Thursday 22 November 2007


[11.15 a.m.]
Mr FINCH (Rosevears) - The Irish rock star and humanitarian, Sir Bob Geldof, was very disparaging about Australia's foreign aid on a visit to Queensland this week.

Mrs Rattray-Wagner - He said we were cheapskates.

Mr FINCH - He said it was pathetic as well.

Mr Wilkinson - He also sang Tell Me Why I Don't Like Mondays.

Members laughing.

Mr FINCH - But of course he was speaking of government aid and not the numerous ways that Australians help the poor and the disadvantaged in other countries.  Tasmanians are doing their share through the Launceston-based Care for Africa Foundation which was set up by Dr Peter Hewitt and Diana Morrison who both work at the Launceston General Hospital.  I might point out that Associate Professor Hewitt is my special guest here today in this spirit of rent a crowd -

Members laughing.

Mr FINCH - Peter is a former South African who has spent eight years in Tasmania.  He lives in Launceston with three children.

Ms Ritchie - In Rosevears?

Mr FINCH - No, I do not think he does.

Mr PRESIDENT - In Paterson.

Members laughing.

Mr FINCH - How lucky is he?

The work of the Care for Africa Foundation is centred in Tanzania and Kenya where they were in September with a team of 11, including five nurses and two doctors.  Peter Hewitt carried out a number of operations in very limited conditions, might be the best way to describe it.  Peter describes the area, on the shores of Lake Victoria, as one of the poorest places on the planet and he worked in a local hospital, carried out several hysterectomies, a caesarean section, a hernia repair and a bowel resection, and that was all before lunch.

Members laughing.

Mr Aird - After that you wouldn't feel like lunch.

Mr FINCH - That is right.  The Tarime Hospital had no running water, no oxygen, no suction or cautery, and the anaesthetist was the hospital gardener who administered Ketamine.

Ms Forrest - The gardener?

Mr FINCH - The gardener.  One of the nurses with the team also revamped the labour ward, constructing several cubicles for the patients, which they did not have before.  First-year doctor, Lisa Searle, found herself performing operations that she would never have been given the chance to do at the LGH.  The rest of the team also helped in the hospital and investigated projects for the Care for Africa Foundation for the future.

One project is to pipe water from a spring in the hills more than 7 kilometres from a Masai village and a primary school.  The problem is that elephants wreck the polypipe so it needs to be laid in deep trenches.  Safe water is of course a big issue in east Africa where lots of people get their water from very shallow wells that are infected with typhoid.  The Care for Africa team was accompanied by northern Tasmanian freelance cameraman, Simon Wearne, who made a record of the visit and we will be able to view that soon, I am sure, on television, perhaps ABCtelevision.

Simon also helped with projects such as trying to procure a vehicle to collect milk for sale by southern Kenyan women.  They presently have to walk many kilometres to a local market to sell their milk.  It takes about five hours out of their day.  With a vehicle servicing milk collection points the women would have more time to care for their children and crops.  The team bought two brick-making machines for a youth group in southern Kenya so that young people can have something to do and also to sell their bricks.  They are planning to build a small clinic and a dispensary.  The team brought with them a shipping container with medical equipment, books and clothes to distribute to schools and communities and also a Tasmanian ambulance was in the container complete with bells and whistles, I think purchased for about $9 000 but just a rarity in that part of Africa.  The vehicle is going to be used as a mobile clinic for the Tarime district.  The team visited many schools that all desperately need help, in particular with building and setting up libraries and with information technology.  Dr Hewitt says that Tanzanian children are ripe for information technology.  Imagine the liberation to these children if school links were set up between Tanzania and Tasmania via computer.  What an opportunity for Tasmanian and Tanzanian students to communicate on the Internet and to learn about each other.  The team is convinced that small things like this are more important than the big aid grants that are not followed through.

The team is also convinced that education is the key to the many problems in east Africa.  One of the problems with education in Kenya and Tanzania is a severe lack of teacher training.  There is no formal training and most teachers come straight from school after a month's crash course in teaching.  A 'teach the teacher' project is being investigated in which Tasmanian teachers will be sponsored to go to east Africa and run four to six-week courses in teaching methods. 
One of Tanzania's education success stories is the school of St Judes in Arusha started by Gemma Sisia, an Australian married to a Tanzanian man.  The school was built with funds mainly from Australian Rotary groups.  It covers years 1 to 7 with 800 pupils.  A second school is being built for 1 200 orphans and for very poor children.  Gemma Sisia says she cannot help everybody so she must put funds where they are most likely to succeed; clever children are selected through aptitude tests.  Of the 20 000 applicants each year only 180 are accepted.  The Care for Africa Foundation is now focusing on raising money for projects that help residents climb out of poverty rather than increasing their reliance on foreign aid.  It hopes to raise enough money for a new school in time for the next trip in east Africa in June next year.

Peter Hewitt says 15 000 bricks are needed to build a school and he wants Tasmanian schools to become involved in a 'buy a brick' campaign.  The Care for Africa Foundation has not been operating for very long but it has already accomplished a lot in east Africa and has identified much more that it can do.  I think that it deserves the support of Tasmanians.  Let us Tasmanians show up the Federal Government stinginess.  A group like the Care for Africa Foundation, with its dedicated and enthusiastic members, can accomplish so much with limited resources.  I’m sure all honourable members wish them well for their future endeavours.

Members - Hear, hear.