Looking back on the last month I feel really proud of what I have been able to achieve for the autism community and for rural and regional business owners.

The launch of the Parliamentary Friends of Autism group took place in Parliament House on 17 October. Milton Dick MP, Federal Member for Oxley, is the co-chair and we were fortunate to hear about policy updates from the Minister for the NDIS, the Hon Stuart Robert MP, as well as the Minister for Health, the Hon Greg Hunt MP. We were also highly engaged by our two keynote speakers, Mike Tozer from Xceptional and Laura Lewis. My son Fred also attended the launch along with my husband Stewart. I intend to create a lot of positive outcomes as a result of this group. A big thank you to Autism CRC who were kind enough to sponsor the event.

I have also this week moved a notice of motion to establish the Select Committee on Autism, which will inquire into and report on the services, support and life outcomes for people with autism in Australia and the associated need for a National Autism Strategy, which was successfully passed yesterday.

The ‘Go Country for Christmas’ campaign is in full swing: encouraging Christmas shoppers to buy at least one Christmas present from businesses based in rural and regional Australia, to help support those heavily impacted by the drought. A bipartisan group of politicians directly contributed from their own pockets to enable the build of the ‘Go Country for Christmas’ website, for which I have tremendous gratitude, enabling this program to get off the ground. I really believe this is a simple and effective way of moving money through areas where the drought and fires have had a significant economic impact. It’s not too late to register your country business or buy a gift via the website so please visit gocountryforchristmas.com.au

This is a full list of all the Supporters to date:

Dr Katie Allen MP, Member for Higgins – Liberal Party of Australia

Hon Dan Tehan MP, Member for Wannon – Liberal Party of Australia

Mr Ted O’Brien MP, Member for Fairfax – Liberal National Party (Qld)

Ms Angie Bell, Member for Moncrieff – Liberal National Party (Qld)

Dr Fiona Martin MP, Member for Reid – Liberal Party of Australia

Senator Tim Ayres, New South Wales – Australian Labor Party

Hon Mark Coulton MP, Member for Parkes – The Nationals

Hon Michelle Landry MP, Member for Capricornia – Liberal National Party (Qld)

Hon Ben Morton MP, Member for Tangney – Liberal Party of Australia

Ms Celia Hammond MP, Member for Curtin – Liberal Party of Australia

Senator Perin Davey, New South Wales – The Nationals

Mrs Melissa McIntosh MP, Member for Lindsay – Liberal Party of Australia

Hon Michael McCormack MP, Deputy Prime Minister, Member for Riverina – The Nationals

Mr Tim Wilson MP, Member for Goldstein – Liberal Party of Australia

Senator Andrew Bragg, New South Wales – Liberal Party of Australia

Senator Susan McDonald, Queensland – The Nationals

Hon Angus Taylor MP, Member for Hume – Liberal Party of Australia

Senator Wendy Askew, Tasmania – Liberal Party of Australia

Mrs Lucy Wicks MP, Member for Robertson – Liberal Party of Australia

Senator Gerard Rennick, Queensland – Liberal National Party (Qld)

Senator Raff Ciccone, Victoria – Australian Labor Party

Senator the Hon Sarah Henderson, Victoria – Liberal Party of Australia

Ms Emma McBride MP, Member for Dobell – Australian Labor Party

Hon Mark Dreyfus QC MP, Member for Isaacs – Australian Labor Party

Ms Meryl Swanson MP, Member for Paterson – Australian Labor Party

Mr George Christensen MP, Member for Dawson – Liberal National Party (Qld)

Senator the Hon Michaelia Cash, Western Australia – Liberal Party of Australia

Senator the Hon Bridget McKenzie, Victoria – The Nationals

Mrs Bridget Archer MP, Member for Bass – Liberal Party of Australia

Senator Dean Smith, Western Australia – Liberal Party of Australia

Hon David Littleproud MP, Member for Maranoa – Liberal National Party (Qld)

