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Monday, 7 November 2016
Page: 3012

Ms VAMVAKINOU (Calwell) (11:06): I am very pleased today to rise to support the motion moved by the member for Chisholm to raise awareness of the impact of stroke and its impact on our community. It is a reminder of the great work also that is done by lots of people in the community to raise awareness, in particular the Stroke Foundation. National Stroke Week took place between the 12 and 18 September. While it is important not to confine our efforts to raising stroke awareness and prevention to one single week, we are reminded that we have a responsibility to raise awareness amongst our communities throughout the entire year.

Additionally in November this year the Stroke Foundation is also promoting Stride4stroke, a campaign encouraging people to become active. Of course I would like to encourage everyone here and elsewhere to take up the challenge of Stride4stroke.

An honourable member: Good luck.

Ms VAMVAKINOU: As co-convener of the Parliamentary Friends of the Heart Foundation and of the Stroke Foundation, I am very much aware of the significance of the stroke as an issue that touches everyone in our community and the significance of raising awareness. In 2013, it was estimated that stroke cost our community $5 billion dollars. The economic costs of stroke not only include the expenses associated with medical treatment but significantly the loss of productivity, wages and the cost to carers, families and friends when helping someone who has suffered from and is recovering from a stroke.

Stroke in our community has a tremendous emotional and social impact. In addition to the profound emotional burden felt after the death of a loved one from stroke, caring for a stroke survivor also involves significant personal expense for the carers. They perform a very important job. They provide assistance and support and may also need in turn to be supported so that they can help their loved ones and nurse them back to physical and intellectual wellness so that they can fully enjoy the rest of their life.

The health of my constituents is an enduring concern to me as the member for Calwell. Currently thousands of my constituents are living as survivors of stroke and every year hundreds more will be added to this growing list. Even more concerning is the number of people living with the risk factors of stroke. Some 15 per cent have high blood pressure, a quarter have high cholesterol levels and nearly half are not getting nearly enough exercise as is required. These numbers are comparable to the state and national averages and are indicative of a more endemic issue that warrants our continued attention and support.

Because strokes can occur quite suddenly and unexpectedly, acting quickly can make a difference to a person's chances of survival and also help in their recovery. Importantly we have to ensure that information is extended to the broader community and particularly to culturally and linguistically diverse communities. This is particularly a concern to me in Calwell where more than half of my constituents speak a language other than English.

It is very important that everyone is aware of the symptoms of stroke, the risk indicators and how to respond in a situation where you are, or someone you know is, suffering a stroke. A lack of English should not be a reason why people are prevented from receiving that critical information. The Stroke Foundation provides information about stroke and how it can be prevented and treated, and it now does so in several different languages, including Arabic, Mandarin, Greek, Italian, Turkish and Vietnamese. Additionally, their program StrokeConnect, which follows up with discharged stroke victims, uses interpreters and caters for cultural sensitivities in these services. The Stroke Foundation is hoping to extend these services and acquire a greater understanding of how linguistically and culturally diverse communities respond to stroke and how best to support them.

Now, for our part, successive Australian governments from both parties have been very interested in the impact of stroke and its dangers for our community. In 1996, the then government made stroke a national health priority, recognising the pervasiveness of the disease as a risk in our country. In 1999, both parties came together to extend the welfare support available to carers, specifically recognising that stroke victims and their carers were at risk of being particularly impacted by gaps in the existing framework. I would like to congratulate all members speaking on this very important issue today.