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Monday, 18 August 2003
Page: 18725


Mr ADAMS (3:58 PM) —I am very pleased to second the motion. I commend the member for Blair for bringing this matter before the House. This week is a very special week for a hundred Australian children with diabetes. They have been given the opportunity to come into parliament and tell parliamentarians about their illness and what they want government to do to help them. I am very pleased to be associated with the Kids in the House program. It is about raising awareness of their particular problem and to seek increased federal funding for diabetes research by urging politicians to `promise to remember me'. Around one in every 700 Australian children has diabetes, which makes it one of the most common serious diseases among children.

Diabetes is a disorder of the endocrine system and is characterised by the body's inability to use blood sugar—glucose. There are two main types of diabetes: juvenile onset diabetes and mature onset diabetes. Juvenile diabetes can affect anybody of any age, but it is most common in people under 30 years of age, tending to develop in childhood—hence its name. Other names for juvenile diabetes include type 1 diabetes and insulin dependent diabetes or IDDM. Estimates vary, but approximately one in every five to 10 Australians with diabetes has IDDM. In fact, the incidence of IDDM in Australia is very high compared with other countries. In order to use glucose for energy, the hormone insulin needs to be secreted by the pancreas, a gland of the endocrine system which is located in the abdomen. A person with IDDM is unable to produce insulin, because the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas are destroyed by the body's own immune system. Currently, treatment includes closely monitoring the blood sugar levels, modifying the diet and taking daily injections of insulin.

Although diagnosing diabetes has not been a problem since very early times, finding a cure has eluded us. We know that daily doses of insulin can help those with type 1 diabetes, and a better diet and exercise limits the effects of type 2, so it can be controlled. But, once a person is affected by the disease, there is no cure at the moment. This is quite devastating, particularly for the very young, who have to cope with insulin injections throughout their lives. A child who has had diabetes for 10 years has typically endured 14,500 injections of insulin. I will repeat that, because I think it is a very important point for the politicians to whom the children will be talking this week. This is what you should remember: a child who has had diabetes for 10 years has typically endured 14,500 injections of insulin. The insulin pump has helped to minimise the inconvenience of the constant requirement for insulin, but it has not lessened the effect that the disease has on the body.

Diabetes is a leading cause of death, blindness, kidney failure and amputation in our community, and Australia has one of the highest rates of juvenile diabetes in the world; so it is vital that more resources are directed into trying to find a cure for this relentless disease. Type 2 diabetes is also be-coming more common, and young people are more and more at risk of developing it because of dietary deficiencies. We must start considering diet as a major factor in children's health in Australia and looking at the content of the many foods we eat. This has to be the responsibility of the food producers as well as parents, in order that there is sufficient knowledge in the home to be able to ensure a healthy diet.

Last year, Australia joined forces with the US in a $10 million quest to develop a vaccine against juvenile diabetes, but this will take time and many of these young people want us to try harder to find a cure. It is imperative to keep trying to find answers, and the only way we can do that is to fund research. This week, when the children are going around talking to all the groups, I ask members and senators to make sure to take the opportunity to hear their message and carry it forward to the government, and let us hope that we can increase the budget for research. This disease can be solved, we can find a cure. We are well on the way, but it is going to take a massive effort to get there. Let's try and let's be a part of it.