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Thursday, 21 August 2003
Page: 19292


Mr HATTON (12:30 PM) —`Blow on the coals of the heart, and we will see by and by'. The last words in the play JB by Archibald MacLeish are about human beings caring for each other and extending help and comfort in times of great need, particularly in times of great sadness and sorrow, and of having great traumas inflicted on individuals. The relatively new play JB is really the Old Testament story of Job and how Job was tried and tested through suffering. I had the great honour yesterday to have lunch with Kids in the House and with Foster Townsend from Theodore in the ACT and Helen Bartlett from Richardson in the ACT. I was able to find out a bit from them about how their young lives have been so far, what the prospects are for them, this great suffering they have already had and their fears of even greater suffering because they have type 1 juvenile diabetes.

For most of us, for me certainly, a recognition that they might need some help in terms of having to inject insulin every day was about all I knew about the impact of diabetes—the fact that they would have to prick their fingers and they would have to take care. But hearing the heart-rending stories yesterday from parents and from older juvenile diabetes sufferers about the fact that, by 20 years of age, they faced the prospect of retinopathy, that they could lose all or part of their sight and that all their major organs could be invaded by this disease, was the most wrenching experience I have had since I have been in federal parliament. They did a great job of bringing before us graphically just what their problems are. We need to fix them. This parliament is about providing solutions. It is not about sitting back; it is about providing not just rhetoric and words but cold, hard cash to put into research so that these children do have a life. In the booklet that was provided, Helen said:

My name is Helen Bartlett and I am a 12 year old girl who lives at Richardson, A.C.T. Five and a half years ago my life changed forever. I was always very thirsty and felt sick. We were about to go on holidays so my mum suggested that I went to the doctor to make sure I was okay. My doctor told me that I would have to post pone my holiday because I would have to go to hospital. It was then that I found out I had Diabetes.

Having Diabetes has had a dramatic effect on my lifestyle. It has effected what my family and I eat and it effects me playing sport. By finding a cure we would be providing me, and those like me, a better quality of life and would diminish the chance of us getting the long term side effects.

By finding a cure my life won't have changed forever, it would have only changed for the short term.

Foster Townsend is likewise an open, sweet, lovely child. He is bright and sharp and 11 years of age; Helen is 13. Foster said:

Now I could tell you about how painful the insulin injections I have 3 times a day are, how lumpy and bruised my stomach is because of these injections. I could tell you that I have to do at least 5 finger pricks a day to monitor my blood glucose levels. I could tell you that sometimes I have to prick my finger 3 to 4 times to even draw blood because my fingers are so calloused. I could also tell you about what it's like for me and my family to go on holidays. How we can't just grab our towels and sun block and go to the beach.

But what I really want to tell you about is how I am beginning to doubt everyone who tells me that there will be a cure soon. Soon is tomorrow or next month not 10 to 15 years away.

It seems an impossible dream sometimes, but I often imagine my life without diabetes, being just a kid like my friends not needing special care and attention.

That's why finding a cure is so important to me and all the kids around the world who have diabetes.

Some $US600 million has been raised for research into this disease. About $A40 million has been raised and expended. This government has put $2.4 million into research for this disease but just one Australian individual on her own, having lost her daughter at 32, has put forward $5 million. We as a parliament cannot be unaffected by the heart-rending scenes we saw yesterday and the beauty and wonder of those kids who need our hard, cold cash to go into research to brighten and open their lives for the future.