Statements By Senators - 03 December 2014

Senator SESELJA  (Australian Capital Territory) (13:45): On 17 October I had the great privilege of attending the MS Go for Gold award ceremony for 2014 at the Town Centre Vikings Club, Tuggeranong. The Go for Gold scholarships are awarded to people living with multiple sclerosis who display a need and potential in various aspects of life. In attendance—along with my colleague Senator Kate Lundy—was the Director of Disability ACT, Richard Baumgart, key MS staff and directors, including the MS CEO Robyn Hunter, senior manager Susan Tame and ACT and southern New South Wales manager, Ann Lehmann. 


Roslyn Emmerick, who was a recipient in 2013, conveyed the incredible positive influence the scholarship had in her life through a brilliant poem. Guests were then introduced to the 15 scholarship recipients, including: Jacqueline Beattie, Beverley Bray, Greg Browne, Yasmine Gray, Beverley Hergenhan, Suzanne Hutchings, Cesar Leon, Kerrie McDonald, Trevor Oddy, and Jen Severn. Each was awarded a scholarship to help realise their dreams. The objective of the Go for Gold scholarships program is to acknowledge the capacity of scholarship recipients to achieve their dreams, despite having multiple sclerosis. For all recipients, the scholarships provide the opportunity to significantly change their lives. The dreams of these individuals vary considerably from the desire to teach an art class, to taking their family holiday on a cruise, to one individual wanting to partake in skydiving.

Central to the scholarship process is fundraising through the MS 24-hour Mega Swim initiative that saw scholarship candidates put together teams and raise funds to fight multiple sclerosis. The 24-hour Mega Swim has supported over 500 Go for Gold scholarship recipients across Australia in fulfilling a dream. Kerrie McDonald's team, The Has Beens, topped the fundraising with an impressive $34,270.

I must congratulate Sherrit Lalande for coordinating the October event, Katie from Town Centre Vikings Club for hosting, Nick Byrne for his role as the MC, Mirimba Kovner for photography and Ann Lehmann for her role in presenting the awards. This was a thoroughly enjoyable event that was both celebratory and emotional for all involved, and I am honoured to have been part of this wonderful event and to see the MS Go for Gold recipients receiving their awards.

As parents we always want the best for our children. We want them to grow up and experience the opportunities of this great country. An essential part of the development of children is education and, whilst it is important we teach our children the academic basics such as literacy and numeracy, it is also important that we equip our children early with education so they can make heathy choices and enjoy healthy lifestyles.

Life Education is the largest independent Australian health and education provider for school-aged children from 5-13 years. It is during this time of growth that children need to instil healthy habits to carry them in good stead into their teenage years. On Monday, 10 November, I had the opportunity to join in on a Life Education lesson with year 2 students at Telopea Park School, which is just down the road from Parliament House. I was joined by Life Education CEO, Jay Bacik, and the ACT Life Action Group Chairman, Captain Christine Clarke. The Life Education Mobile Learning Centre was parked on the school grounds, where educator Michelle Bauman and of course the iconic mascot Healthy Harold treated the kids to an interactive and fun hour long lesson on how to lead a healthy lifestyle.

Having been around for 35 years, Life Education and Healthy Harold have been teaching children all about the importance of leading healthy lifestyles—setting up those habits early on in life—and how to set a good example within their families. The lessons are made up of a mix of social-skills training, role-play sessions, the correction of common myths and interactive and fast moving activities using the latest multimedia technology. At the core of Life Education is a burning desire to see generations of healthy young Australians living their full potential. I am in complete agreement with their vison, which stresses the uniqueness and specialness of each and every child.

It is programs such as Life Education that enable effective and healthy parenting and foster positive development in our kids. Life Education visits over 600,000 children, works with over 24,000 teachers and engages 3400 schools on an annual basis. This is an incredible effort and a positive influence not just here in the ACT but right around Australia. It is with the help of Life Education and their creative lessons that we can teach children to respect their bodies, to be healthy and active and to make wise choices in life. I would like to thank Life Education for giving me the honour of being an ambassador for them in the ACT. I proudly display the plaque they have given me in my office. This organisation does children in the ACT and across Australia a world of good, and may it continue providing this guidance for many more years to come. I would also like to make mention of Kerrie Blain, the Principal of Telopea school for hosting us on the day.

Last Friday morning I had the privilege of opening the Lifeline Canberra Christmas Book Fair at Calwell Shops. I was joined by many eager booklovers, who were very keen to get their hands on the thousands of fiction and non-fiction books, comics, DVDs and magazines that were on display. This book fair provided a wonderful opportunity for the Lifeline community to connect with the southern Canberra region, as most of Lifeline's fundraising events are held in the North Canberra.

For 43 years Lifeline Canberra has been providing telephone crisis support to people in need, as well as a number of mental health awareness programs to the local community. From the Calwell Book Fair last Friday, the total amount raised came to $13,570. This was a great success and all of the proceeds were donated to Lifeline Canberra's suicide prevention program, which is a part of the Telephone Crisis Support service, and touches the lives of many Canberrans. I know of friends and loved ones who have accessed Lifeline during some of their most difficult times. I thank all of those who do such great work.

A tribute of thanks must be paid to the volunteers, not just at Lifeline, who were involved in organising the event to raise funds for Lifeline. As Lifeline relies primarily on volunteers, the donation of their time cannot be underestimated. I would like to give a particular mention to Carrie Leeson, the CEO of Lifeline Canberra, as well as Frank Vrins, of the South East Tuggeranong Residents Association, for helping to facilitate the event, and Nick Tsoulias the owner of Calwell shopping centre for hosting the event.


I commend Lifeline Canberra on the work they do with their telephone crisis support and suicide prevention. These programs are critical to our community and I thank them for their work and for putting on such a wonderful event.


With Christmas fast approaching, Canberra has been decked out with some wonderful Christmas decorations, but perhaps the most significant of these—I mentioned them last year—is the SIDS and Kids ACT Christmas Lights in the City. I know Senator Wong will be very interested to hear this.

Senator Wong:  I love Christmas decorations!

Senator SESELJA:  Senator Wong loves Christmas, as I do.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Back): Don't be distracted, Senator Seselja. Stick to the topic!


Senator SESELJA: I am sticking to the topic, because I hope Senator Wong will get down to the Christmas lights display for SIDS and Kids. It is in the city, in Petrie Plaza, this year. Last year, and I think for a number of years previously, David and Janine Richards had hosted it at their house in Forrest. They had a world record number of lights. They are going for a new world record, in the city this time. It is the main lights display for the city. It is a fantastic event. The lights display in previous years has been absolutely spectacular. It was a world record for the number of lights but it was also a beautiful display.


The lights display is raising money for SIDS and Kids, which as we know is such an important organisation that raises awareness and does research into sudden infant death syndrome. It is critical in supporting families who may be grieving. SIDS and Kids is fantastic. I will give it a plug but I will also give David and Janine Richards a plug for putting on what is an extraordinary thing. In the past, David and Janine Richards have done this almost on their own. There has been sponsorship by the likes of ActewAGL and others over time, but a lot of it has been driven personally by David and Janine. I know that whilst the ACT government has come on board this year, which is why it is the main lights display, David and Janine will still be driving at. I congratulate David and Janine Richards and SIDS and Kids, and encourage parliamentarians, other Canberrans and other people in the region to get down and see a world record lights display and enjoy the Christmas spirit. (Time expired)