Federal Government Initiatives

Download Spinal Muscular Atrophy Association of Australia Speeches : SMA Speeches

 

Spinal Muscular Atrophy Association of Australia Parliamentary Representations

 

It has been nearly 2 years since Julie Cini CEO and Donna Liver, Member, of Spinal Muscular Atrophy Association of Australia, first met with The Hon Rob Oakeshott MP (Federal Member for LYNE) to discuss Spinal Muscular Atrophy, it’s effect on Donna’s son Finn Munro, and the opportunities to unify key stakeholders in promoting Spinal Muscular Atrophy Association of Australia awareness, prevention, therapy & research.

The following representations to Federal Ministers have been made since, as follows:

 

  • 2 November 2009 Letter from The Hon Rob Oakeshott MP on behalf of Julie Cini to The Prime Minister, The Hon Kevin Rudd MP. This was answered by The Minister for Health and Ageing, The Hon Nicola Roxon MP.

 

  • 14 December 2009 Letter of response to The Hon Rob Oakeshott MP from the Minister for Health and Ageing, The Hon Nicola Roxon MP

 

  • 15 December 2009 Letter from The Anthony Byrne MP, to the Minister for Health and Ageing, The Hon Nicola Roxon MP regarding SMA Australia’s petition for a national screening program. Response dated 12 Feb 2010 referred to the government’s promise of health reform.

 

  • 23 February 2010 Andrew Kornberg presented the Spinal Muscular Atrophy Association of Australia Health initiatives report identifying the needs for the SMA community.

 

  • 19 May 2010 Letter on behalf of Professor Kornberg to The Minister for Health and Ageing, The Hon Nicola Roxon MP.

 

  • 13 December 2010 Letter on behalf of Professor Kornberg and receipt of a copy of a response letter from The Minister for Health and Ageing, The Hon Nicola Roxon MP.

 

  • 23 August 2011 Chris Hayes MP spoke about Spinal Muscular Atrophy and moved a motion that

 

(1) notes that the month of August is Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) Awareness Month;

(2) further notes that: 174 HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES Monday, 12 September 2011 MAIN COMMITTEE (a) 52 Australians die each month from this rare genetic motor neuron disease;

(b) Spinal Muscular Atrophy Association of Australia is the leading genetic killer of infants under the age of two; and

(c) this debilitating disease can occur in both adults and children;

(3) expresses support for:

(a) the Spinal Muscular Atrophy Association Inc.; and

(b) all Australian families affected by this incurable disease; and

(4) calls for the Government to:

(a) lodge Spinal Muscular Atrophy Association of Australia as a keyword with the National Health and Medical Research Council;

(b) provide support for practical initiatives for those affected by Spinal Muscular Atrophy Association of Australia; and

(c) promote awareness of Spinal Muscular Atrophy Association of Australia.

 

  • From 01 – 12 September 2011 letters were personally addressed to the following 52 MPs, plus Senator Gavin Marshall, and the members of the Standing Committee on Health and Aging :

 

