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Tuesday, 22 May 2012
Page: 5102

Ms O'NEILL (Robertson) (21:35): I rise this evening to highlight two very significant developments in health within my electorate, and that is the start of works on two very vital projects. The Central Coast Regional Cancer Centre and the Woy Woy sub-acute rehabilitation unit are the two key pieces of infrastructure that I am very pleased to be speaking about this evening. Both of these projects are being delivered thanks to significant investment in regional infrastructure for the health sector through this federal government and directly through the national health agreement struck between Prime Minister Gillard and the New South Wales state government.

Without the determination of the Prime Minister to strike a national deal on health, I think it is fair to say that these much-awaited projects would still be in the 'planning and promises' stage rather than in the building and delivering phase. The two projects, the Gosford cancer centre and the Woy Woy rehab unit, will provide essential health services for the Central Coast community. I really cannot stress the point enough that these two new facilities will make life so much easier for so many people on the Central Coast.

As a Labor Member, I am only too well aware of the additional burden that cancer sufferers on the Central Coast have had to bear. They have had to endure the challenges of travelling to either Sydney or Newcastle in order to receive their treatment. During the time that I was door-knocking prior to the election and in the time since I was and have been overwhelmed by the generosity and courage of people who share their stories of the experiences that they have had and, in their recovery, the energy and passion that they have invested in making sure that other members of our community do not have to suffer the difficulties that they have suffered. They have committed their lives to making sure that they make a better lot of it for everyone else. I think that that is a great indication of the character of the electorate of the Robertson, which I am so proud to represent in this place.

Similarly—though not in terms of cancer in particular—I have heard many stories of struggle from many elderly people who were impacted by the closure of the Woy Woy rehab unit by the previous state government. I heard stories of pensioners being forced to catch a myriad of buses and trains to travel from the peninsula, in the southern part of the Central Coast, to Wyong Hospital on a daily basis to visit their partner. For cancer patients and rehabilitation patients alike, these stories of struggle will no longer be the case because of this government and its commitment to get these two vital health facilities up and running.

As a member of parliament I have been very proud of the efforts of our community to convince the government of the merits of these projects. Dare I say, I do not think the rehab unit would have ever got off the ground again without the power of the peninsula at the helm. There are a number of people that have fought and lobbied governments of all persuasions to make this happen, and I have been honoured to work with them to see their dreams, and the dreams of thousands of other coasties, come to fruition.

First, I would like to commend Kathy Smith and Mark O'Dwyer of Cancer Voices Central Coast for their tireless work in bringing a regional cancer centre to the coast. I was only thinking of Kathy Smith this morning. Having delivered that project, she is now lobbying for significant improvement in palliative care, and I commend Senator Claire Moore for the excellent breakfast that was held this morning in the Great Hall to deal with another vital issue that is of consideration, certainly for this government. Kathy has been a terrific advocate for families and patients who are living with cancer, and I am very proud to have someone like her working for us on the Central Coast.

The team behind Woy Woy Hospital and bringing the rehab facility back to life should also be very proud of their work and all they have done for the people of the peninsula and the coast at large. Even after being told by the state government that it was impossible for a resuscitation of this rehab unit, Ivan Kinney never gave up. He never let the dream go and never once thought that this vital facility could not be brought back. I also want to acknowledge the hospital auxiliary for their passion and commitment to the community based and community minded Woy Woy Hospital, especially Phyllis Thomas and the secretary, Olivenne Barron, and committee members Rhonda Finch and Patricia Harding for their great contributions.

It is a tremendous testament to the people power of the peninsula and the passion that so many in our community have for better health services. Once again, it is an honour to work with these dedicated Australian citizens and see the great work being done in Robertson and across the Central Coast for so many others who will benefit from this investment in infrastructure. It is a signature of the Gillard government.