Pages tagged "Health and Wellbeing"
Question: SA Reopening and Vaccination Rollout for the Homeless
17 November 2021
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I seek leave to make a brief explanation before addressing a question without notice to the Minister for Health and Wellbeing on the topic of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout for those experiencing homelessness.
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: Back in July, the government announced its trial COVID-19 vaccination clinic for South Australians experiencing homelessness in the city, as part of its outreach program. Given South Australia's borders are set to open next Tuesday and there are an estimated 6,000 people in South Australia currently experiencing homelessness, it's critical that the vaccine rollout continues to prioritise some of our most vulnerable. My question to the minister therefore is: is the government confident that the 80 per cent vaccination target to trigger the reopening of our borders will be met with those experiencing homelessness?
The Hon. S.G. WADE (Minister for Health and Wellbeing): Starting my answer to the honourable member's question, there are difficulties in terms of assessing the level of vaccine take-up amongst the homeless community. One of the factors there is that people experiencing mental health issues, domestic violence, homelessness or a combination of these issues are not required to self-identify for the purpose of recording their vaccination status on the Australian immunisation record. This is for their safety and wellbeing, but it does mean that it is very difficult to determine how many people experiencing homelessness have been vaccinated.
The government is continuing to roll out a targeted campaign to deal with vulnerable groups, such as people experiencing homelessness. In the context of homelessness we are working particularly with key stakeholders, like the alliances and the larger providers of homeless services, to provide access to the vaccines. SA Health, the Ambulance Service and the sector are partnering to deliver a tailored approach to the vaccination of people experiencing homelessness.
I was privileged to launch the rollout for people sleeping rough in July this year at Westcare, a launch that attracted national interest. Since then, the rollout has continued across the metropolitan area, with vaccination sites being used, including SHINE, mental health facilities in the Parklands, and mobile services targeting vulnerable groups, which have been active in the suburbs of Playford, Gawler, Onkaparinga and in the regions.
The Central Adelaide Local Health Network is providing vaccines to people who attend the Hutt Street Centre, with additional vaccination services provided to a range of organisations working with the homeless community, including the Salvation Army homeless service, the Western Adelaide Homelessness Service, Streetlink, Uniting Care Gawler, Fred's Van and St Vincent de Paul Society. Vaccinations have also been provided in clinics for people experiencing domestic and family violence.
The government is continuing its efforts to ensure the vaccine is widely available, and that all vulnerable cohorts are a priority. More than 2.4 million doses of the vaccine have been delivered. I want to thank all South Australians who have rolled up their sleeve to be vaccinated, and encourage those who haven't to present at one of our clinics or engage with a GP or pharmacy. The vaccine is our pathway out of the pandemic, and it has never been easier to be vaccinated.
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: Supplementary question: noting the minister's reply, can the minister explain how close the government is to the 80 per cent vaccination target for people who are homeless, and can he provide specific information on what process is in place to ensure booster shots are being made available to those who are homeless?
The Hon. S.G. WADE (Minister for Health and Wellbeing) (15:07): With regard to the second question of booster shots, it is certainly our anticipation that we will continue to partner within SA Health and with our partners to continue deliver vaccines into next year, including booster shots. The booster shots are particularly recommended for vulnerable communities, so it will be a particular focus with vulnerable communities. I do not have specific data in relation to the percentage of homeless people who are thought to have been vaccinated, but I will see what information I can obtain for the honourable member.
Violence Against Women
14 October 2021
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I rise on behalf of the Greens to speak in favour of this very important motion, and in so doing I want to reflect, as the Hon. Irene Pnevmatikos has done, on some of the statistics—really alarming statistics—on the prevalence of domestic violence and violence against women in our community.
In South Australia, there was an 11 per cent increase in family and domestic-related assaults reported to police during the pandemic—that is, 2020. Obviously, we know the pandemic is ongoing. SA domestic violence services experienced a large spike in demand for emergency accommodation coinciding with the pandemic in 2020. Nationally, there is a very similar trend. A survey of 15,000 women in May 2020 found that two-thirds of those who had experienced violence during the first few months of the pandemic said the violence had either started or escalated during that time.