Ms Sharon Bird MP, Member for Cunningham – Australian Labor Party

Senator Rachel Siewert, Western Australia – The Greens

Hon Melissa Price MP, Member for Durack – Liberal Party of Australia

Mr Julian Leeser MP, Member for Berowra – Liberal Party of Australia

Mr Gavin Pearce MP, Member for Braddon – Liberal Party of Australia

Hon Scott Morrison MP, Prime Minister, Member for Cook – Liberal Party of Australia

Senator Paul Scarr, Queensland – Liberal Party of Australia

Senator Janet Rice, Victoria – The Greens

Mr Dave Sharma MP, Member for Wentworth – Liberal Party of Australia

Mr Tony Pasin MP, Member for Barker – Liberal Party of Australia

Senator David Van, Victoria – Liberal Party of Australia

It has also been a time that has been punctuated by sad losses: the Hon Tim Fischer AC, former Deputy Prime Minister, and my dear friend Marie Sutton, a tireless fundraiser for charity and Liberal Party volunteer, both passed away recently. I attended their respective funerals and was incredibly moved when reflecting on their lives and their contributions to our community, their families, and how loved they were.

Tim Fischer Condolence Motion
In Memorium Marie Sutton

Recently, most of my time has been on the road attending Committee Hearings for the Community Affairs, NDIS, and Public Works Committees. This has allowed me to hear many voices across Australia and their concerns.

The travel has also allowed for some really interesting meetings and conferences along the way such as representing the Minister for the NDIS, the Hon Stuart Robert MP, at the Autism West conference in Perth. The program of this conference was incredible and everyone in attendance left inspired.

I also had the pleasure of representing the Prime Minister, the Hon Scott Morrison MP, at the Organisation of Hellene and Hellene Cypriot Women of Australia, supporting Zero Childhood Cancer with the Greek and Cypriot communities.

Opening the Croatian Women in Leadership summit held in Canberra was a highlight, showcasing the diversity of the Australian community and the Government’s ongoing focus on the rich and diverse tapestry that makes up our modern Australia. 

The 40th birthday celebrations of Karinya in Launceston, a critical charity that supports young mums and homeless young women improve their lives, impressed upon me the continuing need to keep striving to ensure that the most vulnerable in our community don’t slip through the cracks.

I had a great meeting with Gather my Crew who offer different means of support during very critical and difficult times in people’s lives, not just a casserole on the doorstep!

Yesterday, I was privileged to launch the ‘IAMOK’ app at Parliament House, designed to help older Australians stay in their homes for longer rather than go into care homes. The ‘IAMOK’ app is also a support tool for the sandwich generation as caring responsibilities become increasingly fragmented. The app is free and available for immediate download within the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store.

One of the unexpected high notes of the last month was having a member of the Defence Force in our team for the week as part of the Australian Defence Force work exchange program. The office learned a lot from this exchange and I was honoured to be seated with Vice Admiral David Lance Johnson at the Australian Defence Gala.

And speaking of all things Navy, I represented the Defence Minister, Senator the Hon Linda Reynolds, at the decommissioning of the HMAS Melbourne after 29 years of active service. Her 199 crew will now be deployed across the Royal Australian Navy, and we also humbly thank them for their service.

Jimmy Niggles has travelled all across Australia enabling free skin checks in conjunction with health professionals at skin check pop up tents. Jimmy is passionate about all of us getting a skin check-up because two in three Australians are likely to get some form of skin cancer before they’re 70, he also had a very dear friend pass away at a young age from skin cancer. I had a skin check at one of his pop up tents whilst his team visited Canberra, and like a lot of us, I had been putting it off and was relieved to get the all-clear. I would encourage all of you to get a skin check as soon as possible.

Whilst reflecting on health, we also marked World Osteoporosis Day on 20 October. Osteoporosis is more common than breast and cervical cancer combined. I would encourage you to ask your doctor for a bone density scan today. A fall could mean a break, and you could lose mobility. Osteoporosis is serious but treatable.

Meeting the National Seafood Industry Leadership program also allowed me to engage with their young leaders, making a big contribution to one of our excellent food industries. Our seafood is world-renowned and our seafood industry is doing us proud.

Not long now until Christmas, so don’t forget to support Go Country for Christmas, and as we are experiencing a terrible bush fire season, please don’t forget to have your bush fire survival plan in place as summer approaches.