Play is fundamental to the development of children and there is widespread evidence that play is an effective change agent. Sensory play equipment is known to be very successful in supporting children with special needs, including development of problem-solving skills and self-confidence for children who are on the spectrum, ODD, ASD and with other needs.
This Sunday 8th March marks a day to pay homage to women as we acknowledge International Women’s day.
A dedicated day when women have the opportunity to recognise and celebrate the achievements of other women whom they respect; are influenced by; have friendships with; or to simply reflect on their own achievements throughout the year.
It was wonderful to be at the Seymour Alternative Farming Expo last week and meet so many people from across my electorate of Northern Victoria, who converged on Seymour over three busy days. Seymour Expo attracts about 20,000 people and is a great event for the local economy, and provides an opportunity for people to gather and explore the vast array of exhibits. The Expo, of course, largely focuses on agriculture exhibits, which were so diverse and displayed how the agriculture sector supports so many jobs as it links across the supply chain, but there were also other displays of interest.
Thank you and congratulations to the Seymour Expo team who worked hard over many months to bring this showcase together. The Expo gave me an opportunity to speak to many, many people about the issues that are important to them. It is so important to listen to people, to hear their stories and experiences, and adds to the wealth of information I gather to assist me in representing them in this place.
I plan to keep my condolence motion quite succinct today for a number of reasons. As Ms Shing mentioned, this is quite an emotional topic to be standing here doing a condolence motion on, particularly given that the fires had an enormous and devastating effect in my electorate of Northern Victoria, but I also realise and respect that there are other speakers who are waiting to do their condolence motions as well.
I would also like to acknowledge and reiterate the sentiments that have been expressed here today by everybody in the chamber. It has been lovely to stand here and listen to such eloquent condolences.
It is with great sadness that I stand here today to pay respect to those who lost their lives either whilst performing their duties to save others’ lives and properties or whilst protecting their own homes here in Victoria during what has been a shocking fire season throughout our state. Bushfires have a devastating effect on our land, communities and animals, with the ultimate devastation being the loss of lives.
To the families of David Moresi, Bill Slade, Mat Kavanagh, Mick Roberts and Fred Becker, I send my deepest condolences. I can only imagine that this must be an incredibly difficult and traumatic time for you all. My words here today will sadly not heal your pain, but I hope with love and support from family, friends and your community, you will be able to take comfort from those who surround you in your time of need.
This is a heartache that you never expect to happen when a loved one walks out the door and does not return and recovering from such a tragedy can be an extremely painful and lifelong journey.
To the families in New South Wales, South Australia and the ACT, I also wish to send my heartfelt condolences to their families who have lost loved ones and for the stress and devastation these fires have caused.
I would also like to acknowledge the serious impact these fires have on townships, communities and our wildlife, who have all suffered terribly in the past few months. It will take years before the recovery is completed, and my electorate of Northern Victoria has experienced a disaster which we hope will never be repeated.
I praise the courage and commitment of all firefighters, emergency services personnel and first responders in protecting our state and of those who have volunteered in any capacity. I express my sincere gratitude to all those assisting in the recovery as I know many of you must be completely exhausted.
Minister Symes mentioned Wangaratta—my hometown—and the incredible sharing of kindness that we saw. The gratitude that we have from the generosity of people who travelled up from Melbourne, who brought truckloads of food and prepared and cooked meals, who went up to support firefighters who they did not believe were being fed. They put on a concert. They have done so much in our time of need, and I would sincerely like to thank them.
We had another group of psychologists and counsellors who travelled up to the relief centre in Wangaratta, and they provided what was a child-safe space. That space was so important to the children who had been evacuated from their towns, who needed that normalising of their day, and it also provided an opportunity for parents to be able to have adult discussions with other adults, without discussing their needs and concerns in front of their children.
I also opened my office up, and the generosity of people within our community was incredible. I had no idea of what to expect, and I have to say I was extremely humbled. My staff and I delivered seven carloads and two truckloads up to FoodShare. We could not clean our office out quick enough. In the time we travelled those 45 minutes to Wodonga, unloaded and then travelled back, as soon as we got back my office would be completely full once again, so the generosity of people was absolutely astounding.
