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Monday, 17 August 2009
Page: 8073

Mr ZAPPIA (6:41 PM) —On 7 August, I attended a service celebrating the life of Mr Arnold Cielens, who passed away on 7 July, 2009. Arnold was a man who devoted his life to improving the lives of people with disabilities. He suffered from deaf-blindness from an early age—the same disability that Helen Keller suffered from.

Born in Latvia in 1921, Arnold’s disability impacted on his schooling, resulting in a limited formal education. Arnold came to Australia as a refugee in 1951. Until the end, he lobbied on many specific issues regarding the rights of people with disabilities, including mobility and support to reduce social isolation and to improve quality of life, a greater recognition of deaf-blindness as a unique disability, and specialist education for children with disabilities so that they could receive the support and opportunities that he never had.

At the 6th National Deaf-Blind Conference in Sydney in 2002, Arnold said in his speech:

The potential for learning resides within all of us. Even those of us who are severely challenged can and do learn.

Arnold was a tireless fundraiser for disability charities and personally raised an estimated $500,000. Over the years, he received many community awards, including Tea Tree Gully City Council’s Citizen of the Year award and a nomination for an Australian of the Year award.

He was a keen follower of parliament and political debate, and I am pleased that I was able to assist him in his research and correspondence as well as having him as a guest at a disabilities forum with Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Children’s Services, Bill Shorten. Arnold is survived by his partner, Val, his sons Martin, Viesturs and Andy, as well as eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. My deepest condolences to Val and all the family. (Time expired)