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Monday, 23 May 2011
Page: 4155

Mr HAYES (FowlerGovernment Whip) (22:15): I rise tonight to speak about an uplifting event I attended in my electorate of Fowler last Friday. As members will be aware, last week was Families Week. Right across the country, community groups gathered to celebrate families in all their manifestations, including nuclear families and families in the broader community with different religions and from different cultures but with common interests.

In my electorate, I attended an event coordinated by Mission Australia and at the invitation of Lucy Reggio, who is also the President of Special Needs Ability Program Providers. Lucy does an outstanding job in the local community. Her organisation works tirelessly to provide social and recreational activities for adults and children with disabilities. I know personally of a number of children and families whose lives have been greatly enriched by the work of Lucy and her group.

In disability services, we can sometimes focus very much on the negative. That is not to diminish the great challenges that people in our community with disabilities face. But Lucy's organisation focuses on the positive and provides a social group where people can come together, meet and participate in recreational activities in a safe environment. A number of other local community groups also attended that day: the Cubbyhouse, who enhance the social skills of children, including those with an autism spectrum disorder; the South West Youth Peer Education, who support local teenagers; and Inspire Church, a local, very active church in our community in the south-west of Sydney. That is just to name a few of the participants. It was also great to see the event supported by the local police and fire brigade. Food as well as entertainment was provided for everybody.

The theme of the event was 'Sticking Together in Good Tough Times'. I know members would agree this is particularly relevant considering the number of natural disasters our nation and our neighbours have suffered in recent times. I think it is fair to say that at times like these Australians tend to come together as a family. We empathise with each other, we support each other and we do what we can to help those who are most in need. Family in the community is particularly important when the nuclear family is not available and sometimes not even close by.

My electorate of Fowler is the most multicultural electorate in the country. For many that cultural diversity brings huge advantages. But for many residents, particularly those who have only recently arrived in this country, their extended families are overseas, and getting together can be an expensive exercise that is out of reach. It is important that that community groups fill this gap, providing essential support and services to many.

Groups in our community who support those with a disability and their families are to be commended. I am very passionate about doing all I can, while I am an elected member, to understand the needs of those groups, particularly issues of disability in our community, and where I can to support them. It goes to the heart of our Labor values, and I am very proud to work for the Labor government, who has done much to provide services to those living with disabilities.

This Friday, 27 May, I will be holding a Disabilities Forum in my electorate, where a large number of community groups and residents will come together. It is my hope that by hearing directly from those involved, I can gain a better understanding of the difficulties of those who are faced with disabilities and their families. Through that, I hope to find the best way that we as a government can provide support for them.

At the end of the event, it is my intention to provide Senator Jan McLucas, the Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Carers, with a report with the recommendations of all those who are present next week. I would like to thank in advance those who have helped me put together this event and have supported the idea, such as Lucy Reggio, and Grace Fava, from Autism Advisory and Support Services. This is sure to be an informative and important event, and for those who live in south-west Sydney it is essential that we learn to come to terms with living with disabilities, ensure their inclusion in our society and make sure that we support those families who are affected— (Time expired)