International Epilepsy Day

Mr DULUK (Waite) (10:56): I rise to commend the member for Mount Gambier's motion in its amended form and wholeheartedly thank the member for Mount Gambier for bringing it to the house. As the member raised in his contribution, it is an issue that is very important to me, to my constituents and to many South Australians, and he understands, as I do, the importance of supporting those in our community, some 61,000 South Australians, who live with this condition.

Epilepsy is a chronic health condition and is recognised as a disability under the National Disability Insurance Scheme Act 2013, both on its own and as part of other disability types. There is a wide spectrum of how people are affected by epilepsy. The severity and impact of epilepsy through a functional capacity assessment determines whether a person with epilepsy is eligible to access the National Disability Scheme.


Epilepsy, uncontrolled whilst on medication, is listed at No. 3 on the list of recognised disabilities under the commonwealth Department of Social Services. In South Australia, neurological impairments of an episodic nature are considered a disability under the Disability Services Act 1993. The severity of one person's condition does not impact on accessibility of service provided by SA Health.


I think it is really important that we have this debate and continue to raise awareness. I know that back in 2016 I moved a motion that was unanimously supported in this house, a motion that also included the need for the state government to provide financial assistance directly to those people in South Australia living with epilepsy. It is also important to note that SA Health, in its work and across jurisdictions, is well on the path of providing assistance to those with epilepsy.


International Epilepsy Day, also known as Purple Day, is an important opportunity to raise awareness of epilepsy by wearing the colour purple. It is a grassroots movement that started in 2008 by then nine-year-old Cassidy Megan of Nova Scotia in Canada to increase awareness and help reduce ignorance and stigma that is often associated with epilepsy.


Purple Day is also an opportunity to acknowledge the work of epilepsy associations, including the Epilepsy Centre of South Australia and Northern Territory, which provides support and services for people with epilepsy, their families and carers. The day has grown each year, with people not only wearing purple but holding events and raising funds for research and support services. Whilst we should not underestimate the importance of Purple Day in helping raise awareness of epilepsy, it has become a critical fundraising event on the Epilepsy Centre's calendar to provide much-needed services back to the community that they represent.


The Epilepsy Centre is a major provider of neurological community support for people in South Australia. Since 1976, the Epilepsy Centre has had the mission to improve the welfare of those affected by epilepsy in South Australia and the Northern Territory. Staff work tirelessly with very few resources to help the many thousands of South Australians affected by epilepsy. They do so without any state government funding.


I have been a strong and vocal advocate for those affected by epilepsy and for the Epilepsy Centre. As I stated earlier, in 2016 I moved a motion that called on the now former state government to adequately fund epilepsy services, research and diagnosis. That motion was supported unanimously by the house. I think it is so important that the house, the parliament and the government of South Australia continue to recognise what the people, through the parliament, have put on the record before. I moved that motion in 2016 and I will not waver from the intent of what I stated back then. I thank the member for Mount Gambier for once again raising this issue before the house.


The Epilepsy Centre has expressed to me disappointment with the response they recently received from the government in relation to their request for funding. I would also like to note my disappointment in that regard. The Epilepsy Centre, I believe, has been looking for assistance of about $240,000 a year for the next four years to support the fantastic work that they do. What does $240,000 mean to the Epilepsy Centre? That funding would enable the centre to provide services equivalent to an additional three FTE registered nurses per annum to work with people in the community diagnosed with epilepsy as a primary condition and their families, especially children, young people and those who are newly diagnosed. They currently have only 2.5 FTE staff to resource these activities.


The key aim of the Epilepsy Centre is to reduce the need for unnecessary presentations at acute hospitals through better care and planning, awareness and management of the impact of the condition. It is an important goal that aligns with the new Marshall Liberal government's commitments to invest in better prevention and targeted prevention. Preventable health conditions costs us dearly. Investing in prevention avoids future costs to both individuals and government, benefiting individuals, communities and the wider society.

This is the situation that we have at the moment. As I have just put on the record, I am disappointed that the Epilepsy Centre's request for funding has not been met by this new government. But they are the challenges that we confront as a result of Labor's waste and fiscal mismanagement. I look at the programs and schemes, government advertising and re-election charms that the former Labor government invested in, and I always ask myself: had those wasteful government expenditures not been undertaken by the former Labor government, would we today be able to properly afford front-line services for people with medical conditions? And the answer is yes.


I hope that within this four-year term of government there is capacity within the state budget to properly fund not only fantastic hardworking organisations like the Epilepsy Centre to meet their small need but of course all organisations that are in the preventative health space and support those people with disabilities and the like. That is my commitment to my electorate and that is my commitment to the parliament. It is something that, as a member of government from the benches, I will continue to lobby for on behalf the 61,000 South Australians who have this chronic condition. It is hardworking South Australians, such as those living with epilepsy, especially chronic epilepsy, who desperately need help—hardworking South Australians, such as Vikki and Glen in my electorate, whose son Archie suffers from severe epilepsy.


The Marshall government is committed to investing in prevention and working through balanced health service funding, in particular targeting support to those who are at greatest risk. Targeted prevention initiatives, such as investing in registered nurses to work with people in the community diagnosed with epilepsy, can avoid or delay the onset of illness and disability, stop the deterioration of the condition and reduce risk. I want the government to work constructively with the Epilepsy Centre to optimise health services around the thousands of South Australians living with epilepsy so that they can access much needed help and support.