May 24, 2023

Last week was National Volunteer Week, and I was fortunate to catch up with some truly wonderful groups in Shortland who have been awarded Volunteer Grants and who are making a real difference in the lives of others with their work.

I visited Lake Macquarie's Marine Rescue unit at Pelican. Shortland is surrounded by the Pacific Ocean and some truly magnificent lakes. Swimming, fishing, boating and skiing are an important part of our lifestyle, and the assistance that Marine Rescue provides to those who find themselves in trouble on the water is significant and much valued by our community. Whilst at Pelican, I also met with the Pelican memorial trust to discuss their grant for new equipment, and I heard about the wonderful work they do supporting veterans and defence personnel locally.

Swansea Community Cottage is a wonderful neighbourhood centre, helping some of the most vulnerable people in our community. Susan, Annie and Nat briefed me about some of the issues people are dealing with, particularly regarding the difficulty in finding a GP who bulk-bills. I was proud to be able to tell them that the Albanese government is making the largest ever investment in bulk-billing, and this will help over 76,000 people in Shortland. They know what a difference this will make. I sincerely thank all those involved with the cottage for the special and important contribution they make to our community.

I enjoyed meeting with volunteers at both Belmont and Swansea Meals on Wheels, and I also acknowledge and thank them for their fantastic service. Having done meals delivery for Swansea Meals on Wheels, I know the difference they make to people's lives each and every day.

I'd also like to take this opportunity to thank the Cerebral Palsy Alliance at Croudace Bay for hosting me at their launch of Australia's first regional early diagnosis clinic, which will provide a vital service to families with children at high risk of cerebral palsy.

As I was saying, it was very moving to hear some of the firsthand stories from families who have already received support from the Cerebral Palsy Alliance, including Kylie, Kris and their daughter, Anika, who had a stroke at less than 48 hours old, which led—in some aspects, thankfully—to an early diagnosis of cerebral palsy, which enabled Anika to receive valuable support from CPA from almost her earliest moments in life. This new clinic will assist over 100 infants like Anika in the Hunter in the coming years, and I'm thrilled that this initiative is happening in Shortland. One of the great privileges of being a member of parliament is working with wonderful people and groups in our community, and I thank them all for the service they provide.

Finally, I would like to pay tribute to Mrs Eileen Hicks, who tragically passed away last week. I had the privilege of meeting Eileen on her 100th birthday late last year and learned all about her service in the Women's Auxiliary Air Force during World War II. I was fascinated to hear about her meeting General Douglas MacArthur. I thank her for her service and send my sincere condolences to her dear daughter, Cheryl, and all her family.