Members statement – Earlier this month I attended the fourth annual A Taste of African Cultures festival at St Paul’s African House in Shepparton. The event attracted hundreds of attendees from across our great state, many of whom boast diverse African heritage. From a distance, Australian commentators often throw around the label ‘African’ with little knowledge that the vast continent contains 54 distinct countries and many more ethnicities and cultures. Sitting on my knee was my two-year-old grandchild, who was frozen in awe by the infectious drumming rhythms resonating through St Paul’s. Many other attendees were not frozen—they swarmed the stage to dance. It was a delightful day, and I commend the organisers for putting on an event celebrated by many cultures and all ages.
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Members statement – The diversity of my electorate of Shepparton is well known, and I was proud to recently attend events that highlighted just a few of the many cultures represented in our region. Last month it was my pleasant duty to be present at a smoking ceremony performed by representatives of the Yorta Yorta to celebrate the start of construction of the Shepparton Art Museum. The traditional cleansing of the land took place at the construction site, and it was a significant cultural event in its own right. This $50 million project will be an outstanding addition to our region, nestled beside picturesque Victoria Park Lake. I look forward to watching the physical works as they progress. The Shepparton Art Museum, or SAM, as we locals affectionately like to call it, is a joint project of all levels of government—local, state and federal—and we look forward to the economic, artistic and cultural impact it will have on our region.
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Constituency question – My constituency question is for the Minister for Roads. I refer to the intensive drink and drug driving course, which is a mandatory course for those wishing to regain their licence following a disqualification for a serious drink or drug driving offence. Minister, what courses are currently available throughout regional Victoria and in my electorate for motorists seeking to regain their licence? One of my constituents, a now unemployed person, has expressed her dismay at having to travel to Melbourne on no less than four separate occasions to undertake the course required to regain her drivers licence. Inquiries by my office into the availability of intensive drink and drug driving courses across regional Victoria were met with website errors and apologetic staff, after waiting on hold for a considerable period. I would like to reassure my constituents that when making amends for serious driving breaches, they are on an equal footing with their city-based counterparts.
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I rise to make a contribution in relation to the Public Health and Wellbeing Amendment Bill 2019. This legislation is designed to bring Victoria into line with what is happening in other states in relation to requirements around HIV testing. As the previous speaker said, times have moved on since the first infectious cases of HIV were detected, and this bill is evidence of the changes that have taken place. Under current legislation HIV testing has a number of special requirements. For instance, it is mandatory for a registered medical practitioner to ensure that a person is given prescribed information before carrying out a test, and a registered practitioner must also give certain information to a person before advising them of the results of a positive test. The government has introduced this bill on the basis that these sections are no longer necessary as they are now covered by national testing policies. The National HIV Testing Policy, which was introduced in 2011 and endorsed by the commonwealth, sets out a framework for providing quality testing and is subject to annual review by an expert committee. The thinking behind this change is that the provisions contribute to the stigma and discrimination associated with HIV and impede the expansion of testing availability.
I understand that many of the stakeholders who were consulted identified the current requirements as being unnecessarily burdensome and stigmatising, so it is hoped that counselling services that were obviously there and required for medical practitioners are not reduced in the sense of people being able to get advice and counselling both before and after, but the bill does take away that requirement and effectively means that everyone with any sort of bloodborne disease will now be treated in the same way. Looking at the early years, the first diagnosis in Australia was in 1982, with the introduction of HIV testing in 1985 and the diagnosis of HIV disease in 1987. There were 2773 cases then, and they declined to their lowest level in 1999. I was old enough to be around when this epidemic commenced, and I recall news reports coming out of America at the time that were really quite frightening in some ways. Initially there was very little known about it. It was considered a disease of gay men. As time went on it became apparent that, particularly in the United States, the numbers were rising, and as early as 1983 Australia did identify its first case of HIV, so within a fairly short period of time it became apparent that governments needed to address this really important health issue.
