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Wednesday, 20 October 2010
Page: 1028

Ms BIRD (9:52 AM) —I take the opportunity in the debate this morning to recognise an Illawarra woman, Jessica Sparks. I met Jessica not so long ago—only last year, actually. It was through her family contacting my office about a standard matter. We did some representations and then she came and did some volunteer work in my office. She is now at university, studying journalism—we all go astray in our youth, so I will allow her that activity.

The important thing to know about Jessica is that at 16 she was declared near the end of her life, and in 2009 she had a double lung transplant. She is the most amazing young woman—full of life and enthusiasm with the brightest smile you have ever seen. I have to say, it brings a bit of sunshine into my day every time I see it. She is absolutely grabbing life with both hands and enjoying every day, and I think she gives us all a great lesson in doing that.

I particularly want to acknowledge that earlier this month Jessica participated in the Transplant Games, which were held here in Canberra. She has an amazing medal haul in the Cunningham hall of fame; she brought home 16 medals from the Transplant Games. Jessica won gold in the three-kilometre walk; she won silver in the discus, the ball throw, the four by 100-metre relay and the singles darts; and she won bronze in the shot-put, the 100 metres, the long jump, the doubles darts and the crossword competition. We take great pride in every single one of the medals that Jessica has brought back to Cunningham and we acknowledge that the Australian Transplant Sports Association, as it was initially in 1988, organised and ran the first Australian Transplant Games and there were 151 competitors at that point in time.

I also want to take the opportunity to acknowledge the significance the transplant program has for people’s lives. We can see that reflected in Jessica’s life. I acknowledge the generosity of the family who, in their grief, gave us the opportunity to enjoy Jessica’s sunny smile every day.

There were 174 donations recorded between January and July of this year, and we have seen a significant increase in those under the Australian Organ and Tissue Donation and Transplantation Authority. I want to pay tribute to Jessica. We all take pride in her—I know her mum, family and friends do. She is an inspiration to all of us in the broader community. I congratulate the volunteers and organisers of the Australian Transplant Games this year.