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Wednesday, 15 August 2012
Page: 8808

Ms BURKE (ChisholmDeputy Speaker) (09:56): Today I am asking colleagues to help raise awareness of acquired brain injury by banging on a beanie, like me. That is the extent of my beanie in the chamber, as I know it is a prop and I should not do it. But ABI, acquired brain injury, is a silent killer in our community and a silent disease out there. It is one that affects more than 1.6 million Australians, or one in 12. It is often referred to as the invisible disability because there are often no outward signs that a person has a lifelong disability. Around twice as many people are diagnosed each year with ABI as with breast cancer, and yet very few people know about it.

BrainLink, chaired by the phenomenal CEO Sharon Strugnell, in conjunction with brain injury associations across Australia, have decided to turn this invisible disability into a very visible one with these delightful blue beanies. Also Sharon Strugnell has a wicked sense of humour, which has got me wearing a beanie in parliament. It is very important to raise awareness during this Brain Injury Awareness Week.

We are asking people to wear a blue beanie and show their support for affected families and friends. ABIs affect not only the individual but also families and friends, as there is often quite a lot of care needed for these individuals. It does not discriminate at any age. Unfortunately it is often young people and those most at risk in our community who are affected, such as the homeless, those in the criminal justice system, Indigenous people or soldiers returning from war. Queensland holds the highest national average for those affected each year, often from motor vehicle accidents, violence and stroke, but also from other diseases like Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and multiple sclerosis.

The central theme for Brain Injury Awareness Week this year is 'Sports related head injuries', tragically usually occurring on sporting fields from concussions. We need to raise the awareness of our young people going on to the ground that sometimes getting multiple concussions can lead to lifelong disability. We are asking people out there in the sporting environment—professional athletes from AFL, rugby, boxing and horse racing—to be aware of the issue of ABIs.

Because of the invisible nature of ABI, many people will either be misdiagnosed with another disorder, such as a mental illness, or never be diagnosed in the first place. Consequently, the true number of those affected in Australia is much higher than the 1.6 million people reported by the WHO. Carers and families are hugely impacted by ABI also. There are people who look after those with acquired brain injury who are critical to the recovery and ongoing care. Often such carers are ageing and are opting to keep their loved ones in their own homes for longer. Making contact with them as early as possible to prevent carer burden is vital. If you can get to an ABI person early, give them support and give them the treatment for their injury and disease, as opposed to misdiagnosis or labelling it as a mental illness, then very good outcomes can be made and people can have much better outcomes in their lives. I want us to support BrainLink, Sharon Strugnell, who is a fantastic person, and raise awareness for ABI.