There were fear campaigns around this being the pandemic that might be the pandemic to end many. In the United States a lot of the rhetoric was around the claim that this was the disease to punish deviant behaviour. This was the sort of tone that was out there in some places in the 1980s, and I think the seriousness of the way this disease was treated initially and the way it was looked at was very much exemplified by the Grim Reaper campaign. I read that in 1983 when Minister Blewett took up his position as the Minister for Health in the federal Parliament he had a folder with a huge number of health issues in it. The first related to the introduction of Medicare, which was to be the new national health program, but in among the papers was information about AIDS, and it was at a very early stage. As those years then moved on the government realised that they would have to address it, and this campaign was brought about by engaging an advertising agency in Sydney to have a think about how to deal with it. There is no doubt that that campaign was designed to scare the hell out of Australians. The campaign really divided thinking then in relation to what was the best way of going about bringing about change in relation to the activities that were identified as being some of the causes of AIDS. After the Grim Reaper campaign was rolled out there was much more of an emphasis on education—educating people about safe sex—and setting up needle exchanges, because that drug-related issue where AIDS was being transmitted through the sharing of needles and the like was also identified as a major cause of the spread of it. Australia in fact had some of the best needle exchange programs in the world at a very early stage. The intense education seemed to work, and as time has gone on we have seen more treatments become available for those who have been tested and shown to be positive for HIV.
The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS declared in March 2019 that it was greatly encouraged by news that an HIV-positive man had been functionally cured of HIV when he was treated by specialists at University College London and Imperial College London. They had a very complex patient, and while they do not maintain that they have actually got the cure yet, through a number of processes they do regard that man as having been cured of that disease.
Across the world there are many who are infected. In 2017 there were 36.9 million people living with HIV and 1.8 million people became newly infected with the virus. In First World countries the opportunities for prevention and treatment are of course much greater. But as we know, in many Third Word countries, particularly in Africa, it has taken a terrible toll on those populations where access to resources has been very limited and governments have even denied that it is a disease that really exists. Where we go with the treatment of HIV will be of great interest to all of us. Will there be a vaccination that is developed or will there simply be medications that will ultimately lead to a cure? It inevitably led me to think about how incredible vaccination has been in our society, how by 1973 smallpox had effectively been wiped out through vaccination and how so many diseases which ran rampant across the world at times and killed large numbers of people are no longer the threat they are. So it is particularly concerning to me that we are now faced with populations of people who are opposed to and will not participate in vaccinating their children. Without that herd immunity that is required we place everyone at risk, and so many people in this day and age have not seen the effects of many of these diseases. I think I have said before in this place that my husband is an old paediatrician. He recalls treating babies with whooping cough who coughed themselves to death. Anyone who has seen or treated children with illnesses like that—children who die quickly and suddenly because there are simply no treatments available for them—would understand how important vaccination is.
I truly hope that with a disease such as AIDS and the opportunities that are now being looked into we can find a vaccination or indeed a cure for it. Attitudes have changed so much in my lifetime since that notion of deviancy and the like that was going around in America in the 1980s. We have moved on so much. We are such a kinder society. We are such a tolerant society in comparison to the way people thought back then. I just reflect on the fact that in Shepparton alone each year we have an OUTintheOPEN Festival. It has been a remarkable journey to see the way people have come along in a sense and understood the effects of discrimination and bias that were so deeply embedded in our communities. They are now much more willing to embrace, care for and accept the diversity that we have in our community. So there is hope, and there now seems to be the capacity to arrest HIV at all of its various stages. This bill ensures that testing will still take place, and that is important, but it also helps to remove the stigma associated with it.
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Independent Member for Shepparton District Suzanna Sheed has welcomed the funding contained in this week’s budget to progress Stage Two of the Goulburn Valley Health redevelopment.
The Victorian Government allocated $2 million towards planning for the redevelopment on Monday, building on the $170 million investment already delivered.
“I commend the Andrews Government for delivering Stage One of the redevelopment, but now we need to keep the momentum going,” Ms Sheed said.
“Mental health services in the Greater Shepparton region are struggling. Our cancer services are overcrowded. Stage Two is desperately needed and I thank the government for initiating the process through this planning funding.”
Following decades of underinvestment in this electorate, Ms Sheed was successful in her first term at securing hundreds of millions in funding for health, education and transport infrastructure upgrades for the region.
