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Monday, 26 November 2012
Page: 13099


Ms SMYTH (La Trobe) (11:33): I am very pleased to be able to contribute to this debate and commend the member for Shortland for bringing the matter to the House and also commend each of the other participants in the debate so far. I am extremely pleased that the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation is in the parliament this week, together with so many young people facing juvenile diabetes and their families. This includes, from my own electorate, my constituents Jo and Livinia Martin.

Jo and Livinia came to see me earlier this year to tell me their story. Livinia has experienced juvenile diabetes for some time now and continues to be a very strong ambassador, both for the research effort which JDRF pursues and also for increased awareness within her school community and the broader community. I certainly commend Livinia, her mother Jo and their family on the work that they have already done to explain what juvenile diabetes means for Livinia and the thousands of other young people facing the disease.

I must say I was struck by the maturity of Livinia who, at a relatively young age, has had to contend with the daily practicalities and realities of her illness. She has certainly managed admirably the responsibilities that go with that. I was also struck by the extent to which she was aware of the risks that might present themselves to her and other juvenile diabetes sufferers later in life. It is an extraordinary thing to contend with at such a young age.

As many members in this debate have remarked, type 1 diabetes can occur at any age, but most commonly it is diagnosed from early childhood to the late-30s. Extraordinarily, it presently affects over 122,000 people in Australia alone. As members will no doubt know, with type 1 diabetes a person's pancreas produces little or no insulin. Although its causes are not entirely known, it is believed to be caused by the immune system mistakenly turning on itself and causing the destruction of beta cells within the pancreas and removing the body's ability to produce insulin.

People with type 1 diabetes, as many of us will also know, must inject insulin several times every day or have a constant supply of insulin through an insulin pump just to stay alive. For young people in particular, the reality of having to deal with that each day and families having to administer the arduous regimen of insulin is an extraordinary task which many young people have to face but really should not have to face. Most newly diagnosed cases are children aged under 15 years. Around 1,825 Australians are diagnosed with type 1 diabetes each year, which is a considerable number. The incidence, however, is increasing at a rate of around three per cent per year. In Australia, around 95 per cent of the diabetes found in children is type 1 diabetes.

Members who have spoken in this have remarked on the symptoms that present themselves, of which it is recommended the community be aware in the assessment of potential risk of type 1 diabetes. Those symptoms include extreme thirst, constant hunger, sudden weight loss, blurred vision and extreme tiredness, amongst other things. Treating juvenile diabetes requires ongoing vigilance and monitoring and it is a significant task for many young people and their families. But timely and routine treatment is essential because the risk of complications arising from the disease is also significant. Members have remarked—and no doubt those who are present in the House this week from JDRF and are supporting its efforts—will be happy to explain to members in this place that the risks associated with diabetes, and the complications arising from it, include such things as eye disease, nerve damage, kidney disease, heart disease and stroke.

Once again, I am very pleased that the JDRF are in the House this week. I look forward to joining them and Jo and Livinia from my electorate at the Kids in the House event on Thursday to support JDRF. It is clearly a very significant organisation in its research effort and in raising awareness of type 1 diabetes. It has taken a significant role also in leading the agenda in terms of scientific research and I am sure that we will all continue to support its efforts. (Time expired)