Dr Justin Yerbury

Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (16:31): All of us in our constituencies would regularly meet people who are fighting various diseases and who are inspirational to us in their efforts to bring attention to the sorts of causes that many of us will go to functions and events for, but sometimes you meet a person whose personal story is so inspirational that, to be honest, it leaves me to some extent lost for words about that individual. I want to share one of those stories with the House today.

Many of you may have seen last night the Australian Story program on Justin Yerbury. Justin's a constituent in my area, 44 years old. The program told the story of not only his own but his family's battle with motor neurone disease. It's a marvellous story. Justin was not a science or medical student and not someone who started early in his life with a great determination to work in that space.

A division having been called in the House of Representatives—

Sitting suspended from 16:33 to 16:44

Ms BIRD: As I was saying before the division, occasionally we meet people in life who, despite the terrible adversities they are dealing with, become an inspiration to all of us, through their love and dedication to their fellow man. Justin Yerbury is an amazing example of that. He was the subject of the Australian Story episode last night, 'The enemy within'. It is not just Justin; his whole family are amazing people.

Justin wasn't a scientist in his younger days; in fact, he was a player with the Illawarra Hawks, our fabulous, strong basketball team, and he'd studied commerce at university. He lost many members of his family to motor neurone disease, and this inspired him to do research. He went back to uni, starting from the beginning, doing an undergraduate degree, all the way through to becoming an internationally recognised specialist in motor neurone disease. Indeed, the show was introduced by comments from the, sadly, recently lost Professor Stephen Hawking, who had met with Justin and who spoke of the important work that he was doing.

Justin is enormously loved by the research institute that he works with at our university. He continues to work there. He had recent surgery again and is looking forward to getting back to work to continue his groundbreaking research. I just want to put on the record that people in my region, but I have to say across the world, have a great love for Justin, for his wife, Rachel, his daughters, Talia and Maddison, and their whole family as they go through this difficult time but remain so committed to looking after other people. It's just inspirational.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Irons): I thank the member for Cunningham. I did catch the end of that program last night. It was quite inspirational. 

Watch my speech here.

See additional media stories about Justin and his work: