My Speech in Parliament on National Stroke Awareness Week, 12 September 2016

Pictured here before my speech yesterday with Adjunct Professor John G Kelly AM, CEO of the Heart Foundation and Ms Sharon McGowen, CEO of the Stroke Foundation. I am pleased to be the co-convener of the Parliamentary Friends of the Heart Foundation and the Stroke Foundation for the 45th Parliament.








Ms VAMVAKINOU (Calwell) (12:45): I move:

That this House:

(1) recognises that:

(a) National Stroke Week:

   (i) will take place from 12 to 18 September 2016; and

   (ii) seeks to raise awareness about the need to prevent stroke in Australia; and

(b) the Stroke Foundation encourages all Australians to:

   (i) understand the symptoms of stroke and know what to do if one occurs;

   (ii) make healthy lifestyle choices which will reduce the risk of stroke;

   (iii) assist in raising awareness in their local communities; and

   (iv) get regular health check-ups;

(2) notes with concern the financial and emotional burden which stroke has on the Australian community;

(3) acknowledges the:

(a) important role of families and carers of stroke victims; and

(b) valuable contribution of the Australian health system in preventing and treating stroke;

(4) congratulates the bi-partisan efforts made by previous governments; and

(5) confirms the need for continued action to reduce the prevalence of stroke in Australia. 

It is a pleasure to be moving this very important private member's motion today, because it addresses a very significant health issue in our community, which so often goes unattended and sees people suffer, often unnecessarily. I want to begin by informing the House that in this parliamentary term I will be taking over from the recently retired member for Shortland as co-convenor of the parliamentary friends of the Heart Foundation and Stroke Foundation. I would like to thank my friend and former colleague, Jill Hall, the former member for Shortland, for her tireless work in the years that she held this role. She brought a passion and commitment which I think is going to be a hard act to follow. However, I will certainly strive to emulate her strong advocacy and practical efforts in ensuring that raising awareness of heart disease and stroke remains a high priority in this place.

I also look forward to working with my co-chair, the federal member for Capricornia, Michelle Landry. I am extremely pleased to be part of this collaborative approach and I look forward to working closely with both the Stroke Foundation and the Heart Foundation to develop new ways in which parliament can help promote the prevention and better management of cardiovascular disease through the activities of the friendship group. I was also pleased to meet this morning with Professor John Kelly, the CEO of the Heart Foundation, and Ms Sharon McGowan, the CEO of the Stroke Foundation. I look forward to working with them as well.

It is the suddenness and often randomness of heart attacks and strokes that is most striking and devastating for sufferers and their families. This story is all too familiar, and today my thoughts are also with my good friend, the Victorian Minister for Tourism and Major Events and Minister for Sport, the Hon. John Eren, who on Father's Day suffered a heart attack himself. John, who is painfully recovering well, was on his way to visit his own father when he began experiencing sharp chest pains. He took swift action, driving straight to the hospital, where he indeed suffered a heart attack and was immediately rushed into surgery and attended to. I want to pass on my thoughts and best wishes to John and his family as he makes a full recovery and returns to work. I also want to commend him for his quick thinking and fast action, because timing can make all the difference when it comes to a stroke or heart condition.

Twelve to 18 September is National Stroke Week. During this week we will all play a role in raising awareness about strokes. Too many people in our community are unaware of the signs of a stroke. Too many people who suffer strokes endure longer recovery periods, more damage and, unfortunately, even death because they did not seek medical attention urgently and when most needed. In the time that I am speaking in this House a person suffering from a stroke will have lost almost 10 million brain cells, and only five minutes without oxygen—the length of my speech—can cause permanent brain damage. Therefore, recognising the signs of stroke and acting quickly is extremely important. To help with this, the Stroke Foundation is promoting the simple-to-learn and remember four-point test known as the FAST test. F is for face: the first thing you need to think about is, 'Has my face drooped?' A is for arms: can I lift both my arms? S is for speech: is my speech slurred? Finally, T is for time, because if any of these signs are present time is critical and people are urged to seek attention, and those who are in the presence of someone who may be having a stroke are urged to seek medical attention immediately.

This very important message must be promoted in the wider community, including and especially in culturally and linguistically diverse communities, such as my own constituency in Calwell, to ensure that the public are able to recognise the signs, seek help sooner rather than later and, therefore, minimise the damage which a stroke can cause and, ultimately, maximise the chance of recovery, which may result in the passing of someone.

Stroke occurs when the blood supply to the brain is interrupted. Some strokes are fatal and others can cause permanent or temporary disability. Stroke kills more women than breast cancer and more men than prostate cancer. One in six Australians will have a stroke in their lifetime, yet only 50 per cent of Australians know the sign of a stroke.