PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS: Juvenile Diabetes
Mr McCormack (Riverina) (11:53): Diabetes myelitis type 1, also known as juvenile diabetes, is a form of diabetes which results from the autoimmune destruction of insulin producing beta cells of the pancreas. This type of diabetes accounts for 10 to 15 per cent of cases of diabetes worldwide. That means there are about 20 million people living with type 1 diabetes in the world. In Australia, more than 123,000 people are affected by type 1 diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes is one of the most common chronic diseases in children, occurring more frequently than cancer, cystic fibrosis, multiple sclerosis and muscular dystrophy. In Australia 1,825 Australians are diagnosed with type 1 diabetes every year. The incidence of this disease is increasing at a rate of 3.2 per cent in Australia. That is an alarming statistic. Furthermore, of the children diagnosed with diabetes, 95 per cent are diagnosed with type 1. Complications from type 1 diabetes include kidney problems, visual impairment and nerve damage due to damage to the small blood vessels. Larger vessels can also be damaged, which can lead to coronary artery disease, stroke and narrowing of limb arteries.
Currently there is no cure or preventive measure for type 1 diabetes; those who live with the condition are dependent on insulin injections for the rest of their lives. Currently underway is the type 1 diabetes prevention trial, a major Australian clinical trial to determine whether an insulin nasal vaccine can help prevent type 1 diabetes. Since the trial began in 2006 more than 7,500 people have been screened in Australia and New Zealand to assess their eligibility, with 76 participants being enrolled to participate in the trial. If successful, this vaccine could prevent type 1 diabetes and the need for daily insulin injections for people at risk.
In my electorate of the Riverina, a seven-year-old boy by the name of Bruno Romeo and his mother Lisa and his family have been forced to leave the city of Griffith to seek medical treatment for Bruno's diabetes. Mrs Romeo has worked hard to try to assist in attracting a qualified diabetes educator to Griffith but, unfortunately, she has been unable to do so. So Mrs Romeo has made the big call of moving to Canberra for the sake of Bruno's health, where he will have an insulin pump fitted in January.
The Area News wrote a very moving story about this little boy. He is a brave child, as are all children who suffer from type 1 diabetes. And Mrs Romeo is also a very brave mum. She wants to do the best for the young fellow and for her family. She said a steady decline in her son's health had cemented the decision to move to Canberra, where he will have an insulin pump fitted in January. 'Bruno is having five or six injections a day. It is a big upheaval for our family but the doctor in Canberra said Bruno is the type of child who will thrive on a pump. He said that, if he put one on, he would have to move so he can be monitored properly. If he has a pump, we might actually be able to sleep through the night for the first time in four years.' You can imagine that poor family not being able to sleep through the night whilst Bruno is suffering from this terrible condition. 'People do not understand what is involved in having a child with diabetes,' Mrs Romeo said. 'The sooner he gets the pump the better. I know this isn't going to be easy, but this is going to be life-changing in every way.'
The Australian Diabetes Council Griffith group president, Tom Marriott, said there was no doubt that Griffith should have an educator who can supervise pumps. 'They keep saying we cannot attract anyone here, but they will not allocate the money.' Of course, any money that goes into health and into education programs for this type of thing has to be a priority of this government and of this parliament. We all know that health is the most important thing that we as parliamentarians can fund and make sure is available for all communities and especially regional communities, where the tyranny of distance is such a factor.
I met last week with 11-year-old Thomas Zambon and his mum, Melissa, to discuss how he copes with having type 1 diabetes. I am pleased to say that Thomas will be in parliament on Thursday at a function called Kids in the House, which will recognise type 1 diabetes. Young Thomas is a fighter. Despite his ailments, he will lead the very best life that he can because he is such a brave little fighter.