Childhood Cancer and HeartKids

On 23 September 2014 Chris spoke in the Parliament recognising the efforts in the community on behalf of childhood cancer and Heart Kids, and particularly recognising Erin Griffin's life.

Speech to the SA Parliament, Tuesday 23 September 2014


 I rise today to recognise two very important causes for children in our state that have been particularly highlighted by the hard work of families in my electorate and a very strong response from my local community. On Sunday 24 August, I had the pleasure of attending a fundraiser for HeartKids SA at Aldinga that was hosted by Kylie Baker and Natalie Jones.

Kylie is the mum of Abagail and Natalie is the mum of Ethan, both of whom are 'heart kids' who have undertaken numerous surgeries in their short life, the first within the first month of their life. They have often had to travel to Melbourne to see highly specialised paediatric surgeons at the Royal Children's Hospital. They are both, I am happy to say, doing much better, but have obviously gone through a tremendous amount of medical treatment over their short life.

Part of the fundraiser also helps to raise money for HeartKids baby Loni Blossom, who tragically recently passed away from the Aldinga community. Other local organisations have also banded together to raise money for HeartKids, like Home Grain Bakery and the Aldinga Beach Children's Centre. I would like to publicly commemorate and thank both Kylie and Natalie for the continuing use of their time to raise money for HeartKids to try to help other families who are going through the same plight they have gone through.

On 14 September, I was honoured to speak at an event to remember and commemorate the life of Erin Griffin—a remarkable young woman from Aldinga Beach who for years battled the rare type of brain cancer Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG). Not only did Erin show tremendous personal drive in fighting her own battle against cancer but she also fought a battle on behalf of all sufferers of childhood cancers to improve awareness and to increase research in this area.

Erin unfortunately passed away on 1 September—the first day of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Erin led a request to light up the Riverbank Bridge in Adelaide in gold to raise awareness during this important month, and that has now occurred. Thank you to the Premier and to the Minister for Infrastructure for agreeing to Erin's request.

Erin also launched a petition to the Australian Senate, calling upon more resources to be invested by the federal government into research into childhood cancers. This petition now has more than 6,000 signatures, and I was also happy to sign the petition. Erin's mum and brother Declan are now in Washington DC at CureFest—a large conference working towards a cure for childhood cancer—and, in front of the thousands of people there, they will be delivering a speech that Erin would have delivered had she still been alive today.

Erin's life has left a tremendous legacy of supporting other children who will benefit from her advocacy. She also left a huge impact on the community, with many people saddened by the news of her loss. There was a tremendous outpouring of emotion and support from the community on the recent day at Old Noarlunga to commemorate her life.

Both childhood cancers and childhood heart disease are leading causes of child mortality in Australia. While so many diseases are very horrible, there is something particularly depressing about childhood cancer and childhood heart disease because they strike so young. It is fantastic to see such a community response from my electorate to support families and children facing such difficult circumstances, and I am very happy to support those causes.

While we are lucky to have a universal healthcare system in Australia and South Australia that provides free hospital care in public hospitals, there are often large impacts on families in terms of travel, accommodation costs and loss of income, and it is really heartening to see the community coming together to support families in those times of need and also to support other future families down the track who might face similar circumstances. I commend the work of all those families and the community to the house.

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