I would also like to take this moment to thank the councils in my electorate of north-east Victoria, as I know that they opened their doors and provided whatever form of support they could to all those within our communities.
I also give thanks to all who joined us from overseas. It is wonderful to see the reciprocation of support at this time, and your efforts to join us over this lengthy fire period are certainly greatly appreciated by all. Unfortunately, three of your comrades will sadly not return home, and for that I feel extremely saddened. Once again, I send my sincere, heartfelt sympathy to all the families affected by the loss of these five men. Rest in peace, gentlemen; you will certainly not be forgotten.
On a final note, I would also like to bring up something that concerns me greatly. To arsonists who have started some of these fires throughout Australia, it is an act of disgraceful behaviour, and I certainly hope that you will be caught and held accountable for the devastation and trauma that you have created in innocent peoples’ lives.
I am pleased to speak today on the Caroline Chisholm Society as they celebrate 50 years. My advocacy for primary prevention and early intervention programs is very well known in this place. As stated by the Caroline Chisholm Society, if we can get perinatal mental health right, we will improve the well being of every Victorian child during the critical first 1000 days of their life. The Goulburn Valley Pregnancy and Family Support Service provides practical assistance, advice and care to improve maternal and infant health outcomes. The dedicated team at Shepparton run a great service on very limited resources with a high reliance on volunteers and the goodwill of the community.
The Caroline Chisholm Society has made key recommendations to the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System, and with the interim report due today we hope the government will quickly address the needs, which include a coordinated health and community service response for women, infants, children and other family members during and after pregnancy to improve perinatal health; increased funding for perinatal mental health services to meet demand; better protocols and referral pathways; improved access to therapeutic programs to strengthen families; and implementing policies aligned with the World Association for Infant Mental Health’s statement on the rights of the infant. I thank the Caroline Chisholm Society, their staff and their volunteers and commend them for their important work in delivering a brighter future for mothers, babies and children.
Yarrunga Primary School is a place of Big Ideas, Dreams and Wonderings. It’s a school where the curriculum is delivered a bit differently, and with solid results so far. Students have a say in what they want to learn about – things that make them curious, that make them question and wonder. This style of engagement and integrating their wonderings into the curriculum has improved student attendance, behaviour and results.
My colleague Stuart Grimley and I were privileged to join the sea of red on the Sunshine Coast last Friday for the annual Day for Daniel, a national day of action to raise funds and awareness for the Daniel Morcombe Foundation. Denise and Bruce Morcombe attended our #ENOUGHISENOUGH rally in Wangaratta in 2016 and it was wonderful to see them again and support Day for Daniel.
The day that Daniel Morcombe was abducted is etched in the minds and hearts of Australians. So too, is the heartbreak of the days, weeks, months and years that followed, a time of torment for Daniel’s family who were desperate for their son to be returned to them. Daniel Morcombe should be approaching his 30th birthday this December, he should have been a teenager, finished school, got his licence, pursued further study or work, found love, all of the experiences in the journey from child to adult.
From the depths of their despair, Denise and Bruce Morcombe established the Daniel Morcombe Foundation to promote child safety. The Foundation is widely acclaimed and provides educational resources to schools, parents, carers and children; as well as direct support to young survivors of crime.
In the last year, there were more than 10,000 victims of crime across Victoria who were children. More than half of these children were aged under 14. We MUST ensure the protection of children, the safety of children, is our highest priority. I thank Bruce and Denise Morcombe for their work, their courage, their dedication, to keeping children safe. And we will never forget Daniel.
It was my sincere pleasure to recently launch the book Facing Maria on behalf of author Maria Hutchison, who is in the gallery with us here today. Maria’s life has been marked by periods of trauma, abuse, oppression and addiction. From this dark place Maria has emerged as a woman of courage, conviction and inspiration.
In July I had the pleasure of visiting the Yackandandah Health facility, a community-owned, not-for-profit organisation nestled in the beautiful Yackandandah Valley in north-east Victoria. Based on the bush nursing model, the site is home to 77 residents within the residential aged-care facility.
Last week I visited The Cottage, a private not-for-profit facility in Shepparton that is dedicated to providing safe, drug free accommodation to people trying to free themselves of addiction.