  1. Mr Alan Tudge Aston, Vic
  2. Mr Patrick Secker Barker, SA
  3. Mr Geoff Lyons Bass, Tas
  4. The Hon Martin Ferguson Batman, Vic
  5. Mr Steve Gibbons Bendigo, Vic
  6. The Hon Jason Clare Blaxland, NSW
  7. Dr Andrew Southcott Boothby, SA
  8. The Hon Alan Griffin Bruce, Vic
  9. Ms Maria Vamvakinou Calwell, Vic
  10. Ms Gai Brodtmann Canberra, ACT
  11. Mr Scott Morrison Cook, NSW
  12. Mr Darren Cheeseman Corangamite, Vic
  13. The Hon Richard Marles Corio, Vic
  14. Ms Sharon Bird Cunningham, NSW
  15. The Hon Peter Dutton Dickson, QLD
  16. Mr Craig Thomson Dobell, NSW
  17. The Hon Bruce Billson Dunkley, Vic
  18. The Hon Dr Mike Kelly Eden-Monaro, NSW
  19. The Hon Greg Hunt Flinders, Vic
  20. Mr Chris Hayes Fowler, NSW
  21. Dr Andre Leigh Fraser, ACT
  22. Ms Melissa Parke Fremantle, WA
  23. The Hon Nicola Roxon Gellibrand, Vic
  24. Mr Darren Chester Gippsland, Vic
  25. The Hon Kevin Rudd Griffin, Qld
  26. Mr Ewen Jones Herbert, Qld
  27. Mr Paul Neville Hinkler, QLD
  28. The Hon Anthony Byrne Holt, Vic
  29. Mr Craig Kelly Hughes, NSW
  30. The Hon Joel Fitzgibbon Hunter, NSW
  31. Ms Laura Smyth La Trobe, Vic
  32. The Hon Julia Gillard Lalor, Vic
  33. The Hon Rob Oakeshott Lyne, NSW
  34. The Hon Dick Adams Lyons, Tas
  35. Mr Russell Matheson Macarthur, NSW
  36. Mrs Louise Markus Macquarie, NSW
  37. Mr Rob Mitchell McEwen, Vic
  38. The Hon Chris Bowen McMahon, NSW
  39. Mr Michael Danby Melbourne Ports, Vic
  40. Mr Steven Ciobo Moncrieff, Qld
  41. Mr Tony Windsor New England, NSW
  42. Ms Sharon Grieson Newcastle, NSW
  43. The Hon Bob Baldwin Paterson, NSW
  44. The Hon Justine Elliot Richmond, NSW
  45. Mr Harry Jenkins Scullin, Vic
  46. Ms Jill Hall Shortland, NSW
  47. Mr Steve Irons Swan, WA
  48. The Hon Tanya Plibersek Sydney, NSW
  49. Mr Stephen Jones Throsby, NSW
  50. Mr Nick Champion Wakefield, SA
  51. Mr Laurie Ferguson Werriwa, NSW
  52. Mr Kelvin Thomson Wills, Vic

 

Speakers for Monday 12 September 2011

 

1. Mr SECKER (Barker-Opposition Whip)

2. Mr HAYES (Fowler)

3. Mr GRIFFIN (Bruce)

4. Mr McCORMACK (Riverina)

5. Ms HALL (Shortland-Government Whip)

6. Mr CRAIG KELLY (Hughes)

7. Mr OAKESHOTT (Lyne)

8. Mr MATHESON (Macarthur)

 

Through these discussions we have now seen the formation of the Australian Neuromuscular Network and congratulate Professor Kornberg & Associates on the launch of the ANN on the 20th April 2011. www.ann.org.au and now take comfort in the knowledge that clinicians, pathologists, geneticists, researchers and patient advocates are networking, ensuring excellence in diagnostic methods and clinical management, offering equal access to clinical trials and new therapies for all individuals in Australia and New Zealand affected by neuromuscular disorders.

 

The Spinal Muscular Atrophy Association of Australia Health Initiatives report from Professor Kornberg, has recommended four important initiatives to enable Spinal Muscular Atrophy Association of Australia to be better treated here in Australia these include:

 

  1. 1. Carrier and Pre-Natal testing

Currently individuals are not routinely tested for this disease. If individuals are aware of the existence of this disease, and wish to exclude it, they must pay c. $380* (*not Medicare rebated) to be screened. Carrier testing for the Spinal Muscular Atrophy Association of Australia gene, could prevent the continuance of the disease. In fact, screening for a multitude of rare diseases, will ultimately put less strain on the health system’s budget, as, for instance, every sufferer of Spinal Muscular Atrophy Association of Australia will require 24 hour care during their lifetime. We currently have a petition circulating to present to Parliament about this screening program.

 

  1. 2. Gold-standard care in multidisciplinary clinics.

Sufferers of chronic neuromuscular diseases need appropriate pro-active care. Multidisciplinary clinics, offering standardized treatments should be available to all families, in every state and territory. Such would ease the burden on families who far too often must visit a myriad of healthcare providers in order to access all-round care.

 

  1. 3. Cough Assist Machines

Government rebates or subsidies on the purchase of these life-saving devices would enable carer families, who are commonly recipients of carers’ pensions, to manage the Spinal Muscular Atrophy Association of Australia sufferer at home, and therefore reduce the time spent in hospital. Currently the only way for an Spinal Muscular Atrophy Association of Australia sufferer to obtain a machine is purchase one at their own expense c. $12,000; or apply, as a member, to Spinal Muscular Atrophy Association of Australia Australia. This charity has a finite number of cough assist machines in its Equipment and Resources Library – which has been supported purely by the efforts of fundraisers and philanthropists.

