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Monday, 7 November 2016
Page: 3018

Ms CATHERINE KING (Ballarat) (11:31): I rise to also support the motion moved by the member for Chisholm. I think this was originally moved to highlight National Stroke Week back in September, but it is timely in any event to talk about the importance of investment in cardiovascular disease, and stroke in particular. Through contributions this morning, we have heard people talk about the need to recognise and respond to the signs of stroke. We know that one in six Australians will have a stroke in their lifetime, with Australians suffering more than 50,000 this year alone, and one Australian will suffer a stroke every 10 minutes. We know that, of course, the time in which you respond after having a stroke is critically important for your rehabilitation and the success of your outcome.

The Stroke Foundation estimates that, in my own electorate of Ballarat, there are almost 3,000 people living with the effects of stroke. Significantly, there is a high number of people with one or more stroke risk factors across my electorate—more than 27,000 have high blood pressure and almost 40,000 have high cholesterol, which are two of the key risk factors for having a stroke.

More than 13 years ago, regional Australia's first dedicated stroke unit officially opened at Ballarat Health Services Base Hospital, and I am proud that my local region has been a leader in this space. We know that having a stroke unit is critical, again, to making sure people are seen quickly, that they are seen by the right specialist quickly and that the right decisions are made. I am very pleased that that is available in my community, but a lot more needs to be done. It is vital that more Australians are aware of what strokes looks like and of how to respond quickly when they occur. That is why, during the election campaign, the Labor side of this House took the decision to commit $16 million to boost stroke awareness and to improve follow-up care for the survivors of stroke—one of Australia's biggest killers and a leading cause of significant disability.

Almost half a million Australians are already living with the effects of stroke, and that is forecast to rise to almost one million by 2050. But it does not have to be this way—access to quick treatment and support services can save lives and absolutely reduce the level of disability. Awareness of the Stroke Foundation's FAST test is critical to improving treatment and reducing the impact of stroke. Thinking fast and acting fast is critical. Early treatment could mean the difference between death or severe disability, and is critical to ensuring a good recovery from stroke. When you speak to stroke survivors, you hear that the No. 1 issue for them is improved care. Leaving hospital after a stroke can be a really frightening experience, especially if a survivor does not have family support. Certainly in rural communities the access to support can also be diminished. Survivors speak of not being able to access the information and services and of being left to fend for themselves unaware of the right places to seek help. Many stroke survivors I have spoken to have attempted to return to work and have found that that it fails pretty quickly as they have not had the support services that they need.

The Stroke Foundation's follow-up and referral service provides vital information for families and carers as they help their loved ones adjust to life after a stroke. This service proactively contacts stroke survivors directly around six weeks after they leave hospital. When people leave hospital they are often lost to the system very quickly as they try to go back and regain their ordinary lives or they have to deal with a disability while trying to access services or their family is trying to access those services for them. So actually having someone proactively connecting them in with services and with other people in the community who have had a stroke makes sure that they actually do get the assistance they need. The service contacting people makes sure that the survivors and their families do get that much needed assistance and access to information quickly after leaving hospital. Whether it is assessing their needs or helping with important community referrals and linking them with other services, this follow-up service can help fight the isolation many stroke survivors feel and helps their recovery.

While we have stroke awareness week once a year, it is really important that people are aware of the symptoms of stroke throughout the entire year. It is important that you do get regular health checks, that you do try and mitigate against the risk factors for stroke but it is equally important that we, as members of parliament and prospective governments, actually invest in this really important area. The whole area of cardiovascular disease is not one that has been significantly funded. We tend to focus a lot on cancers. I would like to see far more awareness of stroke and far more awareness in this parliament of the need for funding.