On average, one woman a week is murdered by her current or former partner—one woman a week. Australian women are nearly three times more likely than men to experience violence from an intimate partner. Almost 12 women a day are hospitalised for assault injuries perpetrated by a spouse or domestic partner, and in 2018 to 2019 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women had 29 times the rate of hospitalisation for non-fatal violence assaults when compared with non-Indigenous women.
It is very clear that this parliament needs to take action, and I commend the Hon. Connie Bonaros for putting this forward because it is so vitally important that we show leadership on this. What does that leadership look like? Of course, it is through passing resolutions, such as this today. It is also about ensuring that there is support for women who are in crisis: governments adequately funding crisis accommodation and ensuring that women and children have safe spaces to go.
It is also about leading cultural change. It is about stopping the narrative that says that women are somehow to blame for the terrible things that men are doing to them—this narrative that tries to pathologise or blame women or shame women in terms of how they dress and so on. We need to stop that kind of destructive, sexist and misogynistic framing and instead get men to take responsibility for their behaviour.
Men need to step up and take responsibility for stamping out this appalling behaviour and ending this violence because it is men who are the perpetrators of this behaviour. It is really vitally important that men in our society take responsibility for their actions and that we see an end to the sexist and misogynistic language that is all too often associated with this debate. I commend the motion on behalf of the Greens and encourage members to support it.
Question: Port Pirie Smelter
9th September 2021
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: The latest SA Health report into Port Pirie lead levels, released on 30 August, shows that in the first half of this year the average blood levels of Port Pirie children under five was 5.7 micrograms. For children tested on their second birthday, it was 7.8 micrograms, the highest reading in a decade. Experts have issued parents with a range of warnings, including to ensure their air-conditioners are cleaned, their windows and doors are properly sealed, children's toys and clothes are cleaned daily, clothes are not dried outside, and prams are not pushed into the wind.
My question to the Minister for Health is: given the risks associated with high lead levels, what is the government doing to ensure remissions from the smelter are lowered to limit the adverse outcomes to children, including respiratory illness and socio-behavioural problems?
The Hon. S.G. WADE (Minister for Health and Wellbeing) (14:41): With all due respect to the honourable member, I am not the minister responsible for the EPA. The reduction strategies within the smelter are coordinated by him. I will say that this government is a government that is very determined to make sure we improve the governance of the Port Pirie blood lead levels program, particularly through the Targeted Lead Abatement Program.
Recently an independent review was undertaken, seeing that the leadership of that initiative has been strengthened. The lead minister is the Hon. Dan van Holst Pellekaan, Minister for Energy and Mining, in partnership with myself and Minister Speirs. The recent deterioration is concerning, and certainly the work being done with the smelter to reduce emissions is a key part of the long-term strategy.
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (14:42): A supplementary: noting the minister's reply, what is he doing, as the Minister for Health, to satisfy himself that young people and children are not being placed at risk in Port Pirie as a result of this smelter?
The Hon. S.G. WADE (Minister for Health and Wellbeing) (14:42): One thing is being part of a government that is proactive. I am proud of the fact that it was this government that did a thorough review of the Targeted Lead Abatement Program.
In relation to the program, the Port Pirie Environmental Health Centre, which is part of the health network, has implemented strategies to improve dust management in the community, including allocating additional caseworker resources, increased interventions offered to families with children at high risk of exposure, increased cleaning of public spaces in the community, and removing contaminated waste.
Through our environmental health centre, families of children at risk of elevated blood levels are given individual counselling, advocacy support and strategies to reduce their child's risk of exposure and absorption of lead. Interventions to reduce exposure are tailored for the specific lead sources in each situation. Some of the interventions that could be used include professional housecleaning, covering exposed yard soil, minor home repairs, assistance with access to healthy foods, offering subsidised childcare, and relocating families most affected to lower exposure locations.