“For too many years Shepparton languished behind the other large regional centres. Stage One of the GV Health redevelopment went some way to rectifying the situation. Stage Two will place us on an even footing with comparable regions such as Bendigo, Ballarat and Geelong,” Ms Sheed said.
“I will not stop fighting for the region until we have the services we deserve and we deserve the GV Health Redevelopment Stage Two.”
Myles Peterson 0467 035 840│email@example.com
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Independent Member for Shepparton District Suzanna Sheed says she is pleased the Andrews Government has fully funded the establishment of a new fish hatchery for the Greater Shepparton region in this year’s state budget.
In June last year after reviewing the draft Freshwater Fisheries Management Plan Ms Sheed wrote to then Agriculture Minister Jaala Pulford calling on this important project to be established.
“The development of such a facility in the Shepparton District would … provide important employment opportunities, especially for the region’s large indigenous population, addressing a range of Government priorities,” Ms Sheed wrote.
In Monday’s budget, the Andrews Government demonstrated its agreement providing $7 million for the project. A further $28 million was committed over the forwarded estimates to the ‘Go Fishing Victoria –Target One Million Phase Two.’
According to state government figures more than 830,000 Victorians enjoy fishing. The industry reportedly employs more than 16,000 Victorians and is an important component of the Greater Shepparton tourism and recreation economy.
“Projects such of this one will help to further diversify Greater Shepparton’s economy, creating new opportunities and insulating our economy from shocks to any one industry,” Ms Sheed said.
Ensuring the new hatchery delivers benefits beyond improving the region’s fish stocks is also important, according to Ms Sheed.
“I have been pushing for every new project in my region to have a value-added component. A new fishery will improve native fish stocks and subsequent tourism levels, but the hatchery itself can also provide tourism and education opportunities,” she said.
“I will be asking the Andrews Government to build in a tourism and education component into this project. Providing another tourist attraction and a site of learning for our region’s students is a potential added benefit for the hatchery.”
Myles Peterson 0467 035 840│firstname.lastname@example.org
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Independent Member for Shepparton District Suzanna Sheed has welcomed a range of measures contained in today’s Victorian State Government budget and is looking forward to receiving a more detailed briefing in the coming days.
“Clearly this is a budget whereby the government has decided to meet its pre-election budget commitments following Labor’s success at last year’s election. At first glance there appears to be little new money for our region,” Ms Sheed said.
“As an independent I propose to continue advocating for the major commitments our region has identified as critical to our future growth.
“Given the hundreds of millions of dollars we have received over the previous three budgets for health, education, rail and other initiatives it is not surprising that this budget contained little in the way of locally targeted major new funding announcements other than $7 million for a native fish hatchery in Shepparton.”
Free dental for public school students and the regional roll-out of part-time kindergarten for three-year-olds are two initiatives welcomed by Ms Sheed, along with initiatives such as the payroll tax concessions for regional areas and a basketball hub for Shepparton.
“I have been a passionate campaigner for education and children’s health and at first glance both these programs should be of benefit to parents, carers and young children in my electorate,” she said.
But Ms Sheed is disappointed Shepparton appears to be missing out on sharing in $214 million to establish seven early parenting centres across the state, including at Ballarat, Bendigo and Geelong.
“Shepparton is no less in need than the other three big regional hubs – arguably more so – and following decades of our community advocacy for a local mother-baby unit I am disappointed we will not be included in this important initiative,” she said.
“I will continue to urge the Andrews Government to view the needs of Shepparton’s mothers and newborns as vitally as it has viewed those in Ballarat, Bendigo and Geelong.”
Myles Peterson 0467 035 840│email@example.com
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Independent Member for Shepparton District Suzanna Sheed welcomes news that the Minister for Water Lisa Neville will be visiting the Shepparton region next month to meet with stakeholders.
Ms Sheed used her adjournment in Parliament on 1 May to call upon the Minister to visit the Shepparton District as a matter of urgency to see for herself the damage to the Goulburn River as a result of inter valley transfers and environmental flows.
