Light it red for dyslexia

Ms BIRD(Cunningham) (11:10): It is a real honour to speak in this debate, and I particularly want to commend the member for Wakefield for putting it on the agenda of this place. I also want to acknowledge the excellent contribution by the member for Forde—some very insightful comments there as well.

It is clear to all of us that one of the most important benchmarks for success in our modern economy and society is successful years at school. We have that debate in many ways in that place, so I think it is unsurprising that we should be concerned that there are a group of students who have a condition that is going to be a serious barrier to them doing well at school, which is so heavily reliant on literacy skills—and that is those with dyslexia. As the member for Forde said, given that even so much of our science and maths subjects are based around language skill and capacity, it flows through subject areas.

It has not been well understood or well treated for a long time. I am sure all of us know adults now who struggled as best they could through life and perhaps did not, until quite late in life, get a diagnosis of dyslexia, an understanding of what that meant for them and good quality treatment that assists them. This is a great initiative, and I was really pleased to participate locally, on Saturday evening, with Labor's candidate for the Wollongong by-election, Paul Scully, who has direct personal experience with adults that he knows who have exactly that problem. He was very keen to support the campaign. We went along to the lighting red of the Wollongong lighthouse. It was the first time that a local group have participated in this campaign. As the member for Wakefield said, it has been going for four years now. There were a local group of mums who have formed a dyslexia support group who were very keen to participate. We had a beautiful Wollongong evening. A pod of whales were playing and frolicking in the water just beside us, waving their tales in support for Light it Red for Dyslexia. The lighthouse was lit up red and looked fabulous, and there were a great group of people there to support the campaign.

Only in September, local mum, Sharlene Poljasevic, contacted me on Facebook and said: 'We want to do this. We want to participate in this campaign this year.' There is a bit of a cost associated—as the member for Forde said, they are all volunteer groups—so she set up a GoFundMe fundraising campaign. I felt very happy to support that and to encourage others to support it. They were successfully able to get the funding they needed to light the lighthouse up red. On Saturday, Sharlene posted on her Facebook page: 'A big thank you to the Wollongong Dyslexia Support Girls, to all the people who donated to make this happen, to all the people who turned up to see the lighting of the lighthouse, to all our friends and family who have shared our photos, and to our wonderful children, who give us the reason to build this awareness and who make us smile every day.' I thought that was a beautiful thing which captured the sentiment.

The group have also organised a showing of a film, Outside the Square Film 2 - Targeted Teaching for children with Dyslexia, for the very issues that both the member for Wakefield and the member for Forde talked about in terms of empowering teachers to be able to deal effectively with this. I met with some of the local parents there: Sharlene and her family, John, Brooke and Karla; and Jenny, Simon and Jaryn O'Connor.

It was also great to catch up with Gabby Martinez, who spoke to the Illawarra Mercury in a great article by journalist Lisa Wachsmuth about Gabby and her daughter, Emilia. Gabby made exactly the point that the member for Wakefield made as would I am sure the member for Moreton—being a great reader as well—that even though Gabby is a great lover of books and literature, she had a daughter who was struggling to read. It was really getting the diagnosis and being able to find support services that made such a difference. And that story is repeated across families in each and every one of our electorates. So the campaign, both the week of awareness and the commencement of it by the Light it Red for Dyslexia campaign, is really important. I really want to commend parents, families and supporters all across our communities, like my own dyslexia support group, who participated in this campaign. I continue to commit my support to the efforts that we can deliver through this place in support of that campaign.

 

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