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Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (09:30): I want to take the opportunity today to talk to the House about one of the most extraordinary and brave young men I know. His name is Ben Oakley, and he was in Canberra at Parliament House yesterday at the invitation of my colleague the member for Throsby, the shadow assistant minister for health, to talk about the serious impacts and the importance of medicinal cannabis and how it has changed his life, in recognition of the government's tabling of changes to the legalisation of the cultivation and production of medicinal cannabis. Ben and his mum and dad, Caroline and Michael, were with him. They wanted to indicate their support and to call for governments at all levels to continue to progress this matter.
Ben's dad has established a Facebook page called Roll On Ben Oakley—recommended if anyone is interested in following up on this after the few minutes I have to tell you about it. Ben's dad, Michael, said, 'This is my way of showing support to one of the bravest people I know.' Ben came to see me with his dad last year, in about May, to tell me of the terrible situation they were in. About three years ago Ben was struck down with a very debilitating illness, and I would like to use Ben's dad's own words to tell the House about it. He says:
Ben was a very normal, healthy, active young man until 3 years ago today. Out on a training ride (Ben remains a very keen cyclist, even if he can not get on a bike) when he felt a sharp pain in his back. Thinking at the time that it was a pulled muscle he pushed on and made it home, but only just! Ben collapsed when he got back and could not stand. After an uncomfortable evening Ben woke up feeling okay and went to school only to have the pain start again within a few short hours. Ben took himself to sickbay but didn't make it. he had to be half carried by 2 teachers and then was taken to hospital. 7 hours later and a lot of head scratching we took Ben home.
He goes on:
Slowly over the next few months I watched one of the most active people I have ever known slowly getting worse and we had no idea why! We were trying to find answers, was it a dislocated Rib? a Virus? Cancer?!
Sadly and I know full well that a lot of people will not understand this, Cancer would have been easier to deal with, not that I would wish that on anyone or take away from anyone who has battled Cancer but people at least understand it. With Cancer you fight it and if you are lucky you survive.
Ben has Stiff Person Syndrome, a 1 in a Million Neurological condition. Doctors can not give us answers …
Ben tells the story, and he told it yesterday, that he can barely move. But since he has been taking medicinal cannabis he has had one attack in 10 months and it has transformed his life. He was very brave to join us all yesterday to share his personal story. I want to pay tribute to that and to his mum and dad in their ongoing efforts.