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Monday, 23 November 2015
Page: 13371

Mr PERRETT (Moreton) (11:25): I rise to speak on the motion put forward by the member for Ryan about supporting BUSHkids. I note the member for Ryan is my next-door neighbour in an inner city electorate, but I also note the contribution from the member for Bendigo—a Queenslander by birth but representing the seat of Bendigo in Victoria—and also the contribution from the member for Throsby from regional New South Wales. It is great to have people from the Labor Party supporting this motion. It is sad to see the silence from the LNP from Queensland when it comes to this great motion put forward by the member for Ryan. Obviously with an inner city electorate I do not have as many bush kids, but I know that many of them receive services in my electorate with the PA Hospital right across the road from the electorate of Moreton, but also QEII hospital and many other services that I will touch on.

BUSHkids do a great service. Having grown up in St George, I know that they do not do outreach programs to St George, but they are only just down the road in Warwick, Inglewood and Dalby, and they service all of Queensland. If we take our minds back to 1935 when we had a slightly different Queensland—it is still a very decentralised state, the most decentralised state—the difficulties of living in these far-flung areas when you have a child that needs medical attention were a problem recognised by the Governor of Queensland at the time, Sir Leslie Orme Wilson, and he sought a solution. He could see that children with increasingly complex medical needs would become a particular challenge in the bush, so at the request of Leslie Wilson—a former British soldier and Governor of Queensland from 1932 to 1946—in 1935 a meeting was convened by the Labor Lord Mayor, Alfred Jones, for the purpose of commencing the BUSHkids program to provide intervention and prevention for medical conditions suffered by children living in remote areas. Initially this program offered access to city medical and surgical services for children who live in the bush. It provided homes near the beach for the children to recuperate with their families. The first home opened in Scarborough, just north of Brisbane. Other homes were established in Yeppoon, Hervey Bay, Rowes Bay and Townsville. Eventually these homes progressed and became registered as hospitals, and the Red Cross provided travel for the children from their country towns. The service provided help even during the difficulties of World War II, when the society's resources were stressed. The polio epidemic provided even more challenges for the service, but despite all of the obstacles the BUSHkids service has continued for 80 years.

Currently BUSHkids operate centres in Brisbane, Bundaberg, Dalby, Emerald, Inglewood, Mount Isa and Warwick. The current program aims to build the capacity of the local rural communities to be able to respond appropriately to children who are at risk. This might include children with poor health or even education or social outcome concerns. Having grown up in Western Queensland, I understand the challenges that come with children who live in isolated areas. Also, having taught in Toowoomba and in Babinda in North Queensland, I understand the challenges that come with having a very decentralised state. I understand the importance of early intervention for children in these communities to access health and educational professionals. Early intervention can make an enormous difference to children, rather than having them moving in a direction that is going to create challenges down the track. If we can have early intervention, guidance and support for parents, a stitch in time saves nine later on.

BUSHkids provides early intervention for allied health for children and families in rural communities who would not otherwise receive the medical or educational care they need. The services provided to children through the BUSHkids program are delivered through a range of facilities across Queensland. One is disability services at Oxley, which is easy to access, particularly for those kids coming in from Warwick, Inglewood, Dalby and all points west.

I commend the member for Ryan for putting this motion to the House. I am disappointed that her Liberal Party and National Party colleagues were not around to support it. Too often they can take the support they have in the bush for granted, whereas we really need to make sure with a decentralised state such as Queensland, with major centres like Townsville, Toowoomba, Rockhampton, Mackay, Mount Isa et cetera, that we focus on the resources that are there.

Debate adjourned.