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Swimming

My Chronicle column this month is about swimming.

Summer’s Over But it’s Still a Great Time to Swim, The Chronicle, 4 March 2014

In almost every Tim Winton novel, there comes a point where the main character has to escape the problems of life, and dives into the water for a swim. The strokes come painfully at first, but after a while, the characters find a rhythm. By the time they leave the water, they’re physically tired and emotionally cleansed.

While my troubles are a good deal easier to solve than Winton’s characters, I can’t help identify with his love of the water. Few things mark summer for me like diving into the crisp calm of a pool on a scorchingly hot day. There’s a sense of leaving the heat behind, and allowing the water to envelop you. Whether you’re a mellow breaststroker, a furious butterflier, or a plodding freestyler, the discipline of a good swim is a rare delight.

Continue reading ‘Swimming’ »

Liveable Canberra

I spoke in parliament today about the new report rating Canberra as Australia’s most liveable city.

Liveable Canberra, 3 March 2014

The member for Canberra and I have long known that this is Australia’s most livable city, but a new report from the Property Council has provided statistical evidence to back up that fundamental truth.

Opposition members interjecting—

Dr LEIGH:  I appreciate the calls of support I received from my own side on this. Canberra is a city that enjoys greater levels of sporting participation and greater levels of community activity. Canberrans are more likely to volunteer their time, more likely to donate their money and more likely to be part of a community group that gives back to their society.

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Closing the Gap – in Jervis Bay

I spoke in parliament about the importance of Closing the Gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities, focusing on the Wreck Bay community that I represent.

Closing the Gap: Prime Minister’s report 2014, 26 February 2014

I rise to speak on Closing the Gap: Prime Minister’s report 2014. Closing the Gap is not a mere slogan; it is a bi-partisan commitment to change lives for the better, and we owe this to generations of Indigenous people. Closing the Gap is about life over death, hope over hopelessness, resilience over ruin. It is an expectation that all Australians should flourish. Being an Indigenous Australian should not mean being marked by disadvantage. We are learning more all the time about the challenges and barriers facing Indigenous Australians. We are making some progress on overcoming them, but there is much more to be done. All of us in this House can make a difference in improving the poor health of Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples when compared to that of the non-Indigenous population.

Continue reading ‘Closing the Gap – in Jervis Bay’ »

Active After-School Communities

I spoke in parliament yesterday about the Active After-School Communities program.

Active After-School Communities, Members’ Statements, 24 February 2014

In the electorate of Fraser, the Active After-School Communities Program is a terrific way of keeping young people engaged with sport. In 2014, a number of schools in my electorate have joined the program: Gold Creek School, Burgmann School, Kingsford Smith School and Maribyrnong Primary School; as well as Emmaus Christian School and Mount Rogers School at the end of last year.

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Struggling Gungahlin Jets have been robbed twice

The Canberra Times today runs an op-ed from me on the Abbott Government’s shabby treatment of the Gungahlin Jets.

Struggling Gungahlin Jets have been robbed twice, Canberra Times, 17 February 2014

Among the guardians of Canberra’s community spirit are the people who keep our sporting clubs running. On scorching days and freezing nights, thousands of volunteers throughout Canberra make sure that there are sporting opportunities for everyone aged four to 94.

These people don’t ask much from the government, but occasionally a small grant can go a long way. One of these programs is Labor’s Building Multicultural Communities program, which gave $66,000 to the Gungahlin Jets to refurbish their clubhouse, and make it more secure.

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Grants on offer for young sports talent – 28 January, 2014

Out on Lake Burley Griffin with members of the Canberra Ice Dragons Paddle Club, January 2014

Call for Local Sporting Champions to step up and apply for grants on offer

Young people can find it difficult to meet the ongoing and significant costs associated with participation at sporting competitions.

The Local Sporting Champions program is designed to provide financial assistance for young people towards the cost of travel, accommodation, uniforms or equipment when competing, coaching or officiating at an official sports event.

The ACT is one of the most active communities in the country, with a sports and recreation participation rate of 80 per cent.

We also have local champions such as Melissa Breen, Anna Flanagan and Caroline Buchanan competing on the world stage, and grants like these help young Canberrans to work towards their dreams.
Grants are worth $500 for individuals and $3000 for teams.

