Thursday 26 March 2015

Hansard of the Legislative Council

Purple Day - Epilepsy Awareness Month


Mr FINCH (Rosevears)- Mr President, I thank my colleagues for wearing purple today in recognition of Purple Day.  I know the member for Hobart is wearing purple underpants.


Members laughing.


Mr FINCH - His purple is not as obvious as the member for Elwick's.  She has worn a purple suit, so she gets first prize.


While epilepsy remains a concerning problem in our community, Tasmania is taking the lead in dealing with it through our specialist charity, Epilepsy Tasmania.  I am pleased and proud to be patron of Epilepsy Tasmania.  Today is a big one for us because it is Purple Day, it is this day of the month and also it is Epilepsy Month.  The day will be marked on the lawns outside this building just after 1 o'clock today when those attending will be wearing our purple ribbons.


Epilepsy Awareness Day was the idea eight years ago of a young Canadian girl, Cassidy Megan, who had struggled with epilepsy at school and in her community.  Cassidy wanted to address the stigma that was still attached to epilepsy, and which she felt very much.  She wanted to help people to better understand it through Purple Day events.  Purple Day is been marked around the world as we speak.  I believe there is a Purple Day cupcake challenge in Texas and purple walks, purple events and bike rides in the UK as well, and other events in Australia.


Epilepsy Tasmania exists to improve the quality of life for those affected by epilepsy through education and training.  It provides support services for those affected and helps educate the broader community about the condition.  It is also engaged in a very internationally important study into a vital aspect of epilepsy, and members might recall that I spoke about this a short time ago.  It is the Tasmanian Infantile Epilepsy Encephalopathy - IEE - Project.  Funding for the project was announced in September last year.  The project aims to discover the underlying genetic causes of this severe condition.  IEE significantly contributes to the burden and costs to families and health services because there is frequent hospitalisation needed for the uncontrolled seizures.


Determining the underlying causes of IEE early in life is highly important.  Making a genetic diagnosis has positive outcomes for identifying the most appropriate therapies and for the quality of life prognosis.  Tasmania's IEE Project will not only be valuable for healthcare development here but will also provide interesting data for the world community.  It is important to mention Kathleen Grace who made a bequest of $267 000 for this study to take place, and we thank her very much.


Another event to mark Epilepsy Month was held last week with the formal opening of Epilepsy Tasmania's new headquarters in Launceston.  It is handily located in Launceston's Brisbane Street.  It was formally opened last Friday by our Health minister, Michael Ferguson.  About 5 200 Tasmanians have some form of epilepsy.  It can affect anyone from early childhood to old age.  Every GP has about 10 patients with epilepsy. 


It is important to understand that epilepsy is not a mental health disorder.  It is not a disability.  It is a health condition.  Most forms of epilepsy do not result in seizures and there are 30 known different types of epilepsy.  Early diagnosis of epilepsy means that it can be treated with inexpensive and effective medicines, and 70 per cent of people with epilepsy can lead normal lives.  It is not a condition which those who have it should need to hide and the rest of the community needs to understand more about it.  That is the success of Cassidy Megan's Purple Day concept in Epilepsy Awareness Month, which is March. 


Today at 1 o'clock we will be out on the lawns at the front of Parliament House.  The Health minister, Michael Ferguson, is going to acknowledge the work of Epilepsy Tasmania.  You are invited to attend.  He will only be speaking at five past one and then we are off to Daci & Daci for a coffee and some fellowship.