Shayne Neumann MP
Federal Member for Blair

Australian Labor
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Blair Disability Links 2014

01/12/2014

My electorate of Blair is blessed to have many fine disability service providers who work tirelessly to improve the lives of people with disability in the Ipswich and Somerset region. Last Friday, 28 November, a record number of these providers participated in my annual Blair Disability Links event. This is the fourth year I have held this event outside my electorate office in the Brassall Shopping Centre. It is a day I look forward to each year. It is held to celebrate the International Day of People with Disability, which is 3 December this year. It is terrific to catch up with our local disability service providers, people with a disability, their families and their carers. This year, more than 700 people came through to have a chat with the providers and to network with each other.

The disability service providers who participated were keen to tell me of the value they place in the event. Kathryn Acutt, from Aged Care Plus, said Blair Disability Links was an important opportunity for services like hers to meet carers face-to-face. Kathryn said: 'Too often, carers are isolated and do much of their work behind the scenes. Today, they get the opportunity to network with each other and learn about other services on offer.' I heard this sentiment from provider after provider and from carer after carer, and from many people suffering from a disability.

And as I spent time last Friday speaking with and listening to providers, people living with a disability and their carers, I saw valuable connections being made. I saw ideas being shared, business cards exchanged and pamphlets being offered to people. I witnessed the strength and resilience of our community. I witnessed also the large number of people who were there in wheelchairs and walking frames, young and old.

Providing a forum for these connections and sharing ideas was what prompted me to hold the first Blair Disability Links event in 2010. Since then the event has gone from strength to strength. Last year we had 500 people attend; this year 700. The then Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Carers, Senator the Hon. Jan McLucas, officially launched the first Blair Disability Links event in 2010. About a dozen disability providers participated.

This year over 40 providers participated, and the information booklet produced is now 67 pages in length. These include organisations such as Carers Queensland, the Salvation Army, the West Moreton Hospital and Health Service, Anglicare, Centrelink, Medicare, the Commonwealth Respite and Carelink Centre, and FOCAL Extended, which in 2014 proudly marks its 40th year of providing service to people with disability and their families and carers in the region. Also present were the Services Union, whose representatives chatted to providers about the NDIS and their campaign for fair wages and conditions in the disability sector. There were many specialist organisations present, including the Ipswich Stroke Group, Able Australia, IRASI, CODI, Walk on Wheels and ArtISability.

Speaking of ArtISability, I was pleased to launch their 2015 calendar at the Blair Disability Links last Friday. Founded by Debbie Chilton, a local disability advocate and herself in a wheelchair, ArtISability is a visual arts program that assists people with disability or mental illness to deliver completed artworks to the art gallery wall. ArtISability's 2015 calendar—their first—is a wonderful achievement, and I commend them on it.

The Blair Disability Links in 2014 was an outstanding success. I want to thank a number of people. I want to thank Kylie Stoneman in my office for her tremendous work again this year, pulling the event and the information booklet together. I have given out 12,000 of these kits from my electorate office to people with disability, their carers and providers across Ipswich and the West Moreton region. I also want to thank the owners and managers of Brassall shopping centre for permitting me to hold it, and Ipswich City Council for its practical support.

The success of Blair Disability Links and the associated information booklet has convinced me of the need for a Blair seniors links to connect aged-care service providers with seniors and their families in the community. Watch this space in 2015, and I call on interested local seniors and their groups to contact me to discuss this interesting concept.

I want to thank local providers who have cared for people in my community for so long. We have many people suffering from a disability in the Ipswich and Somerset region, and what they do shows their love, their compassion and their understanding for people with disability.