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Speech at launch of the name and logo for Novita Children's Services and opening of the refurbished Regency Park Centre, Adelaide, August 2004

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Mrs Jane Hyde, President of Novita Children’s Services, and Mr Hyde Mr Glenn Rappensberg, Chief Executive, and Mrs Rappensberg Mr John Rau, MP, representing the Premier of South Australia The Honourable Jay Weatherill, MP, Minister for Families and Communities and Disability The Honourable Dean Brown, MP, representing the Leader of the Opposition Ms Fiona Barr, Mayor of the City of Port Adelaide Enfield Staff, Volunteers, Families, Children Ladies and gentlemen

Thank you for your very warm welcome to Marlena and me. What a great pleasure it is to be in South Australia again, and to have this opportunity to be a part of an historic moment in the life of your organisation.

May I say a special thank you to the members of the Tutti Ensemble for their beautiful singing and for adding such a charming touch to this occasion.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is a very special week for us. On Monday night in Canberra, Marlena and I hosted a reception at Government House to launch Cerebral Palsy Awareness Week (where incidentally we met Glenn Rappensberg).

We were joined by a wonderful group of people - representatives of cerebral palsy groups from around Australia, sponsors, volunteers and members of the wider community - all of them witness to how much has been achieved in supporting children with disabilities and their families, and recognising also how much more needs to be done.

And today in Adelaide, visiting the headquarters of Novita Children’s Services, formerly the Crippled Children’s Association of South Australia - celebrating 65 years of remarkable progress.

Very briefly I want to turn to the history of the Association to illustrate just how much has been achieved since 1939, when Somerton Home was established to assist children with poliomyelitis. Memories are still fresh, in some sections of the Australian community, of polio; its frightening images and how it capriciously struck at random, leaving devastating and life-long physical disability with the burden of high personal and social costs to sufferers and their families. There was, and still is, no cure.

As an adjunct, we’re also seeing the emergence of ‘post-polio syndrome’, a condition which mirrors many of the symptoms of polio that people experienced when they were younger.

In the mid-1940’s, your Association broadened its vision and responsibilities, taking the very proper view that structured special education was crucial for young people. It established school facilities at the Adelaide Children’s Hospital for children with cerebral palsy.

In the 1950’s news quickly spread about the extraordinary American, Doctor Jonas Salk who developed a vaccine to prevent polio. He didn’t patent his discovery but distributed it freely for the world to benefit. In 1962, Albert Sabin’s vaccine was licensed and soon became the treatment of choice.

In South Australia, Somerton Home began to admit children suffering disabilities other than poliomyelitis, and later Ashford House was purchased as a complementary school and therapy centre.

In the 1970’s, Australia was changing, socially, inspired by the rapid spread of television as the mass medium, higher education standards and the cumulative effects of post-war immigration.

We remember some of the events of the 70’s, when Poseidon Mining Company’s nickel shares reached $280 each, and ingloriously fell soon after; in 1973 the opening of the Adelaide Festival Centre; and the renaissance of the Australian film industry.

This was a dynamic era with the raising awareness in education and the environment, and a time of deepening community understanding of the needs of Australians living with disabilities.

That was no more evident than here at Regency Park, with the commencement of construction, in 1971, of a truly world class centre for ‘physically handicapped children’.

What an exceptional commitment that was more than thirty years ago as we look back with gratitude to the foresight, determination and imagination of those who accepted responsibility for young people with disabilities.

Ladies and gentlemen.

The story continues!

In 1988 a range of residential services was developed including fostering and support of community homes, and by the Golden Jubilee Year of the Association, 1989, your organisation was supporting 196 day students and 516 outpatients, 118 families in their homes, 158 clients in employment and training programs, and 24 people in independent living arrangements.

In the 1990’s the wise allocation and sharing of resources with the Spastic Centre of South Australia resulted in the formation of the Crippled Children’s Association to provide therapy for all physically disabled children in the state - later the Association would partner paediatric rehabilitation medical services with the Women’s and Children’s Hospital.

Demand for services has continued to grow. In 2004 your organisation offers occupational and speech therapies, psychology and physiotherapy services, a free equipment service for clients, family support services - including respite care, and it also operates five regional offices through which therapists assess and develop programs for children and young people.

Novita epitomises careful thought, hard work and sound planning. Novita is derived from two Latin words, meaning ‘new’ and ‘life’ that symbolises renewal, signals hope

and achievement, and of looking ahead with confidence.

So what of the future?

There are challenges to be faced and opportunities to be grasped.

Funding of course is the perennial issue for all community-based organisations like yours. Can I say how highly impressed I was to learn that your 500 volunteers in 35 auxiliary committees helped raise $3.4 million in the twelve months to June 2003. What a magnificent effort.

What of the demand for services? The South Australian Department of Human Services report, “Disability Services Framework 2004-2007”, observes that improved diagnostic and treatment capabilities have resulted in the earlier diagnosis of disability, and an extended life expectancy of people who have a disability.

There are other reasons for the demand on service providers. Parents are powerful articulators of their children’s needs, and quite rightly they want the best treatments and caring facilities possible. Staff who are personal and professional advocates also want the very best for their charges.

We should also reflect on the advances in technology and medical equipment - remembering the basic callipers, leather straps and buckles of yesteryear, displaced by state-of-the-art walkers and powered wheelchairs; and then today, the training and communication opportunities accessed through computer technology.

We delight in seeing parents with their children in wheelchair mountain climbs and bush walking - parents and supporters wanting to create experiences that make young lives more enjoyable and enriching. As Greg Box from the Australian Cerebral Palsy Association observed at Government House on Monday evening, “the disability is not the child.”

And what are Novita’s plans for the immediate future - whose staff, together with parents and families across South Australia, are at the coalface in supporting children with disabilities?

The organisation aims to improve access through the on-going development of services to rural and remote South Australia; to expand information sharing through web-based technology; and to work in partnership with indigenous communities to support the unique needs of South Australians living on traditional lands.

Ladies and gentlemen.

May I return for a moment to Doctor Jonas Salk who declared: “that wanting to do something for humankind is part of our nature, and part of an ancestral heritage. That’s how we got to be where we are, through people who performed or functioned that way, or had that drive, or the desire or ambition, which I look upon as a natural phenomenon. Some people are constructive, if you like; it results in … positive contributions.”

That’s the powerful message of contribution - of wanting to make a difference - and that’s what I observe with Novita.

I know the tasks ahead will not always be easy, and that you will all continue to face different and complex challenges.

However the achievements of six and a half decades have established the benchmarks for the way forward. Already so much has been done to raise the awareness of children with disabilities, of advocating for the special needs of those young people,

of supporting their parents and families, and placing ‘disabilities’ on the ‘agenda’ for discussion.

I am certain that this ‘re-opened’ centre will help to enhance the already tremendous work you do, as well as signalling an optimistic approach to the future.

Marlena and I greatly respect and support your work. We extend to you our encouragement and thanks for your commitment, and we very much look forward to meeting you shortly.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is now my great pleasure to unveil the commemorative plaque, to declare the refurbished Regency Park Centre officially open and to announce Novita Children’s Services and its logo officially launched.

Thank you.