MATTERS OF PUBLIC INTEREST Molonglo Football Club, Anzac Day Schools' Awards, Senator Zed Seselja Awards, Benny Wills Gala Dinner

Senator SESELJA (Australian Capital Territory): I want to raise a number of matters of public interest, relating to the community of the ACT, that I have had the pleasure of engaging with over the past few weeks: the Molonglo Football Club, the Anzac Day Schools' Awards, some other school awards, a youth forum held at Burgmann Anglican College, and the Benny Wills Foundation.



I have been given the privilege of working with Molonglo Football Club, through Junior Club President, Tim Macdonald, and Senior Club President, Dean Hill, over the course of this year. I was recently named the club's patron for 2014. As a father of five, I have a special appreciation for the work the club does in promoting community sport, and I feel honoured to have been given this position. I feel particularly passionate about the club's motto 'Enjoy your football', and the opportunities that the club has afforded to many talented young men and women within our community to do just that.


I recently attend the junior teams' presentation afternoon where team awards were presented to youth girls, rookies and age groups from under-8s to under-13s. There were also a number of club awards that were presented to players and volunteers. I would like to name a few. Firstly, congratulations to the Club Champion of the Year, Rowena Yates, and to Club Person of the Year, Jack Appleby. Both Rowena and Jack showed incredible passion and pride for the Wildcats Club throughout 2014, and it certainly did not go unnoticed by their team mates.


Riley Hawke was awarded the Doug Fraser Award, and Darcy O'Shannassy was awarded the Roger Williamson trophy. Riley and Darcy set great examples for their teams throughout the season, and I am sure they will continue to do their best in 2015.


As club patron, I presented the Aussie Footy Award to Francois Patron, and the Youth Footy Award to Ian Anderson, which was accepted by Mike Yates. And last, but certainly not least, the Volunteer of the Year Award was awarded to Trudi Fajri.


I am also excited that the club is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, marking a considerable contribution to the strength and spirit of our local community. Through this contribution, it has come to my attention that as the Weston Creek area continues to grow with the development of new Molonglo suburbs, local sporting clubs such as the Molonglo Football Club are going to need more resources and support. I look forward to working with Tim and the Senior Club President, Dean Hill, in the coming year, and I hope to promote the club and gain support for its role within our community.


I am sure many of you will agree, the Anzac Centenary is a period of great national significance. It is a time to commemorate the service and sacrifices made by men and women who have worn, and also those who currently wear, our nation's uniform. The Australian government Anzac Day Schools' Awards seek to acknowledge secondary and primary schools that have shown an exceptional commitment to Australia's wartime history through both learning and commemorative activities. The competition is open to all Australian schools, inviting entrants to showcase an activity that they have undertaken which reflects the Anzac ideals, and that balances inventiveness with tradition.


At the end of last month the 2014 winners of these awards were announced. It was great to see Melba Copland Secondary School announced as the national and ACT winner, and St Clare's College as the runner up within the ACT secondary schools category. Red Hill Primary School took out first place in the primary school category for the ACT, and Weetangera Primary School was the runner up. Well done to all those schools. I had a great opportunity to visit Red Hill Primary and see the wonderful commitment of teachers, parents and students to commemorate our Anzac history. I was particularly impressed that Red Hill Primary has a very strong veterans community a very strong service community, many of whom are serving overseas at the moment. We commend them for their service. I commend Red Hill and all those other schools that received those awards.


The national winner, Melba Copland Secondary School was commended on its outstanding entry and involvement with the local community in commemorating Anzac Day. They were shown to have encouraged students to research and reflect on Australia's military service, and they invited veterans and current serving members of the Australian Defence Force to engage with students and other local schools.


I was really honoured to be joined by the Minister for Veterans' Affairs, Senator the Hon. Michael Ronaldson, for an assembly at Melba Copland College. Both the minister and I congratulated the students for all their hard work and presented the principal, Michael Battenally, and Executive Teacher, Matthew Noonan, with their winning plaques, certificates and a cheque for $3,000, which the school will put towards their 2015 Centenary of Anzac commemorations.


I would like to congratulate not only the award winning schools, but each and every school that has shown initiative through participating in learning activities and commemorating Australia's wartime history. I would encourage all schools in the ACT to continue to promote learning about the significance of commemoration, and to enter the Anzac Day Schools' Awards competition in 2015.


Another selection of awards that are of particular importance to me  are  those  which  I  established at the beginning of this year to be  awarded  to ACT students. They are the Senator Zed Seselja Award for Community Service and the Senator Zed Seselja Award for Academic Excellence. Through these awards, I aim to recognise students that embody the values of hard work, leadership, excellence and community spirit. I believe that it is important to recognise the works of students that have benefited their schools and the community at large and to encourage all students to constantly aim to achieve their best.


