Senate debates

Thursday, 8 September 2022


National Disability Insurance Scheme Joint Committee; Report

3:51 pm

Photo of Anne RustonAnne Ruston (SA, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Health and Aged Care) Share this | | Hansard source

Today I want to inform the Senate of an extraordinarily inspiring event that I was privileged to be part of this morning. This morning, seven-year-old Jeremy Carr from North Brighton in South Australia addressed the Power of Speech Breakfast here in Parliament House. He told us that he loved skateboarding and BMX. He plays soccer. He loves baking zucchini muffins. He wants to be a car designer when he grows up, preferably for Lamborghini. He spoke for five minutes with no notes. For any seven-year-old this is a pretty extraordinary accomplishment, but the fact that Jeremy was born bilaterally and profoundly deaf makes his story one of the most extraordinary stories of courage and immense inspiration. He won the Prime Minister's Award for Courage for his outstanding speech.

Jeremy was joined by a number of other young people who were very inspiring in their own stories: Matthias Berndt from New Zealand, an incredibly articulate young eight-year-old; twins Evie and Lilla Harmsworth from Western Australia, who entertained the audience with a double act of comedy that was absolutely entertaining; Audrey, a bubbly, bubbly young lady from Queensland who wants to be a singer; Harper Rollinson from New South Wales, who lost her hearing as a result of treatment for cancer but who certainly hasn't lost her sense of humour; and Abigail Loganathan from the Northern Territory, a cheeky and talented eight-year-old.

The stories that these kids told us were absolutely inspiring to hear. They're real-life examples of the ways that good policy and focused investments can allow people to better connect with the full scope of life's opportunities and interests. That's because all of these children are cochlear implant recipients. The children spoke at the Power of Speech Breakfast here in Canberra, which was hosted by First Voice and sponsored by Cochlear. It celebrates the remarkable outcomes for cochlear implant recipients. The event was MC'd by Rosie Gallen, herself a beneficiary of cochlear implants. I give a really big shout-out to First Voice and its chair, Jim Hungerford, for their longstanding commitment to improving and enriching the lives of children who are deaf or hearing impaired. Their strong advocacy, their leadership and their role in informing meaningful public debate and health policy have changed the lives of so many young Australian children. I also extend the same gratitude to Cochlear for its work as a global leader in hearing solutions, having provided over 600,000 implantable devices that are helping people of all ages live full and active lives. Thanks to Cochlear, the lives of children with hearing impairment are a world of possibility, not one of limitation as they used to be.

But there is a message from the kids to Cochlear. They really want the new and improved version of the implants to be waterproof, because they really love swimming. So, if you could just do that, you'd make it absolutely perfect. But I have to say that was the only thing that the kids were asking for. Their lives have been changed. They acknowledge it, and they were so happy for the experience that they now have that enables them to hear like other kids.

It's the role of governments to invest in medical research, supporting early intervention to ensure that those born with hearing impairment can get the best out of life. I strongly believe in the importance of looking to people's ability rather than disability, and these children should be our inspiration in ensuring we support Australians through our investment in the NDIS and how we ensure its viability into the future. Thank you, Jeremy and all the other kids, for inspiring us to keep focused on that goal.