Mrs ARMITAGE ( Launceston ) - Mr President, in the spring of 1937 a public meeting was held in Launceston at the Town Hall in response to the polio epidemic. From that simple community meeting an institution was born. That institution is St Giles. This year marks 75 years since this organisation was founded - 'by the community, for the community' - and it is this ethos that underpins everything that makes St Giles what it is and ensures that it meets its primary aim of providing support and services to children with disabilities and their families.
Originally St Giles provided a residential home and operated a school for children with disabilities, but they no longer house children or operate as a school, preferring instead to provide services and support to ensure families are able to stay together in their own homes.
The organisation's vision is clear - helping Tasmanians and providing quality of life to those with disabilities by working together with individuals, families and service providers. They currently support over 6 000 clients.
An example of the way St Giles can offer help and hope was detailed in an article that appeared in the Examiner recently titled 'Telling the St Giles Story'. This article told of how Jacqueline Goelst's life had been substantially changed as a result of a therapy program developed for her at St Giles. As a two-month-old baby Jacqueline suffered convulsion and brain damage from a whooping cough vaccine, and the doctors told her mother that she would be a vegetable until she passed away. Fortunately her mother did not accept this prognosis and instead sought a referral to St Giles. As it happens it was the best decision she could have made. Her daughter was able to receive therapy that essentially told her brain to create new pathways so that messages could get through. This took time, but happily the therapy was so successful that she made a full recovery. She is now a mother and has four children of her own.
This is just one story of the positive impact St Giles can have for those in our community who need their specialised help. I know there are many more stories that could be told but, of course, time does not permit me to do that on this occasion.
St Giles relies heavily on the support it receives from many local groups, service clubs and organisations. It employs 250 staff in Launceston, Hobart and the north-west, and relies heavily on community support and fundraising to help them meet operating costs, including wages. Many fundraising and awareness events are run each year, such as the Niche markets, which offer both a community service as well as a way for them to raise funds. The Niche markets have now expanded to Hobart and they have become so increasingly popular that they have a waiting list for stallholders to get themselves a position.
This is a very exciting year for St Giles as they celebrate their 75th birthday and they will undertake many exciting events and new projects. One such event will happen on Saturday 31 August when St Giles will hold its biggest event for 2013 - Walk With Me. This is a national event that provides an opportunity for engagement and celebrates the achievement of people with a disability. This event will also, of course, generate awareness and help raise much needed funds. This event is a non-competitive walk designed to get the community together and walking alongside those with a disability in a very public environment. Home and Away star Dan Ewing will be there to offer his support. The goal is to get 1 000 people to walk from the Brisbane Street Mall to City Park. Once at the park there will be food and activities for all to enjoy.
Events such as this are crucial as the organisation has started building a new facility at Amy Road. This project is funded by the commonwealth, but they will not receive a dollar of funding to pay for any of the services or equipment needed for the new facility. St Giles will also need to find the funds to cover the cost of wages for staff employed at this new facility.
I call on everyone to consider registering for Walk With Me on 31 August as now more than ever St Giles needs the community to get behind the ever important work it is doing.