In 1999, as a Member of Parliament representing the Federal Electorate of Pearce in Western Australia, I was visited by a young family with a son who had recently been diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. His parents were having a difficult time managing his blood glucose levels so his endocrinologist suggested an insulin pump may help them. Back in those days insulin pump consumables weren’t listed on the NDSS. This was just another barrier for a family whose life had been turned upside down by diabetes.
I found their story deeply moving and I raised the issue in Canberra with Prime Minister John Howard, Treasurer Peter Costello as well as the Health Minister Michael Wooldridge. I received a lot of sympathy but no funding. Eventually I built a coalition of around 70 MPs, from all sides of politics, calling for insulin pump consumables to be added to the NDSS. This became a reality in 2004.
This coalition was the foundation of the Parliamentary Friends of Diabetes group which continues to provide a strong diabetes voice to Federal Parliament to this day under the leadership of Member for Moreton Graham Perrett and Member for Grey Rowan Ramsey.
When I retired from Parliament in 2013, I was honoured to be approached to fill the role of President with Diabetes Australia. I have had the opportunity to continue to work on behalf of all Australians with diabetes alongside some of Australia’s leading diabetes advocates.
People like Professor Paul Zimmet whose passion and commitment to the diabetes cause is as inspiring as it is effective. I was particularly honoured to Co-Chair the National Diabetes Strategy Advisory Group (NDSAG) with Professor Zimmet and provide advice on the implementation of the Strategy. I look forward to seeing our advice improve the lives of people with diabetes in the years ahead. The work of the NDSAG continues with the implementation reference group and I look forward to seeing the implementation of its policies improving the lives of people with diabetes in the years ahead.
Other high points have included the establishment of the Continuous Glucose Monitoring funding initiative and more recently the launch of KeepSight, anew diabetes blindness prevention program, the Diabetes in Schools education and training program and the $100 million extension of the CGM subsidies to include pregnant women and people aged over 21 with a concession card.
These initiatives are the result of a diabetes community working together with a common aim.
Despite everything we have achieved there is still more to be done, however I am confident Diabetes Australia, with the support of a strong and united diabetes community, can rise to the challenges ahead. I look forward to seeing more support for people with all types of diabetes, including better access to medicines and technologies, improved healthcare and support, substantial social and policy changes to reduce the impact of the obesity epidemic and help prevent more people from developing type 2 diabetes and finally, of course, one day find a cure.