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Monday, 20 August 2012
Page: 9330


Mrs ANDREWS (McPherson) (20:43): I rise to speak on the member for Shortland's motion on Haemochromatosis Awareness Week which was held between 13 and 19 August. As we have heard, haemochromatosis is an inherited disorder which causes an iron overload in the body, resulting in the intestines absorbing too much iron from the diet. In normal circumstances, the body will only absorb the iron from the food we eat so that it can meet its daily requirements. However, those people who suffer from haemochromatosis will absorb much more iron than the body needs. This iron, needing somewhere to go, builds up in their bodily tissue, eventually leading to an overload that can lead to organ or tissue damage and potentially death if it is left untreated. Although haemochromatosis is a potentially life-threatening illness if left untreated, it is remarkably easy to detect and to treat. A simple blood test can let a patient's doctor know whether they have a higher than usual iron level which will lead to more specific tests that may confirm a haemochromatosis diagnosis.

It is estimated that one in every 200 people who are of European descent in Australia will suffer from haemochromatosis, making it the most common genetic disorder in Australia. If we were to take that number and make an estimate according to the national population of roughly 22½ million people, over 100,000 people would currently be affected or expect to be affected by haemochromatosis. The best way to treat haemochromatosis is to safely manage a patient's iron levels. This is done through what is known as venesection, which requires the removal of 300 to 500 mls of blood. This amount may sound familiar because it is the same process and amount that is used to donate blood. As withdrawing blood is the best method to help manage a person's iron levels and the disorder does not, as many may presume, affect the blood, the withdrawn blood can be safely donated to the Australian Red Cross. Inadvertently many haemochromatosis patients are helping save the lives of their fellow Australians, just by getting their necessary treatment.

Those patients who are unable to undergo venesection treatment can be prescribed iron chelators instead. Although there are potentially life-threatening consequences if left untreated, haemochromatosis can easily be detected, diagnosed and treated. However, like many other medical issues, the main issue is awareness. As I mentioned before, one in every 200 Australians will be affected by haemochromatosis and, until symptoms show, many people who may have a predisposition to developing the disease or the illness are unaware that they may be at risk. So awareness is all the more important considering how easy it is to detect and to treat the disorder so as to prevent permanent damage to the body. We are therefore fortunate that Haemochromatosis Australia does a fantastic job in promoting awareness of the disorder and providing sufferers with information on how to manage their treatment and also to provide support to them and their families. Without the hard work being done by organisations such Haemochromatosis Australia, who run awareness campaigns and pull together available information for the community's benefit, many Australians would be suffering from the effects of illnesses which could be offset by early detection or simple precautions.

I would like to note for my constituents that Haemochromatosis Australia will be holding a meeting at the Pines Shopping Centre at Elanora on the Gold Coast on 25 August to provide people with haemochromatosis and their families with the opportunity to discuss their experiences and find out more about how to live with the disorder. I urge all of my constituents who are unsure whether they may be at risk of developing haemochromatosis to consult with their GP. Once again, I would like to voice my support for the efforts of Haemochromatosis Australia and the fantastic work they are doing in the community in raising awareness about this easily manageable disorder.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The time allotted for this debate has expired. The debate is adjourned and the resumption of debate will be made an order of the day for the next meeting.