Senate debates

Wednesday, 5 March 2014


Whyalla Wig Library

7:02 pm

Photo of Peter Whish-WilsonPeter Whish-Wilson (Tasmania, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

Order! I propose the question:

That the Senate do now adjourn.

Photo of Anne RustonAnne Ruston (SA, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I am absolutely delighted to be able to stand here today and tell the Senate of a wonderful initiative that I had the pleasure of spending some time learning about last weekend. The Whyalla Wig Library is an initiative of the community of Whyalla. They have set up a wig library at their local hospital. It is for women in particular but also for men who are going through chemotherapy treatment. They can now borrow a wig, and all the things that go with it, so that during their treatment they do not have to go to the trouble and expense of going to Adelaide to buy themselves a wig. It might seem like a very small initiative, but it was having an extraordinary impact on the women I met last week—particularly those from lower socioeconomic groups—because they did not have to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars to buy a wig. This initiative enabled them to access a wig reasonably cheaply. Anybody who has been touched by knowing somebody who has had to go through this treatment would know of the additional trauma they go through in just walking down the street. People cannot help but look at somebody who is bald or has a scarf around their head. This initiative enables those people to shield behind a wig so that their condition is not so obvious and confronting.

I would like to acknowledge a few of the wonderful people I met who are involved in this. Kate Kroll is the McGrath Sellers breast care nurse for Whyalla. It was Kate's idea that led to this initiative. Kate, who is 38 weeks pregnant, was extremely proud to be there on the day when we saw the wig library launched. I think the people of Whyalla will be thanking Kate for her initiative for many years to come. Whyalla Pink Spirits are a group of breast cancer survivors. As soon as they heard about this initiative, they jumped on board to give it some support. I think the community of Whyalla would extend a very big thank you to Whyalla Pink Spirits President, Rae Williams, and Secretary/Treasurer, Elizabeth Antilla, for the support they gave to Kate in the early stages of getting this initiative up and running.

The young tradespeople and professionals of Whyalla held a charity ball and the people of Whyalla came together and raised, absolutely amazingly, over $12,000 in start-up funding for this particular initiative. Chairperson Kayleigh Bruce was the one who started this initiative, and it was also a really wonderful example of bipartisan support for a project in the community. As everybody here knows, there is soon going to be an election in Tasmania and an election in South Australia. Lyn Breuer, the outgoing ALP local member for the state electorate of Giles, which includes Whyalla, was instrumental in supporting this project, as was her Liberal Party counterpart, and candidate for the upcoming election, Bernadette Abraham. Bernadette and Lyn got together and both supported this wonderful initiative. When these sorts of things come up, it certainly transcends any political boundaries.

It was also a very interesting initiative in that the two big manufacturing businesses in Whyalla—OneSteel and Arrium—also got behind the project. What they did was quite clever. These companies said to their employees that, for every day their workplaces were accident- and injury-free, they would make a donation to this particular cause. In the 12 months between the idea of the wig library first being put on the table and its launch last week, Arrium and OneSteel put $5,000 towards it. When I talked to them about what it had achieved for them, they were really happy. The incentive to keep the workplace safe was a good thing and they were very pleased that they were able to assist this worthy project with $5,000. They also had a massive amount of support from the community and from other supporters, including Bonney Wigs. I mention Bonney Wigs particularly because they are an Adelaide-based company. They donated a huge number of wigs to this operation so that the project could have a start-up—because anybody who has ever tried to buy a wig would realise how terribly expensive they are.

Senator Ludwig interjecting

Senator Ludwig is shaking his head. Senator, we know that you do not have a wig! They have already managed to get 60 wigs either from the generosity of Bonney Wigs or through donations from people in the community, many of whom were previously cancer sufferers. They bought their own wigs, then realised just how important the experience that they had was, and have now donated their wigs, which they no longer need. The Whyalla Hospital and Health Services have provided them with a home, so the wig collection is contained within the health services at the new Whyalla hospital. It is easily accessed and right next to the chemotherapy unit. The Whyalla council has also added its support and has been very active in promoting and supporting the initiative.

In conclusion, this is an amazing initiative. It is so important to put on the record what a great initiative it is and, hopefully, to encourage other regional communities to do likewise. Until I started speaking to some of these cancer sufferers who are undergoing treatment, I do not think I realised just how much of a hassle it is and how hard it is for them when they have to keep going back to capital cities, either for their treatment or to see their oncologists. To go to Adelaide to buy a wig is just one more trip, one more expense and one more upheaval at a time when things are difficult enough for them. It really brought home to me the importance of decentralisation of health services to our country areas so that we can ensure, as much as we can, that people can have treatment at home, so that their lives are not disrupted and they are not put through any more trauma than necessary, and also to ensure that they can have ongoing access to their families. A tremendously important point needs to be made that people who live in the country are significantly disadvantaged when they have to undertake health care in the city. I would just put that on the record.

Another thing that is really obvious in Whyalla—and it is obvious in some of the other regional areas—is the difficulty of getting medical staff. The Whyalla community made the comment that they had had a level of difficulty in attracting relevant specialists. It is all well and good to build beautiful new buildings, as we have seen in many regional areas, but they are not much use unless you can get health services and allied services operating for the benefit of those communities.

I commend to this place the initiative of the group of people and the Whyalla community. I would also like to acknowledge the women and men of Australia who have gone through a tough time. One of the issues that we discussed in Whyalla was the fact that women are very good at supporting other women under these circumstances, but often men who undergo similar treatments are not necessarily so strong at supporting their fellow men. The women who put this initiative together are also seeking to ensure that this library is available to men. It is not just a place where you go to get a wig, scarf and the like; it is also a place where people who are suffering can get support from people who are suffering equally from this very unfortunate but, these days, largely curable, disease.

I would just like to put on the record my thanks to the people of Whyalla for doing this and for setting an example. Can I suggest to other communities around Australia that they get in touch with the Whyalla community and find out what they have done because the initiative, even though it is only a few weeks old, has already helped a number of people and allowed them just one less trauma in their treatment, as they fight to survive cancer.