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (14:44): A further supplementary: will the minister be advocating to his colleagues, the Minister for Environment and Water and the Minister for Energy and Mining, to reduce the lead levels in the area, and is he advocating for more water to be available to reduce the proliferation of dust?
The Hon. S.G. WADE (Minister for Health and Wellbeing) (14:44): This government, as I said, is taking a collaborative approach. The targeted lead abatement program is a multiportfolio response. We have certainly been discussing it a number of times, including recently as a result of the independent review, and all of the factors are balanced in consultation with my cabinet colleagues.
COVID-19 Emergency Response (No. 3)
7th September 2021
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: If it pleases the Chair, I will make some general remarks about the three amendments in their totality rather than standing up and speaking on each individually. As foreshadowed by my colleague, the Hon. Tammy Franks MLC, what these amendments are seeking to do is reinstate the provisions relating to the moratorium on rental evictions and rent increases for those who are experiencing financial hardship as a result of COVID-19.
By way of background, members may recall that, when I started in this place in May, this was one of the first bills that came before me and the rest of this chamber for consideration. At that time, I argued for the provisions to be extended for another 12 months, up until May 2022. The Legislative Council did not agree to that; however, the government did agree to a September extension and I certainly welcomed that.
But now, as I warned at the time, we are in the situation where these provisions have expired. Indeed, they expired on 1 September so there is nothing in place, and I am very concerned, the Greens are very concerned, about the plight of people who are experiencing financial distress at the moment, in particular people who are renting. We have had lots of queries from the community to our office about this.
We know that there is significant rental stress being experienced in the community. We know that we are in the middle of a rental affordability crisis here in South Australia because there is not enough affordable housing available. People who are renting are finding it really, really difficult to find accommodation, which means of course that it is vitally important that we do not see people being evicted in the middle of this economic crisis.
To give the chamber a bit of an insight into some of the experiences of our constituents, I have been given some information from the Anti-Poverty Network in South Australia. They have shared some testimonies with me from people who are experiencing rental stress. These are de-identified, but I will read some of the stories onto Hansard because I think it is important that members get some of this information in terms of understanding the importance of these provisions. In terms of the impact of rent increases, this is what one person reported:
Once my rent has been paid I have $50 left for a fortnight to pay…electricity, gas, food, petrol, and other costs such as medication, as I suffer from lung conditions. The amount I have left is seriously not realistic, it is not enough to live on, let alone eat. The stress of enduring this each and every day has taken a toll on my emotional and physical wellbeing.
Another has said:
I have three daughters, [one] 9 [another] 2 and [another] almost 2, it stresses me to no end wondering if I'll be able to afford to feed them after paying rent. We've had our power disconnected so many times I've lost count, just because I pay rent first. Once in particular, it was cut off at 5pm, when our youngest was still a newborn.
My partner and I can only afford to pay rent because we are splitting costs with my two adult children, who too cannot afford to rent on their own. We, and they, are stuck co-renting even though they would like to have their own place, and my partner and I would enjoy living our lives without adult children.
Of course, we know that is becoming all too common—the scenario of ageing parents having younger adult children coming to live with them, something I am sure is not desirable for many parents as well as their children. As much as I love my mum and dad, I would not enjoy bunking up with them and I know that is the situation for many in the community. But alas, that is the situation they find themselves in because of this rental affordability crisis. Another says:
I have to meal plan all the way down to pieces of fruit to meet nutritional guidelines for my kids. I often go without so my kids can have what they need. we never go out. Every cent is spent on living costs.
Finally, another constituent has said:
I pay $350 a week for a house that's falling apart and I'm to scared to say anything in case I end up homeless with 3 kids—1 being newborn.
These are just some of the stories of people who are experiencing financial stress, people who are renting and will be hard hit if these provisions are not extended.