“It has taken a while for water managers and the industry to be heard but the fact is our Victorian iconic Goulburn River is being significantly damaged by the high flows that are required to transfer water to the Sunraysia region and South Australia,” Ms Sheed said
Last week the Almond Board of Australia made a call for a moratorium on issuing new water use licences below the Murray choke. This would effectively put a hold on the huge development that has taken place in recent years particularly with the expansion of the almond industry. There is a high demand for almonds across the world but access to water is being recognised as a major hurdle for this water intensive horticultural crop.
“I have seen for myself the damage occurring to the banks of our river and been provided with video footage by recreational users and those who live along the river showing the evidence of this. These high river flows are damaging the environmental work that has been undertaken in previous years to improve our waterways. It is a ridiculous situation that we have our own environment and river health suffering to deliver these high inter valley transfers and environmental flows,” Ms Sheed said
“It is time for the Victorian government to take action and I have called on the Minister for Water Lisa Neville to use her powers under the Water Trading Rules to limit these inter valley transfers. She has the power to do so and I believe that she is required to do so where there are such obvious negative environmental and third-party impacts,” Ms Sheed said.
The Goulburn Valley Environmental Group have also expressed their concerns about environmental damage calling on both the MDBA and the Victorian government to take action and use the powers available to them.
Last month President of the Goulburn Valley Environment Group John Pettigrew expressed his concerns to Minister Neville about damage to Goulburn River as a result of transfers.
“The Goulburn River below the Goulburn Weir now finds itself in a similar position to the Barmah Choke but without the safe guard of limited flow rates over the irrigation delivery season,” Mr Pettigrew said.
Myles Peterson 0467 035 840│firstname.lastname@example.org
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Independent Member for Shepparton District Suzanna Sheed has welcomed the news that the Shadow Minister for Water Tony Burke MP has agreed to take her up on her offer to visit Shepparton post the federal election.
Ms Sheed and Goulburn Murray Irrigation District Leadership co-chair David McKenzie recently travelled to Sydney to meet with Mr Burke, who unfortunately could not attend due to a family matter that arose. Ms Sheed, Mr McKenzie and dairy farmer Russell Pell met with Mr Burke’s adviser and extended an invitation to Mr Burke to visit Shepparton as soon as possible.
Ms Sheed said “It is critical that Mr Burke, who may well be the next Federal Water Minister after this Saturday’s federal election, see first-hand the devastating socioeconomic and environmental impact the Murray Darling Basin Plan is having on our communities and the economy. The recent policy position released by federal Labor further undermines our region’s ability to sustain farming operations and communities. We need Mr Burke to come to the region to hear first-hand from farmers and community leaders what is happening on the ground and to see the very obvious impact that has occurred.”
“Mr Burke’s chief of staff has contacted my office indicating that Mr Burke will accept our invitation and will make appropriate arrangements to visit the region post-election” Ms Sheed said.
Leanne Raditsas 0422 211 774│email@example.com
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Members statement – Today I am wearing, in the form of this jacket, a piece of Aboriginal art produced through collaboration of local Aboriginal artists, who have screen-printed the fabric and had it, along with many other pieces, made into very fashionable garments with the assistance of other talented members of our community.
The Shepparton district is home to the largest Indigenous population outside of metropolitan Melbourne. Much has been achieved in recent years through the development of local Aboriginal arts, and a blossoming encouragement of this process of Aboriginal art is very much attributable to the work of Kaiela Arts in High Street, Shepparton.
Recently a fashion show to celebrate Kaiela Arts’ 2018 collection of wearable art garments and accessories was held at The Connection between Mooroopna and Shepparton, surrounded by the magnificent landscape of the river flats, the inspiration for the fabric itself. The first fashion collection was featured at the Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair and Jakarta Fashion Week and in Vogue online ‘Fashion trends’ in 2018. The fabric and designs are wearable art pieces which are bold, contemporary references to country, people and Aboriginal culture in Yorta Yorta country. The future vision for this work is that there will be the opportunity to purchase more fabric and inks and facilitate artists to travel to the Space Craft Studio in Melbourne to print the fabric for the Kaiela Arts 2019 collection.