Biotoxin-related illness in Australia

Thursday, 18 October 2018

I too rise to endorse the seven recommendations of the report into the inquiry into biotoxin related illness in Australia as part of the work of the Standing Committee on Health,

Aged Care and Sport. I would really like to thank committee members, the chair and the secretariat for their
work on this inquiry and for this report. May I also thank the Minister for Health for his referral of this particular
issue to the committee. Throughout the inquiry, the committee received nearly 142 submissions and 39 exhibits,
and heard from countless professionals in the medical, construction and mould remediation spaces at our public
hearings.


There is so much that can actually be said about this report and the recommendations, but, to be honest, it's the
stories behind each and every submission that was received that are the real reason this report is being tabled
and the reason that the committee has made such strong recommendations. After sharing my story regarding my
own experience of biotoxin related illness last year, I was contacted by hundreds of Australians, sharing their
own stories. Certainly, that continued even after the announcement of this inquiry. Many people along the way
shared with me their doubts and their concerns that an inquiry of this type would not validate their experiences
of suffering with CIRS-like illness. Yet the committee heard story after story of people who are suffering. As the
chair has just indicated, some really heartbreaking stories were heard. We also heard of their struggle in being
believed and we heard of their challenging road towards a diagnosis. Many people recounted their experience of
bouncing from doctor to doctor, with no answers and yet with a debilitating, complex condition. This was really
a common theme, and I'm pleased to be able to say that I really believe this report validates those experiences. I
think it does let people who are suffering and who are really struggling with this particular condition know that
they are being heard and that they are being listened to.


I'm so pleased about two recommendations in response to the hearing of the committee and the submissions
received in particular. Recommendation 5 of the report recommends that the Department of Health review current
processes around treatment and consider guidelines relating to the treatment of complex conditions such as CIRS.
Recommendation 7, particularly, goes further, recommending that the Department of Health work with patient
groups, health bodies and medical professionals to develop clinical guidelines for GPs around the diagnosis,
treatment and management of conditions such as CIRS-like illnesses. This is a strong recommendation and I'm
pleased, because I really do believe that having clear guidelines for treatment will benefit so many who are
struggling with this condition.


It's certainly my hope that through the work of this inquiry those people who currently are suffering can be
assured that not only will they be believed but that there will be a plan for diagnosis and treatment. This is
certainly the first step, but one of the things that the report also found was that many professionals in the medical
space appearing before the committee agreed that there was a lack of evidence and research. There was also
a consensus that there was need for further research. That's why I also endorse recommendation 6, outlining a
recommendation that the Australian government commission the National Health and Medical Research Council
to conduct further research into CIRS and related symptoms, with a view to better inform medical professionals
and to support the work outlined in recommendation 7.


A number of submissions were made in relation to the challenge of remediation, about water-damaged buildings
and a lack of consensus and clarity on a consistent approach to that. That is why I believe that recommendations
2, 3 and 4 go some way towards helping address those issues. I recognise that a lot of these issues are state and
territory responsibilities, but this report points to that and particularly looks at further research into the adequacy
of building codes and standards related to the prevention and remediation of dampness and mould in buildings.
Finally, I again place on record my thanks to the Minister for Health for his reference to the committee, and
for his ongoing personal support in relation to my own journey, and for his work in the health space. We don't
know the exact number of Australians living with CIRS, but I do hope that as a result of the recommendations
included in this report we might have a greater understanding of this illness and of those who are suffering so
that they can be well.


I would encourage and urge the government to consider very carefully these recommendations and support them,
particularly those recommendations around developing guidelines for GPs and the need for greater research into
this issue. I commend the report to the House.
Debate adjourned.

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