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Wednesday, 9 May 2012
Page: 4400


Mrs PRENTICE (Ryan) (09:42): In a Third World country, something as simple as a clean cotton sheet can help save a life. For babies born in the world's poorest countries there is an extremely high rate of infection, due primarily to unclean and unhygienic birthing conditions. Sadly, this is the case in some of Australia's closest neighbours, Papua New Guinea and East Timor.

I, along with Senator Claire Moore, was recently privileged to have the opportunity to visit Timor Leste as part of a parliamentary observer mission for the second round of the presidential elections. On a side note, I was very impressed with the smooth running of the elections and particularly the transparency and the counting of votes, which was completed in the presence of officials, scrutineers and the general public. For some people it was something of a social event with many enjoying the spirit of the democratic process. Yet this trip also gave me the opportunity to meet with groups such as Kirsty Sword Gusmao's Alola Foundation and Marie Stopes International, who, with funding from AusAID, provide support and assistance for people living not only in Dili but also in remote villages. With that in mind, I was proud to learn that a very dedicated group of local women in my electorate, the Queensland Country Womens Association's Moggill branch, has responded to a state-wide call to assemble 1,000 sterile birthing kits for women in East Timor. The birthing kits include a plastic sheet, plastic gloves, soap, nail brush, gauze squares, scalpel, cord ties and, of course, a clean cotton sheet. The cotton sheets are cut into 1.5 metre squares for birthing sheets. The birthing kits can often mean the difference between life and death for some of the babies born in remote villages. The completed birthing kits will be distributed through the Alola Foundation in Dili to birthing centres in villages and outlying areas.

For the past few weeks my office has acted as a collection point for cotton sheets for these birthing kits and, judging by the number of boxes full of sheets which arrived on our doorstep, it appears that news of the appeal has spread right across the Ryan electorate. Following a request from the Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs, Richard Marles, and our Australian Ambassador to East Timor, Miles Armitage, Toll Remote Logistics has agreed to freight the QCWA's completed birthing kits from Brisbane to Darwin and onto Dili. I would like to thank Toll for their generous offer in freighting this very important cargo.

I would also like to acknowledge the dedication and hard work of the ladies from the QCWA Moggill branch. Since the branch was established nine years ago they have been sending birthing kits every year to various locations in Third World countries. They were recently advised by one of their recipients in Papua New Guinea that the infant mortality rate has decreased by 35 per cent since the branch has been sending them these birthing kits. I take this opportunity to congratulate and commend the ladies of the QCWA Moggill branch and indeed all of the Queensland CWA branches as they aim to reach their target of 1,000 birthing kits this year. They are undertaking invaluable community aid work and it just goes to show how something that we often take for granted—a simple cotton sheet—can make such a difference to the lives of those less fortunate.