 

  1. 4. Research

Spinal Muscular Atrophy MUST be listed IMMEDIATELY as a KEYWORD with the National Health and Medical Research Council. Spinal Muscular Atrophy Association of Australia Australia has directed specific funds to researchers at the Australian Neuromuscular Research Institute in order to identify alternative gene therapies. The ongoing cost of this research is inhibitory for a small organisation. The benefit to the public purse would be immense should research funded via the NHMRC lead to a cure.

 

When campaigning for change at a government level, you have to be prepared for two things. One is to have a continued approach and two be prepared to wait. Change doesn’t happen overnight!

 

A second opportunity to re-enter the Political arena came in August 2011, when the Hayes family in Canberra contacted a family member Mr Chris Hayes (MP FOWLER) in regards to the possibility of raising this issue in Parliament.

 

The Hon Chris Hayes MP made a heartfelt speech on 23 August 2011 to draw the attention of the house to Spinal Muscular Atrophy. Here, a motion was put forward to the house that Spinal Muscular Atrophy Association of Australia be debated so the Spinal Muscular Atrophy Association of Australia and the work of the association be acknowledged, and support from the government is needed. Julie Cini was invited to Canberra by Chris Hayes, to raise awareness amongst other members of Parliament.

 

On Thursday 26 August, Julie Cini along with Tamara Hayes and Carol Hayes attended a meeting with invited politicians to brief members about the condition and the challenging problems that many families face on a daily basis. The members that attended were moved and wanted to show their support by speaking in support of the Association at the debate which was scheduled for Monday 12 September 2011.

 

This scheduled bi-partisan debate not only highlighted to the house about Spinal Muscular Atrophy, but the challenges the charity confronted, but the challenges families faced every day. Each of the eight MP’s spoke about and acknowledged the hard work and determination of Julie Cini and her ability to start a charity to raise awareness, educate about the disease and support families was outstanding due to her own personal circumstances. They also highlighted to the speaker of a local family in their electorate that had been affected by the disease and the struggle each family faced. Again each member who spoke, supported the need for the implementation of the suggested health initiatives.

 

The time restraints meant that the debate was adjourned, but after talking with Spinal Muscular Atrophy Association of Australia’s local representative Alan Griffin (MP for Bruce) and Julie Cini’s local member Laura Smyth (MP for La Trobe) before the debate, we were given some informative information about how to continue to push our key demands. Our next step involves costing these health initiatives, and presenting them to the Health Minister. In doing this we must make sure that the programs are cost effective and practicable for the government to implement.

 

We are as far now than we have ever been in this arena, and we thank each and every one of our members and families that assisted us in early September, in approaching their local member to highlight their own story. We are unable to create change if the people who run our country aren’t even aware of what Spinal Muscular Atrophy is. There is still a long way to go, but with repeat efforts we can make a difference for all those who are on the journey, and also help those who have no idea that one day they could be effected by Spinal Muscular Atrophy Association of Australia too.

 

There are a few areas of difficulties I see that Spinal Muscular Atrophy Association of Australia as a neuromuscular disorder has to face is:

 

  • that it continues to be nested under the MD (Muscular Dystrophy) banner and not recognised as a disorder in its own right, with its own issues that sufferer and families have to face. (The Minister For Health and Ageing the Hon Nicola Roxon MP letter dated 16th July 2010)

 

  • Spinal Muscular Atrophy Association of Australia is continued to be labelled a chronic disease when in fact the majority of Spinal Muscular Atrophy Association of Australia deaths occur before the age of 2. (The Minister For Health and Ageing the Hon Nicola Roxon MP letter dated 16th July 2010 and 25 Jan 2011)

 

  • that there are many families (approx. 630 SMA deaths ABS 2008) who are affected by their loss, I am sure would rather move on in their lives than chose to be pro-active for the Spinal Muscular Atrophy Association of Australia cause. So in effect, the numbers are fewer of parents like ourselves fighting for the survival of their child.

 

  • Spinal Muscular Atrophy Association of Australia being listed as a NHMRC keyword (The Minister For Health and Ageing the Hon Nicola Roxon MP letter dated 25 Jan 2011) even though the government is assured that “this is not the case”, what is stopping it being recognised and listed anyway??