Association, who is a leading expert on fibromyalgia. They told me that the cost-of-living crisis and the rheumatology workforce shortage are pushing people to breaking point.

Arthritis Australia recently surveyed people with fibromyalgia, and here’s what they found: 65 per cent of people had to cut back on fibromyalgia treatments to pay for basic living expenses and 50 per cent had to cut back on other living expenses to afford the health care they need for their fibromyalgia. People who have this disease are forced to decide between food and treatment, which is only making it more difficult to live with fibromyalgia.

Through medication, exercise and physiotherapy, fibromyalgia can be treated and managed. Seeking treatment is costly, but boosting the number of allied health appointments through the chronic disease management plans would make an immediate difference to out-of-pocket costs. People like Jane and so many other Australians are counting on fibromyalgia being taken seriously.”

Senator Tyrrell is a member of the Parliamentary Friends of Arthritis and met us late last year to discuss fibromyalgia and cost of living. We’re grateful for her advocacy for the arthritis community.