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Wednesday, 21 March 2012
Page: 3842


Mrs ELLIOT (RichmondParliamentary Secretary for Trade) (09:39): I rise today to acknowledge that today is World Down Syndrome Day. The reason that 21 March is World Down Syndrome Day is that 21/3 represents the three copies of chromosome 21, which is unique to people with Down Syndrome. It is estimated that there are seven million people with Down Syndrome worldwide, and it is the most common and recognised form of learning disability in the world.

This day in 2012 marks the seventh anniversary of World Down Syndrome Day and it is the first year that World Down Syndrome Day will be officially observed by the UN, following the adoption of a resolution by the UN General Assembly in New York in December 2011. The Australian government co-sponsored this very important resolution. On this day, Down Syndrome International encourages supporters and friends all over the world to choose their own themes, activities and events to help raise awareness of what Down Syndrome is, what it means to have Down Syndrome and how people with Down Syndrome play a vital role in our lives and our communities.

I would like to speak about a young woman in my electorate who plays a very vital role within our community. Her name is Shona Robertson, and she is actually in New York at the moment. Shona has Down Syndrome and she is one of the very few advocates from around the world who have been chosen to address the United Nations. We are very proud of Shona. She said that her message will be: 'Everyone deserves their own rights and opportunities. It's about people with Downs living in a real community. It's a free country, people should be able to do anything they like.' Shona is truly an inspiration. She volunteers in my office and she is a wonderful addition to the office. She also works for the Gold Coast City Council. She comes into my office one day a week. She has a really strong work ethic and a strong commitment. She brings a lot of humour to the office and a lot of political advice as well, which we greatly appreciate. We love having Shona in the office. My staff and I find that she is a great addition and a great help to us.

Shona lives independently in her own home. She is engaged to Andrius, which is very exciting; they are getting married soon. Her strong independence is attributed in part to the commitment of her parents, Derek and Penny Robertson. Penny is the chairwoman of the London-based Down Syndrome International. They both provide great support to Shona, which is fantastic. I would like to finish by quoting them. They provided a description about Shona and her life, and they said:

Shona is happy with her achievements to date and considers a house, a dog, a paying job and a fiance as the right of any young woman of her age.

How true that is. Congratulations to Shona on her remarkable achievement in going to New York, being able to speak about all of the great opportunities she has, and her achievements today on World Down Syndrome Day.