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Monday, 23 November 2015
Page: 13365

Mrs PRENTICE (Ryan) (11:00): I move:

That this House:

(1) recognises that BUSHkids is a non government, not for profit community organisation which offers a range of free allied health services to children and families living in rural Queensland;

(2) notes that in 2015, BUSHkids celebrates its 80th year of service to the people of rural Queensland;

(3) acknowledges that BUSHkids relies on generous donations from the general public in order to be able to continue its valuable work;

(4) notes the launch of Friends of BUSHkids, an initiative to reinvigorate community involvement in promoting and fundraising for BUSHkids services; and

(5) encourages all Queensland Members to support the Friends of BUSHkids initiative in their electorate.

My electorate of Ryan is full of good people doing good things for others. Today I want to thank, congratulate and acknowledge a wonderful group of people who spend a lot of their lives trying to make things better for young children and their families in regional Queensland. The Royal Queensland Bush Children's Health Scheme, otherwise known as BUSHkids, started in 1935 because the Governor of Queensland was worried about the health and wellbeing of sick children in the bush during the Great Depression and a long drought. It has continued because good people recognised future generations would suffer more complex and pressing medical conditions unless something was done to provide bush kids with better access to similar primary health services to those available in our cities.

BUSHkids is a not-for-profit organisation that for 80 years has provided better access to primary health care for children and their families in regional and rural areas right across Queensland. It is supported by a wonderful group of community spirited healthcare professionals and administration staff located in the heart of my electorate, in Toowong.

The scope of practice for BUSHkids was slightly different in its early days because the needs of sick children in rural and regional areas and the model of care available to them was found wanting. In its early days, for example, BUSHkids dealt with physical problems—like heart defects, lazy eyes, cleft palates, malnutrition, dentures and prosthetic limbs—because access to primary health care in remote areas of Queensland was limited or non-existent and sick children had to travel long distances for the care they needed. Sadly, for those in faraway pockets of Queensland, the time required for travel to get to major regional health centres and the disruption this caused to a struggling family business often meant a sick child did not get the care they needed. We know that a lack of access to primary healthcare services will result in poorer health outcomes, unnecessary and potentially avoidable complications and increased hospital admissions. Put simply, people with limited access to primary health care are also significantly disadvantaged in relation to preventative health care.

Chronic disease is not just an issue for old people, because the development and impact of chronic diseases and their risk factors is a lifelong process. Chronic disease is a major cause of loss of life and disability in all age groups, varying from more than 70 per cent in children up to the age of 14 and up to 95 per cent for elderly people over 65 years of age. The prevention of chronic disease requires the implementation of interventions that target young people as well as broader interventions for the whole population, wherever they live and work. Importantly, health systems that include strong primary health care are more efficient and have lower rates of hospitalisation, less health inequality and better health outcomes, including lower mortality.

In effect, we now know that establishing stronger personal and community links to primary healthcare information and services in regional and rural Queensland will reduce preventable illness and its cumulative impact on a person's health and wellbeing, as well as hospital demand. That more and better primary healthcare services are now accessible to sick children and their families in rural and remote Queensland is in part due to the pioneering spirit of the BUSHkids early health practitioners, their patients and their supporters. They have a long record of distinguished service to rural and remote communities in Queensland. For example, BUSHkids has played a vital role in helping sick and troubled children get better and keeping families and communities together. BUSHkids has helped nearly 45,000 sick children in remote and rural Queensland get the health care that they need. This is a truly remarkable achievement.

While access to better primary healthcare services for children in regional and remote Queensland has improved greatly over the past 80 years, there is still a need for better access to allied health services. And BUSHkids relies on generous donations from members of the public in order to be able to continue its valuable work.

Health care itself is on a journey where the emphasis of care is shifting to extending wellness and improving health. The link between health and education runs both ways and is far more complex than simple cause and effect. Poor health impacts on children's ability to learn and vice versa. This is evidenced by the high levels of ear disease and permanent hearing damage experienced by young Indigenous children, with hearing loss leading to linguistic, social and learning difficulties as well as behavioural problems in schools. This in turn reduces educational outcomes, which will have lifelong consequences for employment, income and social success. Through greater responsibility for and ownership and understanding of the importance of personal health management at a younger age, a much better long-term health outcome for young people and their families, as well as the taxpayer, is achievable. Put simply, prevention of disease or early intervention so an illness does not grow into an acute episode is the best outcome for the patient, their family and the taxpayer.

BUSHkids is uniquely placed to continue its crucial role in early identification, prevention and intervention in respect of health, education and social issues that affect children and their families in rural communities. In rural and remote Queensland today, for example, there is a growing trend in early childhood development and behavioural issues associated with broader family and community challenges such as fly-in fly-out work, ongoing drought, family break-ups and drug and alcohol related social issues. In responding to this challenge and recognising the range of primary health services available, BUSHkids now offers early intervention strategies that include parents, family and community education.

Complementary models of care that include allied health and other primary healthcare management alternatives are effective in improving clinical management of patients and freeing up specialist appointments. BUSHkids now has fully supported centres based in Emerald, Dalby, Bundaberg, Mount Isa and Warwick and a sixth centre at Inglewood serviced by a family healthcare support worker. Dedicated allied health professionals in regional Queensland provide early intervention, development and therapy services to improve the health and wellbeing of children with, or at risk of, developmental and other difficulties. The BUSHkids speech language pathologist reduces the incidence and impact of communication and eating difficulties through assessment, diagnosis and treatment of children with speech, language, voice fluency, literacy and eating difficulties. BUSHkids occupational therapists assess the skills which can impact on a child's participation in their self-care, play and school activities. BUSHkids psychologists help reduce the incidence and impact of emotional, social, academic and behavioural difficulties. And BUSHkids family health support workers support allied health professionals by providing a range of education and school development programs to children and their parents and/or caregivers. With early intervention facilitators located in Agnes Water/Miriam Vale, Kingaroy/Nanango and Stanthorpe, BUSHkids provide even more rural and regional Queensland children and their families with better access to allied health professionals in partnership with other government and non-government healthcare providers.

Madam Deputy Speaker, the need for our BUSHkids programs is compelling, and I am sure your own electorate of Durack would benefit from these services. Increasing evidence shows we should front-load early intervention and innovative primary care management options to when and where people need them, instead of moving a very expensive ambulance to the bottom of a cliff. Indeed, the World Health Organization has long argued 'resource allocation clusters around curative services at great cost', thereby 'neglecting the potential of primary prevention and health promotion to prevent' the vast majority of the disease burden.

I am honoured to be the patron of Friends of BUSHkids in Brisbane, which is a crucial link between city and country. I applaud BUSHkids for its 80-year record of service, for putting the changing health and wellness needs of rural kids at the centre of its scope of practice and for remaining true to the timeless principle of Hippocrates:

The function of protecting and developing health must rank even above that of restoring it when it is impaired.

Friends of BUSHkids is a community based group designed to promote engagement with the services BUSHkids provide, so it is at the forefront of emerging health issues and is the best possible advocate for improving the health and welfare of rural children. I encourage all members, particularly Queenslanders, to support the Friends of BUSHkids in their electorates, and I commend this motion to the House.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms Price ): Is the motion seconded?

Mr Coleman: I second the motion and reserve my right to speak.