Gaelle BROAD (Northern Victoria) (17:39): (42) I call on the Minister for Health to provide ongoing funding to the Stroke Association of Victoria so that stroke support centres in regional Victoria can continue to operate beyond June this year. Last year I was speaking with a lady at my work who suffered a stroke that night and ended up in hospital. Now her days are full of appointments with speech therapists, physios and other specialists. Stroke can happen to any of us at any age, but regional Australians are 17 per cent more likely to suffer a stroke. Without warning stroke can impact your ability to move or speak. Many people lose their confidence and become isolated. As well as the physical challenges, there are mental pressures like who is going to pay the mortgage and who is going to look after the kids. A stroke occurs in Australia every 19 minutes. This year it is estimated that 7000 Victorians will have a stroke for the first time. Stroke is one of the leading causes of death in Australia. Over 2000 people die from stroke in Victoria each year.
Last week I met with members of the Bendigo support centre of the Stroke Association of Victoria – people like Ron, Shelley, Dion and Lara, whose lives changed in a single day. Super fit at 44 and out running, a man suffered a stroke that caused paralysis, and he had to give up work. There was a lady who lost all movement in her arm and has lived with it for 17 years and another who owned a business who woke up one morning struggling to speak. I met a lady who has had three strokes and shows no physical signs but now struggles to read and experiences significant fatigue. They all value getting together through the local stroke support centre. The impact is not just felt by those who have actually experienced stroke, it is felt by partners and families as well. A spouse who is perfectly capable one day may then need 24-hour care.
For many years volunteers created their own self-help groups because there was no support available, but in 2017 the Stroke Association of Victoria helped bridge the gap. Today stroke support centres operate in Bendigo, Shepparton, Ballarat, Geelong and Morwell. In June this year funding for these centres will run out. Local support centres have been put on notice, as the government plans to evaluate the program in October – far too late. These support centres are vital. Local facilitators help ease the pressure on hospitals, coordinate social activities and provide support to find a job. I call on the Minister for Health to provide ongoing funding to the Stroke Association of Victoria so that local support centres can continue to support people and families impacted by stroke.