Just to talk very briefly about the exact nature of what I am proposing here in terms of the amendments, members will note the reference to backdating the provisions so they would take effect from 2 September, because the measures expired on 1 September. So it would apply to people from that period up until the end of December. As I stated from the outset, it is certainly my preference and that of the Greens that the provisions be extended up until May, but I recognise that there was not the support to do that and that is why I am proposing December.
These provisions are aligned with the other elements of the bill and, to the Hon. Connie Bonaros' point, I think this is a fair compromise and one that would certainly give people who are experiencing financial hardship some confidence and some security as we head into the second half of the year, recognising that we are still very much in the throes of this pandemic and the associated economic crisis.
Question: Rental Moratorium
26 August 2021
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (14:38): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before addressing a question without notice to the Minister for Human Services on the topic of the rental moratorium on evictions for those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: In May, the parliament provided renters experiencing financial hardship as a result of COVID-19 with a reprieve when it extended the moratorium on evictions until 1 September. We know that the pandemic and associated economic crisis has coincided with a rental affordability crisis in our state with more and more South Australians struggling to find affordable housing. My question to the minister is: what arrangements have been put in place to ensure that no South Australians will be evicted into homelessness come 1 September?
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (Minister for Human Services) (14:39): I thank the honourable member for his question which sits within the Residential Tenancies Act, an act committed to the Attorney-General, but I will attempt to answer it as best I can, knowing as I do that there are some Housing Authority tenants who appear before SACAT. I should say that my understanding of the way that SACAT operates is that they always take individual circumstances into account, and they have a policy that they do not evict into homelessness. So that is a check and balance, if you like, from that point of view.
The advice that I have from the Attorney in relation to the residential tenancies provisions in the COVID-19 Emergency Response Act 2020 is that there has been a significant reduction in reliance on those provisions. For the first six months they were relied on daily; however, towards the end of last year, there has been a gradual decline in them being relevant. It is now anticipated that these provisions may be relied on once to twice per week.
It should also be noted that SACAT already has power to suspend evictions for up to 90 days, which is more than sufficient to deal with those matters. It is only in very rare, extreme cases that SACAT would consider suspending eviction for longer than 90 days under the provisions of the COVID act. I will seek further details from the Attorney in relation to this and bring that back to the chamber, if there is more detail that we can provide.
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (14:40): Supplementary: noting the minister's response, will the minister be advocating to the Attorney-General that the protections that are in place for renters who are experiencing financial hardship be extended?
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (Minister for Human Services) (14:40): We take advice from organisations such as community and business services and, indeed, from SACAT. If their advice is that there is no need to continue to extend it further then we would take that advice on board. I think in my original answer I indicated that there is little use of these provisions, and they do need to be lifted at some stage. We would take that on advice from those agencies.
Covid -19 Permanent Measures Bill
8 June 2021
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I welcome the opportunity to talk about the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on South Australia. It really goes without saying that we have been very lucky in our state when it comes to the impact of COVID-19. I think a lot of us reflect on that when we see what is happening over in Victoria at the moment and the regrettable situation that they face there. We are very lucky in that sense. However, whilst many of us have been lucky, this has not been a lucky time for everybody in our community. In fact, COVID-19 has exposed the growing pandemic of inequality that has been sweeping the globe over the last few decades. Really, this pandemic has shone a light on that.
In particular, I want to talk a little bit about the impact on some of the most vulnerable people in our community. As my honourable colleague Tammy Franks has stated, we saw the government take action to support people who are homeless, in terms of connecting them with short-term accommodation during the pandemic. That was a welcome thing, but unfortunately we have not seen the follow-through. We have not seen the government then ensure that those people are provided long-term accommodation.
I really fear that there are people sleeping on our streets—I know there are people sleeping on our streets in the middle of this harsh winter—and that is simply not good enough for a state like South Australia. It is simply not acceptable that we have people sleeping on the street when we have so many resources at our disposal. Where is the leadership from this government to deal with the housing and homelessness crisis?
