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Tuesday, 14 August 2012
Page: 5229


Senator MOORE (Queensland) (20:27): Last week at Buderim, Minister Plibersek came and opened the extension of a new therapy centre at Bloomhill Cancer Help. Bloomhill is an extraordinary place. Those of us who have the honour to be friends of Bloomhill know what a special place this is. I first heard of the organisation when we were involved many years ago in the cancer inquiry held by the community affairs committee. Margaret Gargan, who was the founder of Bloomhill, came and talked to us in our community about her vision for how you could have a multidisciplinary team focused on people who were working through their own experience with cancer—not just themselves but their families—and how they could find a place of security, support and sanctuary. That indeed is Bloomhill. Minister Plibersek was able to share in that experience last week, and I am sure that she will remember the joy and pleasure of the many faces of people who came to share in the experience.

Bloomhill Cancer Help supports people affected by cancer. It provides a unique service which meets specific needs in our community. Bloomhill offers immediate emotional support for any person going through the process of being diagnosed and working through treatments. It works with, for and around the person and their family. It focuses on the emotional and practical needs of people and also looks at where they feel strong and how the organisation, through its range of therapies, can work with that strength. It focuses on survival and real quality of life. It is part of its philosophy that it aims to walk with the client on the journey from the time of diagnosis, through treatment and on through the various stages, working through those periods of grief and loss. It is genuinely a quiet haven of peace and tranquillity that provides immediate solace.

Bloomhill has established its credibility with a whole range of people on the Sunshine Coast. Although its focus is, I think, very close to paradise at Buderim, it is known internationally for the work it provides. It concentrates on working in a multidisciplinary team approach. It works with general practitioners, specialists, nursing services and other health care professionals to have a genuine holistic approach to cancer.

When you come to our centre, you know that peace and serenity are around you. Set on 10 acres of lush vegetation in the very heart of Buderim, it has been a haven for those working with the issues around cancer since 1997. Margaret Gargan talked to us and described herself as 'a woman possessed' as she, who had worked as an oncology nurse for many years, received her own diagnosis of breast cancer. It was a truly harrowing time, and she felt that there was not appropriate community support, so she decided with her professional experience that she would develop a model of care that supports people in the way they need to be supported. She has had experience working in the medical system and knows that the medical system alone does not fulfil the needs that people have.

In 2003, when we had our cancer inquiry, this was still seen as something fairly innovative. Now we know that, in the short period of time since, it has become the accepted model. Margaret went on to say when I was speaking with her last week that her dream is that there is a Bloomhill experience for people no matter where they live in this country. It is the idea that, working with community, people can establish what they need in their local area.

The process operates through an initial assessment by a registered nurse and then through the range of therapies that are available on site. It does not matter whether it is art therapy, music therapy, massage, reiki—all those things that we hear about are there for people to choose to use or not. It also focuses very clearly on those who are caring, so it is not unusual to walk into this place and find kids playing in the yard, people cooking, people laughing, people talking together as well as having areas of quiet peace. This place belongs to the Bloomhill family.

The Bloomhill philosophy of facilitating 'no regrets' recognises that it is the 'if only's that cripple us: if only we had said that, if only we had done that. At Bloomhill people are constantly striving for new ways of identifying and assessing needs while keeping the fees very low to ensure it is accessible for everyone. Cancer, we know, makes people worried, anxious and depressed not just about their condition but also about the impact it has on their family and friends. This gives people time out and a chance to look at a range of options which are not always available in the standard medical model.

Clients are of course encouraged to maintain medical treatment because it is not an either/or situation, but the therapies that are at Bloomhill—the space and the time—are complementary. They work with the person. I cannot stress too much that it is about the person. One of the things that we laughed about last week was the fact that the service has a large number of clients and families that come through, but the volunteer register actually outnumbers the people who are using the therapy centre for their own needs. People are empowered and enjoy their experience of being part of the Bloomhill family, and that is the terminology that is used consistently. There are wide-ranging services, and they are all listed on the website so people can see.

Bloomhill has always been self-funded, relying on public support and goodwill. Last week we also had the annual walk, and a number of people turned out publicly in Bloomhill blue to show that they care and are part of the community itself. I particularly want to congratulate the whole team, who work so hard to ensure that people do have this place of security and peace. To Jenny Caroll, who is the chairman of the board; to Mervat Thompson, an old friend and current CEO; to Raelene Boyle, who amongst all her other work is the patron of the Bloomhill centre; to them and the team of volunteers, carers and therapists: thank you. Thank you from me for the experience I have had in working with you, but thank you also from so many people who have experienced being part of your family and having the support and professional help that you provide.

Bloomhill have a series of opportunity or op shops that are placed across the whole of the Sunshine Coast. This is the main form of income for the organisation because they have not ever had government funding. The money that we provided through our government for the extension of the therapy centre was the first formal government funding that the organisation had received. As part of the community, they rely on the community, and certainly it has been a wonderful process of having people who have gone through working at Bloomhill and then found ways to volunteer and give back to the organisation.

I think it is important that we see this model at work. One of the recommendations of our cancer inquiry many years ago was to ensure that this multidisciplinary team approach becomes standard and is accessible to people no matter where they are actually working with their own illnesses. Unfortunately, it is not everywhere, but in the time since we had the inquiry we have seen that this model is much more common. It is people like the workers and volunteers at Bloomhill who provide hope and encouragement for all of us. I think it is a place that welcomes visitors—as I said earlier, it is very close to paradise when you go to this area—but, once you do see the work that is done there, you feel the serenity and the dichotomy of serenity and energy that is part of the process. You know that anything is possible.

So it is my real pleasure to continue to be a part of the family of Bloomhill. It gives me great hope for our future, and I think it is part of the way that we as a community look at different ways of treating people who are ill and working with them rather than on them.