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Monday, 26 November 2012
Page: 13098


Mr WYATT (Hasluck) (11:28): I rise today to add my voice to this campaign to raise public awareness of children suffering from diabetes. Type 1 juvenile diabetes is a serious condition that impacts nearly 125,000 Australians, and many more around the world. One of my own part-time staff members has diabetes and I have seen firsthand the impact that this has on his life.

Juvenile diabetes occurs more frequently than cancer, cystic fibrosis, multiple sclerosis and muscular dystrophy and yet it is a condition that is little understood by the community and has significant stigma attached to it. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition caused when the immune system destroys beta cells within the pancreas and inhibits the body's ability to produce insulin. Type 1 diabetes is a condition that can be managed, albeit with difficulty. This is a fickle condition that requires close monitoring to ensure that the sufferer maintains the fine balance between hyperglycaemia and hypoglycaemia. As we slowly gain more understanding of types 1 and 2 diabetes and their causes, it is important that our approach to managing these conditions changes to reflect our growing knowledge.

The challenge that we face at this point is that our learning through research is not informing our management of the condition. It is becoming increasingly clear that lifestyle factors make a significant contribution to the development and management of juvenile diabetes. With this knowledge, it is vital that we take steps towards creating better understanding in the general community about diet and the wide-reaching impact on the health of all Australians, including those with juvenile diabetes. There is no doubt that we need better education and the availability of more information to parents of children with juvenile diabetes. The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation is working hard to understand type 1 diabetes and to find a cure, but there is much more that we, as policy makers and legislators, can do to support the community. As I have said before in the parliament, cultural change is best achieved through education and understanding. It is important that there is a discussion in the public sphere about the nature of juvenile diabetes.

Every win that we have had in the war against juvenile diabetes has been achieved through the activities of volunteers. Over the last four decades we have seen breakthroughs in islet transplantation, beta cell regeneration, preventative vaccine development and reduction of complications. But despite these advancements we have seen little change in the way that this disease is managed in the community.

I would like to share with the House two quotes, the first from Mary Tyler Moore, the actress. She said diabetes changes everything about a person's life:

And to add to the day-in, day-out hassles of living with diabetes—the balancing of diet, exercise, and insulin, the shots, the terrible episodes of low blood sugar, the weird feelings of high blood sugar—is the knowledge that even if you do all you can to be as normal as possible, you're not, you're different, and you face the uncertainty of an adulthood visited upon by early blindness, kidney failure, amputation, heart attack or stroke.

Michael Wooldridge adds international context to the debate as well:

Juvenile diabetes is an insidious and elusive disease that affects some 100,000 young Australians who have to inject insulin several times a day and balance this exercise and … avoid life threatening hypoglycaemia.

Our community approach needs to catch up with the research available, and one way to do this is through advocacy. I am impressed with the commitment that young people with diabetes have in increasing public awareness of this condition. I have met with many youth ambassadors and seen their efforts in sharing the challenges that they face with juvenile diabetes. This week 100 young people from across the country are visiting parliament to meet with parliamentarians and to share their stories and personal challenges surrounding this disease. I am anticipating an engagement with the young ambassadors that will enlighten even my own understanding of the issue and the challenges in a far better way than I currently have. It is through the telling of stories and the sharing of those experiences that we gain an understanding of the breadth of impact that it has on an individual's life, the challenges they face, and the way in which they rise to those challenges and become engaged within the community in which they live. I am happy to support the motion put forward by the member for Shortland.