We also know, and this has been reported extensively over the last few months, that if you are somebody who is renting and you are trying to live on JobSeeker—and I say 'trying to live' because you cannot live on JobSeeker; it is woefully inadequate—you cannot find a single place that is affordable for you to rent in South Australia. If you are a single person, there is not one single property that is affordable for you to rent. I think that is an outrage.
I really would like to see some leadership from the government to deal with the rental crisis. What are they doing in terms of building more social housing? What are they doing in terms of building more public housing? What are they doing in terms of building more affordable housing? This is not something we can just push off into the never-never; it is integral to the response to this pandemic and the economic crisis that has followed. Just today, I noted a news report on the ABC, referring to homelessness services in Port Lincoln. I quote:
A homeless support service in South Australia's Port Lincoln is reluctantly calling for locals to donate tents, sleeping bags and old swags, following an increase in people seeking support in the…region.
It comes as reports of rental shortages across…SA emerge…
What on earth is happening when we have vulnerable people being forced to sleep in tents because we do not have enough accommodation available in our state and in our regional centres? That is a disgrace. That is an absolute disgrace, and we need leadership from this government to address that.
As I said before, COVID-19 has really exposed that ongoing crisis of inequality in South Australia, and it has really highlighted the potential for government to take action that changes people's lives for the better. What we need from this government is for them to embrace this opportunity to actually take the leadership that is necessary to deal with the public health crisis and also the growing crisis of inequality in South Australia, recognising that every South Australian deserves a roof over their head and a place to call home, and that that is the right of every citizen in our community, not just the wealthy few.
Whilst I support this bill and commend this bill, I call on the Marshall government to go further in terms of advocating for vulnerable South Australians and in terms of investing in the infrastructure that we need to ensure that people are not plunged into poverty as a result of this economic crisis. I note that the government has called a Code Blue to support people during the extreme weather that we are facing over the next few days, but they are announcing that measure—and of course the Greens welcome that—at a time when they have initiated brutal cuts to the homelessness sector in South Australia. We have seen cuts to Street to Home, cuts to Catherine House, cuts to the Hutt St Centre; again, a failure of leadership at a time when leadership is so desperately needed.
In terms of concluding my remarks, I make a few comments about the rollout of the vaccine to people who are homeless. You may recall that I asked the health minister in question time during our previous sitting period what the government's plan was to ensure that the vaccine was made available to people who are homeless.
He provided an explanation and stated that he was going to be dealing with support services to get the vaccine out through food trucks that already provide support to people who are homeless. It is great that something is being looked at, but we need to have more detail on that. The minister's response really threw open more questions than it did answers.
We need to know whether or not more resources are being allocated to these organisations so that they can roll out the vaccine. Are these the sorts of organisations that have been impacted by the Liberals' brutal cuts to homelessness support services? Are these organisations going to be able to ensure that a follow-up vaccine is provided to people who are homeless? What measures are in place to ensure that we can keep track of these people and ensure that they receive the second vaccine that they so desperately need?
All of these are questions that the government has failed to answer. When I asked the minister about this I received, might I say, a fairly churlish response correcting me about the size of the health department. That is not good enough. We need to see leadership from the government on these questions, and we need to see answers to these questions, so that vulnerable South Australians know that they are getting the support they desperately need during this economic crisis. I commend the bill, but I call on the government to show the leadership that we need to ensure that no South Australian is left behind.
Question: COVID-19 Vaccinations for People Who Are Homeless
25 May 2021
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (14:37): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before addressing a question without notice to the Minister for Health and Wellbeing on the topic of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout for those experiencing homelessness.
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: With an estimated 6,000 people in South Australia currently experiencing homelessness, their ability to access the COVID-19 vaccine is particularly unclear, especially given this vaccine requires a follow-up shot. The pace of Australia's vaccination program is under increasing scrutiny and many experts are concerned some of the most vulnerable will be left behind. My question to the minister is: what is the current plan to ensure those experiencing homelessness have access to and receive the vaccine?
