House debates

Thursday, 30 November 2023


Bean Electorate: Tuggeranong Arts Centre, Bean Electorate: Christmas Lights for MS, Bean Electorate: Volunteers

4:50 pm

Photo of David SmithDavid Smith (Bean, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

If ever there was an arts program significantly influencing and changing the lives of creative teenagers across the ACT, it is the Messengers program of the Tuggeranong Community Arts Association. Initially funded through a suicide prevention initiative in January 2000, Messengers has provided young people with a creative respite from the pressures of navigating adolescence. Messengers is a non-clinical social support program for vulnerable young people and their families in the ACT. The program works with young people aged nine to 25 who are experiencing mental ill health, social isolation and a range of other issues. Through weekly arts based groups, participants are encouraged to develop new artistic skills and make social connections in a safe and inclusive environment. Messengers programs are specifically designed to improve psychological and social wellbeing via targeted participation in the arts. Messengers, as an evidence based program, is informed by the base of global research in the arts-for-wellbeing field. This program is building empowerment and resilience in young people through equipping them to lead fulfilling lives. Participants learn social skills and new ways of expressing themselves, and they create lifelong bonds with peers.

It was great to be able to launch the program's current exhibition at the Tuggeranong Arts Centre just near my electorate office. This is an invaluable program providing a significant public good for my community and the people in Bean. The exhibition is open till 26 January. While you're there, check out the Fresh Funk retrospective as well. It is an exhibition that celebrates 20 years of this amazing hip-hop and choreography program.

Lighting up the streets of the south side with stunning displays, the epic Christmas Lights for MS showcase is back to make life merry and bright for light lovers everywhere but particularly in the Tuggeranong Valley. Ben Walker and James Crowther are two constituents of mine in Bean. The pair have decorated their family houses in Tuggeranong with Christmas lights for many years. In fact, they started when they were still schoolchildren. The displays have brought a smile to the faces of countless Canberrans and visitors, and they will do so again this year. I should note that they are solar powered displays too.

But, having grabbed the attention of Christmas lovers all over Canberra, in 2017 the duo quickly realised they had a platform to do something extra special for a cause close to their hearts: multiple sclerosis. So Christmas Lights for MS was created in 2018, and over the last five years the pair have raised over $56,000, an extraordinary amount, for MS Australia. Last year, MS Australia chief executive Rohan Greenland awarded the duo the MS Australia 50th anniversary president's medal in recognition of their contribution to the MS community. The fundraiser is running again this year. Be sure to look them up and visit the displays, buy raffle tickets or make a donation online. Look them up on Facebook by searching for 'Christmas Lights for MS'. I would like to wish Ben and James from Christmas Lights for MS the best of luck once again this year and thank them for their extraordinary work. Their dedication not only brightens our holiday season but also brings hope to those affected by MS.

This is only one example of the extraordinary voluntary work that happens right across the electorate of Bean. While I note many of my colleagues are on the way back to their electorates across the country, the good people of Bean are actually on their way to the house, because later this evening we are running the Best of Bean, the best volunteers of 2023, in the main committee room.

Recognising how hard everyone has worked, right across this week, I don't necessarily expect MPs to attend, but you'd be most welcome to hear and meet some most extraordinary Canberrans, let alone Beanites, who do amazing things every day across all fields of voluntary endeavour.


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