Already I have had the pleasure of attending John Paul College, St Clare's College and St Monica's Primary School to present some of Canberra's young bright leaders with their awards. The award winners from St Monica's Primary School in Evatt were two Year 6 students, Tess DeCosta and Joshua Knight. Tess was awarded the Academic Excellence Award for her achievements in all academic, creative and practical areas in semester 1 this year. Joshua was awarded the Community Service Award for his excellent leadership qualities and ability to act as a positive role model for the younger students.


The award winners from St Clare's College were two year 11 students, Lucy Kibble and Angie Lu. Lucy was awarded the Academic Excellence Award for achieving straight A's on her semester 1 report card and for consistently working hard. Angie was awarded the Community Service Award as she is a highly respected member of the St Clare's community and a continual source of inspiration and unity to her year group.


Finally, from John Paul College we had four students that were nominated for the awards, two year 7 students, Chloe McGovern and Zoe Nesbitt, and two year 8 students, Thomas Tran and Tom Mugridge. Chloe was awarded the Academic Excellence Award for achieving nine A's and one B on her report. Thomas also received an Academic Excellence Award for achieving eight A's and one B  on  his  report. Zoe was awarded the Community Service Award for always being an enthusiastic student who loves to be involved in the school community. Tom also won the Community Service Award for always putting his hand up to volunteer at school events and for being an open and welcome student that is supportive of his peers. I look forward to engaging with more students and schools this year.


On that note, I was pleased earlier this month to attend, along with Andrew Leigh, a forum at Burgmann Anglican College which was organised and run by year 11 student Munashe Rusamo. There were a number of topics open for discussion including the budget, the carbon tax, asylum seeker policy and a range of other issues. I was extremely impressed with the quality of the questions asked, the knowledge of the students and the amount of interest that was taken in the community and the global political climate. The students chose to engage with Andrew and I on a very mature level and I would like to commend them on how they managed this event.


It needs to be recognised that these are our future leaders and will be our national leaders in the years to come. From what I saw from these young students and from what I saw of the students at Burgmann Anglican College, our nation and our city of Canberra are in great hands. We have some very impressive young people who take an interest in their world, who take an interest in their community and I commend them for it.


Following from this, I look forward to holding a youth leadership forum in October to give more young people the opportunity to share their views. I encourage anyone who is interested to contact my office. We want to see our young people thrive and we want to see them contributing now and into the future.


Before I finish, I would like to briefly mention the Benny Wills Foundation's gala dinner, which I had the pleasure of attending on Saturday night. Imogen and Dave Wills hosted the gala dinner in honour of their son Benny Wills and to raise much needed funds to support the Benny Wills Brain Tumour Research Program at the Sydney Children's Hospital. Sadly, Benny was diagnosed with a diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma, an inoperable brainstem tumour, in September 2008 and passed away just over twelve months later on 11 September 2009.  We had the heartbreaking opportunity to hear about Benny's life, to hear about the struggles of Benny and his  family  and  Dave and Imogen's journey as they dealt with this terrible disease and as they dealt with the loss of their son. Unfortunately, this continues to happen to too many families in Australia. We simply have not made the kind of progress that we need to in combatting brain cancer in particular. It needs to be an ongoing focus at all levels of government to have greater levels of research into this killer. Everyone who was at the dinner would have appreciated the importance of that.


At the dinner I had the opportunity to meet Dr David Ziegler, a Specialist Oncologist from the Sydney Children's Hospital. Dr Ziegler spoke about some of the progress and about the exciting breakthroughs he and his team have made in research on diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma brain tumours. For the first time in Australia, diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma tumour cells have successfully grown in test tubes. A national protocol has been initiated to allow for the donation of brain tumours for research after a child has died. Tumour cells from donated tumour specimens have successfully been grown. We also heard that as they have had the opportunity to test thousands of drugs as to how these tumours respond. There has been some progress. We have seen in fact anti-malaria drugs are having some impact it seems in early testing. Those are some of the signs of hope. I commend Dr David Ziegler and all of those who are involved in this type of critical research.



What was expressed on the night and what was expressed by Dave and Imogen and so many others who have been affected by this was that they do not want to see other people suffer in the way that they have. They cannot bring back their son but they want to see parents in the future, if they are faced with this terrible condition or when they see their children faced with this terrible condition that there will be a cure, that we will be able to first slow it and then cure it. I will end simply by commending Dave and Imogen on the really inspiring work that they do. They have shown great courage and great determination in raising awareness and in raising funds for this very important cause. I commend their work to the Senate.