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Monday, 14 September 2009
Page: 9543

Mr CHESTER (7:11 PM) —by leave—I take up the points raised by the previous speaker in relation to opportunities to prevent the frequency of stroke occurring in our community—in particular the issues raised in relation to older people and those with certain medical problems such as high blood pressure and diabetes. There is no question that lifestyle factors such as diet, alcohol consumption, smoking and how active we are in our daily lives affect our individual risk. In particular I refer to the issue of smoking. As someone who had a father who was a regular smoker and tragically suffered from lung cancer later in his life due to his smoking habit, formed as a very young man, I am very committed to encouraging young people in our community to avoid taking up smoking in the first place. As a government there is a lot more that we could do via public health initiatives on the issue of smoking.

The Quit campaign, which has been very successful across Australia, is an initiative which needs further support in the future. There are a whole range of initiatives being considered in terms of restricting the amount of advertising and the display of cigarettes. Also, in many states legislation is being put forward to prevent smoking when children are in cars. These are all very good and positive initiatives. If we can avoid young people in particular taking up the habit of smoking early in life, the benefits will flow through in minimising the number of strokes in our community.

Healthy eating is also an issue that the previous member referred to. Again, it is an opportunity for us as elected members of parliament to lead by example. We should support our food producers across our nation and encourage young people in particular to enjoy five portions of fruit and vegetables each day. It does a lot for your health, in terms not only of minimising the incidence of stroke in our community but of overall quality of life.

In my previous contribution to this motion before the House I referred to the need to encourage healthy lifestyles, particularly amongst our young people. It is something I would like to expand on further if time permits. We have an opportunity in our nation to encourage young people in particular to be active members of their communities. There is a real prospect for us to do a lot more in reducing the economic barriers for a lot of our young people. I represent a regional constituency, and a lot of our young people have trouble accessing sporting opportunities. There is a real opportunity for us to make sure that we provide those opportunities in our regional communities, taking into consideration the extra transport costs involved for a lot of families. Again, early habits formed in terms of a healthy lifestyle will have immeasurable benefit in reducing the incidence of stroke in our community.

I also referred previously to the Stroke Association of Victoria and the excellent work they are doing in supporting people who have suffered from stroke and, of course, their families and caregivers. As members of parliament we need to reflect more on the contribution that is made to our community by carers. Carers save our nation a king’s ransom in forgone costs to the community if we had to provide that care from the public purse. With a little further investment from us at the state and federal levels to support our carers we would be able to achieve a lot more in supporting people with illnesses. In this particular case I am referring to strokes.

The support groups that exist in Victoria provide a wide range of support to families and to survivors, helping them through a very traumatic time in their lives. By their very nature, strokes are unexpected. They occur suddenly and it is like a lightning strike on the families involved. It hits them in an instant and, from then on, their lives are different. It is up to us as a government and as members of parliament to make sure that we provide support for the survivors and also to the caregivers.

There are opportunities for us to make sure that the caregivers and the work that they are doing in the community are more widely recognised and appreciated. It is with that in mind that I repeat my earlier remarks encouraging state and federal governments to see what support they can give to groups like the Stroke Association of Victoria in terms of professional facilitation work, because I find that a professional facilitator or coordinator can leverage off the amount of work the volunteers undertake on behalf of those who have suffered a stroke. Again, I thank the member for Shortland for the motion before the House and commend her for her work in this regard.