The Hon. S.G. WADE (Minister for Health and Wellbeing) (14:37): My understanding is that, particularly in relation to the homeless cohort, homeless South Australians will be relying on our local health networks to reach out to them. This morning, I was talking to the Chief Executive Officer of the Southern Adelaide Local Health Network, Professor Sue O'Neill, specifically on this topic. The approach that they are taking there is to take out a van. My understanding is it's a food van, which already provides food services to homeless people. My understanding is that that is obviously to facilitate familiarity and trust.
It's intended that there would be an ambulance attending with the van. Obviously, the risk of anaphylactic shock or other adverse effects is just as great for a homeless person as any other South Australian; in fact, I suspect it would be higher because of their likely relatively low health status. I certainly know that the Central Adelaide Local Health Network has a strong and proud heritage of providing outreach services to homeless people. My understanding is that they are activating those relationships, but I will seek more information for the honourable member and provide it to him separately.
The PRESIDENT: Supplementary, the Hon. Mr Simms.
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (14:39): Noting the minister's answer, can he advise what arrangements will be put in place to ensure that a follow-up shot is provided to people who are homeless?
The Hon. S.G. WADE (Minister for Health and Wellbeing) (14:39): No, it's a good point, and I failed to mention in response to the honourable member's question that Professor O'Neill indicated that this outreach service would use Pfizer shots so that the gap between the first shot and the second shot would be shorter. I don't think that means that there won't be problems in terms of follow-up, but that at least helps.
A three-week gap rather than a three-month gap is going to help delivery there. That is also, I think, one of the reasons why, in the context of the recalibration of the national vaccination program, Pfizer is being considered for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities—often more mobile communities.
12 May 2021
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I rise in support of this motion and I thank the Hon. Ian Hunter MLC for putting this forward for the chamber's consideration. May 17 is International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Intersexism and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT day). For me, it is an opportunity for us to reflect on how far we have come, but also, as the honourable member stated in his remarks, it is a time for us to reflect on the work that is yet to be done.
On Monday, I had cause to reflect on how far we have come when I joined the Hon. Ian Hunter and other members of this parliament at the commemoration of the death of Dr George Duncan. It was 49 years this year since Dr Duncan, a law academic at the University of Adelaide, was murdered and thrown into the River Torrens. It is, of course, a terrible travesty that those killers have never been brought to justice.
As has been outlined, we know that it was that tragic event that intensified public pressure and eventually forced legislative change to occur in South Australia. South Australia became the first state in our nation to decriminalise homosexual acts—a breakthrough moment for South Australia. We have achieved an awful lot since then, but there is lots of work to do.
I echo the comments made by the Hon. Ian Hunter regarding conversion therapy. This is an issue of grave concern for the Greens. Those practices are abusive. This idea that you can lead somebody to change their sexuality is not supported by any evidence and it actually puts vulnerable young people in a really invidious position. It compounds their stress and anxiety and has a range of terrible health outcomes, so that is something that this parliament needs to work to scrap as an urgent priority.
I would also draw members' attention to anti-discrimination laws, which I understand are subject to state government review at the moment. Currently, religious organisations have exemptions to those laws, and I think it is appalling that religious organisations have the capacity to discriminate against gay, lesbian and transgender people, including students and teachers. That is wrong.
Organisations that take public funding—take public money—should not get a 'get out of gaol free' card when it comes to anti-discrimination laws. That is something that needs to change and I look forward to those reforms coming to this parliament for consideration because it is time for South Australia to say that all South Australians, irrespective of their gender identity or their sexuality, are equal before the law. We should not be allowing religious organisations to continue to shirk their responsibilities under the law.
I also want to draw this chamber's attention to the ongoing persecution of LGBTI people that is occurring overseas. As the Hon. Ian Hunter stated, just last week there was the tragic murder of Ali Fazeli Monfared in Iran. Mr Monfared was a 22-year-old gay Iranian man who was allegedly killed in an honour killing by some of his male family members after they found out that he was gay, according to the Iranian Lesbian and Transgender Network. I want to read out some of the facts in relation to that case, simply because it is important for us to reflect as a chamber on the appalling circumstances faced by many LGBTI people overseas and the need for all levels of government to take any action they can to advance the rights of LGBTI people.
