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Giving the community a voice

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Now that the Parliament has resumed it is important that community issues are highlighted whenever possible. In the first sitting fortnight of the year I hit the ground running by raising a matter of public importance that will resonate with people in regional New South Wales and the Dubbo electorate. We know that thousands of cancer patients and their families in the electorate have had to endure traveling long distances for treatment with many struggling to recoup the costs of transport and accommodation incurred in large part due to the complexities of the subsidy system that has been in place. With this in mind, I chose to   draw attention to the Isolated Patients Travel and Accommodation Assistance Scheme (IPTAAS) in Parliament during the week in order to highlight significant improvements made to the scheme and the benefits it now offers regional and rural NSW, whose residents will enjoy having greater access to services in a more structurally efficient health system designed to overcome the financial disadvantage they suffered under the old scheme. IPTAAS was established to provide assistance to people living west of the Blue Mountains with limited access to specialist medical services.  Health Minister Jillian Skinner made a commitment to the people of rural and regional NSW that she would deliver an improved scheme. The Minister has certainly achieved that objective with the measures introduced recently. The changes that took effect from 1 January this year included an increase in travel rates for patients requiring accommodation assistance having traveled at least 100 kilometer. The accommodation subsidy has increased by 30 per cent. The rate increased to $43 for a single person and $60 per double, up from the original $33 for a single and $46 for a double. Reimbursement for car travel is now 19¢ per kilometer, which is up 4¢ per kilometer.

The Parliament embraced a little bit of ' Hunka Hunka Burning Love' this week when I entertained colleagues with stories highlighting the success of the 20th Parkes Elvis Festival. I started by referring to the memory of the hip swiveling, pelvis gyrating, pop culture icon of his day whose awe-inspiring journey from an impoverished upbringing in Memphis to the man who would go on to be referred to ever after as the King of Rock 'n' Roll is honoured each year when the township of Parkes throws open its doors to the world and welcomes Elvis Presley fans to celebrate the life and music of this most remarkable man. During the festival the population of Parkes almost doubles, as it plays host to literally thousands of die-hard Elvis fans from around the globe. Parkes had no connection whatsoever to the man from Memphis, Tennessee; yet it has earned its claim to fame among Elvis aficionados. Some 18,000 visitors took part in some 150 events, which delivered a welcome injection of $9 million into the local economy. During the five days of the festival 80 volunteers dedicated more than 700 hours of work to ensure that it ran smoothly and some generous local residents offered 1,776 beds in their homes to accommodate visitors. What better indication could there be of the wonderful sense of community this festival engenders among the good people of Parkes.

One of the great joys of representing you is the opportunity it regularly provides to meeting inspiring and interesting people from country communities. I had the pleasure of speaking in Parliament about Corinella Public School, a small country school which is a largely unheralded education gem. Towards the end of last year I was invited to attend, with my daughter Taylor, a "Mad Hatters" tea party as part of the end-of-school presentation day. Affectionately referred to as "the school in the paddock", Corinella, located in the south-west corner of my electorate is a small, somewhat isolated rural school, with farming paddocks serving as its nearest neighbours. For many years there has been a school of thought among some in the education sector that bigger is always better. Corinella provides a fine example of how a small school can defy the odds. There is enormous pride within this school, much of which can be attributed to the collective attitude of its students, parents, teachers, administrators and the community. Their sense of ownership of the school's future direction and prosperity is a privilege to witness. I believe that I have within my electorate one of the best little schools in NSW. At Corinella my daughter and I were made to feel part of that special community, as we were served high tea consisting of homemade cupcakes by nine contented students. The experience served as a reminder, not that it was really needed, that small communities offer a warm and hospitable setting in which to educate children.

'Hey you kids protect your lids' bicycle road safety program run in Trundle and Tullamore has received $8,400 of funding under the NSW Government 2011-12 Sport and Recreation Participation Program that will see $800,000 in grants provided to local projects across the state for the purpose of getting more people playing sport. Increasing participation in sport and physical activity is a key priority for the NSW Government and grassroots projects run in local communities are a great way to target people and groups that need a little extra help to participate in sport. Whether it’s teaching new migrants how to swim, getting youth off the streets at night and into basketball competitions, or providing training for volunteer umpires and referees, the end result of these projects is that more people in NSW will have the opportunity to participate in sport and physical activity.




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