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Tuesday, 22 May 2012
Page: 5109

Mr FRYDENBERG (Kooyong) (22:00): I rise to acknowledge World IBD Day, which fell on yesterday, 21 May. IBD is an acronym for inflammatory bowel disease, perhaps better known as Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. Affecting approximately 70,000 Australians, Crohn's disease and colitis are debilitating conditions that target the intestine and other parts of the digestive tract. Extreme diarrhoea, fever, weight loss and abdominal pain are common symptoms that dramatically impact a sufferer's quality of life. Often diagnosed between the ages of 15 and 35, Crohn's and colitis hit young people in their prime just as they are finishing off their schooling or beginning their career journey. With no cure and medications that can go only so far, many of those affected must resort to complex surgery to have parts of their diseased intestine removed, or commit to a life of suffering in silence.

I had the privilege last week of meeting with a number of people living with Crohn's and colitis. They, together with parents, grandparents and siblings of sufferers, gave me a window into the lives of those affected by the disease. Stories of depression, dropping out of university, being unable to keep down a job and the deep fear of revealing to one's friends and employers the true state of their physical condition were just some of the anecdotes I heard at the meeting. These sufferers of Crohn's and colitis recalled the constant disruption to their everyday lives and their inability to do things that we often take for granted, such as travelling by plane, which they would avoid at all costs in the event they were unable to access a toilet. Others told me of their intense and continuous pain, which could see them hospitalised for stints of more than six months. Such a lifestyle, such a condition, could not be wished upon anyone.

Also at the meeting in my electorate office last week were Francesca Manglaviti, Chief Executive Officer of Crohn's & Colitis Australia, the peak national body, and Dr Greg Moore, a director of CCA who is also a medical expert in the field. CCA has their offices in Hawthorn in the heart of my electorate. Francesca and Greg talked about the mission of CCA—namely, to educate the community about Crohn's and colitis, to generate funds for research and program development and, most importantly of all, to provide sufferers with support, counselling and a help line that receives more than 1,000 calls a year. They also talked about the challenge ahead: how to build greater awareness and understanding in the community of Crohn's and colitis and reduce the stigma which is, unfortunately, so commonplace in our community.

This is not just a moral imperative for us all but also an economic one. An extensive report by Access Economics on the economic costs of Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis found that these conditions cost the nation $2.7 billion a year in lost earnings, premature death, absenteeism, allocated health expenditures, informal care, out-of-pocket expenditures and a host of other financial burdens. Thankfully, the report lays the path for going forward, recommending: education programs to assist early diagnosis, including for GPs and emergency departments; better access to pharmaceuticals and biological therapies; a more targeted and focused effort on geographical areas of need for specialist care; enhanced employment programs; support for the carers; and better funded research and development. These measures and other important steps like direct funding for the CCA and financial assistance for specialist IBD nurses in every state and territory could make an immediate difference. When combined with a community-wide awareness campaign and a destigmatisation program, we could alleviate some of the silent suffering of those who live with Crohn's and colitis. You can judge the quality of a country by the size of its balance sheet and its list of achievements but, in the end, this will take you only so far. What really counts is a nation's values and its willingness to help those less fortunate in the community. I know that I speak for members on both sides of the House when I say Crohn's and colitis is one such cause which is deserving of all our attention and for which we must do more. Working with my colleagues, including the members for Oxley, Bowman, Chifley, Melbourne Ports, Boothby and Denison, and many others who have joined the Parliamentary Friendship Group of Crohn's and Colitis, we stand ready to make a difference.

With 70,000 Australians already affected by IBD, and that number predicted to rise by 23 per cent in just the next eight years, we cannot afford to wait. We must act now, and we must act in a comprehensive manner, for thousands of our fellow Australians are counting on us. (Time expired)