This young man was allegedly killed in what was referred to as an 'honour killing'. I am quoting from the article of NBC by Jo Yurcaba, dated 12 May 2021. He received an exemption card in the mail from the Islamic Revolution Guard Corps after disclosing his homosexuality, but one of his male relatives found it and discovered that he was gay.
The organisation reported that the relative had previously told this man's father that the young man had dishonoured his family due to the way that he dressed. After finding the exemption card, a group of male relatives took Fazeli Monfared to a rural village on 4 May and killed him. The card and the exemption for homosexuality as a disease put this man in danger.
The organisation 6rang, which is an organisation that advocates for LGBTI people in Iran—again, this is NBC reporting—said that the alleged killers, after the atrocious murder had taken place, called the man's mother and told her where to find her only son's beheaded body. This is horrific and sadly a reminder of the hate crimes that we see unfolding in many places around the world. I am also reminded of the persecution of LGBTI people in Russia and the appalling persecution of LGBTI people in Chechnya, so we do need to do whatever we can to address that ongoing human rights abuse.
In concluding, as part of IDAHOBIT we celebrate what has been achieved and the great law reform work that has been done in our state, but we also reflect on the work yet to be done—the need to get rid of conversion therapy as a priority, the need to strengthen our anti-discrimination laws so that all South Australians are equal before the law and the need for our federal government to call out appalling human rights abuse of LGBTI people around the globe and to do what they can to advance the rights of LGBTI people not just in Australia but internationally.
Voluntary Assisted Dying
5 May 2021
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I welcome the opportunity to speak on this important reform—voluntary assisted dying legislation. I thank the Hon. Kyam Maher for putting this on the agenda and for his leadership on this issue. This has been a long-term priority for the Greens, and members will be aware that Mark Parnell moved his own bill back in 2008 and again in 2010. Of course, this is the first time that I have had the opportunity to put my support for this reform on the public record, so I want to make a few remarks about that. I will be exercising my vote in favour of this bill.
Like many in our community, my support for this reform is based on my lived experience and my family's experience. My nanna, Norma, died more than a decade ago, after a long-term battle with Alzheimer's disease. She had the disease for more than 20 years. In her final years she had no quality of life at all. Her mother, my great-grandmother, also died of Alzheimer's disease, and I know, from when my nanna was in good health, this was not a death she wanted for herself. She talked often about not wanting to face the same death that her mother faced. During her final years she was in a vegetative state. She was in obvious distress. She was unable to eat without assistance. Her death was prolonged and it was certainly one that was without dignity.
Obviously, I recognise that the bill before us will not deal with people in my grandmother's situation. She would not have been able to provide consent. But seeing her suffering, prolonged as it was over many years, has solidified my belief that as legislators we need to do what we can to give people choice in their final days.
I will be exercising my vote in favour of the bill for all those who I have loved who have not had the right to die with dignity and all those South Australians who have not only had to endure the loss of a loved one but have also seen them die in prolonged suffering. No-one should have to endure that in modern Australia. My thoughts are with them tonight. It may be too late for us to help them but we can do something to help other South Australians in the future.
I want to acknowledge all those who have shared their experiences in recent days. These matters of life and death are always difficult to talk about. In particular, I was saddened to read the news in The Advertiser about Ceara Rickard's health. Ceara is somebody I went to university with. I remember her from my Flinders University days. To quote Ceara:
These laws are not about choosing death, but giving people a death that works for them when they are…dying and death is near.
As Ceara says:
The choice of whether I die is not one that I get to make. But how and when I die can be a choice and it is one that I should be free to make.
Those are her words. I really hope that this parliament respects Ceara's choice and the choice of all other South Australians to end their lives with dignity.