Monday, 11 February 2013
I rise this evening to talk about an important but little-known volunteer organisation that is making an enormous difference to the lives of sick kids both on Brisbane's south side and around the country. This organisation is called Radio Lollipop, an in-hospital children's radio station and play service whose aim is to entertain and distract children during their stay in hospital. Given that the experience of being in a hospital is often scary and alien for children, Radio Lollipop gives sick kids and their family's an element of normality during what can sometimes be a very traumatic experience. When I was a kid I spent far too much time in hospital with rheumatic fever and other complaints and I remember how scary that experience was for a four- or five-year-old. These kids may not have a choice but to take their medication; however, they can request their favourite song, win prizes and hear their own voice on the local hospital radio.
Radio Lollipop has been supporting kids around the world since 1979. The first service in Australia was opened in 1985 at the Princess Margaret Hospital for Children in Perth. They now operate 11 services in Australia, including one at the Mater Hospital in South Brisbane. I was fortunate enough to visit Radio Lollipop at the Mater last year and see for myself the tremendous support that this organisation provides to sick kids and their families. It was there that I met Matthew and his mum Loraine. Matthew is a little two-year-old and has spent much of his life in hospital. Every day after school Loraine has to bring Matthew's two sisters, Chloe and Emma, with her to the hospital. Radio Lollipop gives Chloe and Emma a place to play and have fun and gives Loraine some respite and the opportunity to spend quality time with little Matthew. The life of this family is made a little more bearable because of the care and support that Radio Lollipop and the team of volunteers who support it provide.
It is not just the happy faces on kids and their parents that are testament to the value of Radio Lollipop. Various studies have shown that calm kids recover better and require less pain relief medication. After Radio Lollipop's first year of operation at the Mater in Brisbane it was estimated by the hospital that the hospital had saved around $400,000 in un-administered pain relief. Extrapolated over 22 years, the figure comes in at about $10 million. When you think that each station is self-funded and runs on a miniscule budget of around $50,000 per year, you get a real sense of the difference this organisation makes to the lives of those it touches and to the ever constrained budgets of our hospitals.
This service is entirely run by volunteers, who are responsible for developing and participating in fun activities with kids and their families, producing and presenting a nightly radio program and fundraising for their local station. In recognition for her selfless dedication to Radio Lollipop and the sick kids in Queensland hospitals, one such volunteer, Sandra Ursino, was this year awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia, an OAM. Sandra has been with the organisation in Queensland for 13 years and started out as simply a ward volunteer. She is now Queensland director and totally dedicated to brightening up the lives of sick kids. Upon receiving the Medal of the Order of Australia, Sandra dedicated it to the entire Radio Lollipop volunteer team.
The next three years promises to be a challenging time for Radio Lollipop as they prepare to relocate some of their services and as well as establish a new service in Melbourne. In Queensland, Radio Lollipop are preparing to move into their new Logan and Gold Coast Hospital facilities as well as shift their operations from the Mater Hospital to the new Queensland Children's Hospital, which has been built on Brisbane's south side in my electorate. This will more than double the number of sick kids that the service will reach. In Western Australia they will relocate to the new Fiona Stanley Hospital and the new WA Children's Hospital. On top of this, Radio Lollipop will respond to an invitation to establish a new service at Monash Children's Hospital in Melbourne.
However, to make all this possible, Radio Lollipop need to raise nearly $1 million and, for an organisation that receives zero additional funding above and beyond that which they raise for themselves, this will require a truly Herculean effort. So with this in mind I take this opportunity here in the House of Representatives in the Parliament of Australia to put out a call to everyone in this place and all those who may be listening: Radio Lollipop needs your help so that they can continue to bring this unique brand of care and support and much needed fun to the sick kids of Australia in the hospitals right across the nation.