Applications for the next round close on 28 February 2014.

To allocate the latest round of funds for the Fraser electorate, I recently co-judged applications with Australian Dragon Boat President Kel Watt before heading out on the water for a paddle with Canberra’s Ice Dragons Paddle Club (pictured).

To be eligible for the next and subsequent funding rounds you need to be between 12-18 years and have travelled more than 250 km to compete in an endorsed state, national or international competition.

For more information on the Local Sporting Champions program visit the Australian Sports Commission website: www.ausport.gov.au/champions.

Capital Hill – The Three Andrews

On 9 October 2013, I joined host Andrew Greene and Liberal MP Andrew Laming on ABC24′s Capital Hill program. Topics included the importance of supporting jobs (including public sector jobs) and Coalition MPs using entitlements to attend weddings and participate in triathlons.

Here’s the full transcript:

ANDREW GREENE: Joining me to discuss the day is Labor MP Andrew Leigh who’s here in Canberra, and Liberal MP Andrew Laming in Brisbane. It’s going to be a bit confusing but welcome to you both.

ANDREW LEIGH: Thanks Andrew.

ANDREW LAMING: Thank you.

GREENE: Before becoming Prime Minister, Tony Abbott declared there was a budget emergency though he has been reluctant to use the phrase since. The Grattan Institute’s John Daley today told the National Press Club there’s no emergency but it is plenty to be worried about.

JOHN DALEY: But there’s no flashing, blue lights. The Australian government budget is not in cardiac arrest on the operating table needing a triple by-pass to keep it alive. We don’t have that kind of emergency but Australian government budgets are unfit, overweight and smoking and now they have high blood pressure and chest pains and most worryingly, I’d suggest, the patient has gone into denial and is eating more cheese.

GREENE: Well, firstly to you, Andrew Leigh in Canberra, we have seen an IMF report released overnight that again is warning of a slow-down in growth, rising unemployment. The current government is dealing with the legacy of Labor, isn’t it?

LEIGH: The figures we’ve seen out of the IMF are broadly are in line with the Treasury updates before the election so I don’t think there’s anything to be surprised about in this. Clearly, risks in Europe with the banking system, risks in the US caused by the extreme wing of the Republicans pushing the country to the shutdown now and potentially even to a default on October 17th. I’m not sure Mr Abbott would be as congenial towards the Tea Party now as he was last year. But certainly it is not a time to be cutting jobs and Mr Abbott’s pledge to cut 12,000 public service jobs is, I think, badly timed. David Johnston’s suggestion that the Government might break its pledge to exempt defence is even more concerning.

Continue reading ‘Capital Hill – The Three Andrews’ »

Mix 106.3 – 21 August 2013

This morning, Liberal candidate Zed Seselja and I spoke with hosts Rod and Biggzy on Mix 106.3. Topics included risk management, Coalition costings, the sacking of Raiders coach David Furner, and catching Biggzy’s cousin on one of my phonecalls to electors. Here’s a podcast.

Talking politics with 2CC’s Mark Parton – 20 August 2013

I spoke this morning on 2CC with Mark Parton. We discussed how the new UC Sports Hub will benefit Canberra and the region, and why the alternative to acquiring a modest level of debt was dire joblessness for hundreds of thousands of people. Here’s a podcast.

ACT Labor election launch and major investment in regional sports hub

Today I joined my parliamentary colleagues to launch our 2013 election campaign. We also announced $10 million for the second stage of the University of Canberra’s Sports Hub, a new sport and health research, training and administration facility to inspire and engage young people in sport and fitness across the capital region. My thanks to our volunteers and the ACT Labor team including Chris Sant who is running for the second Senate seat and candidate for Hume Michael Pilbrow. Continue reading ‘ACT Labor election launch and major investment in regional sports hub’ »

Battlers and Billionaires Extract in the Daily Telegraph

The Daily Telegraph today extracts a portion of my new book, Battlers and Billionaires: The Story of Inequality in Australia.

Whiff of Inequality in the Land of the Fair Go, Daily Telegraph, 10 July 2013

In 2002, two bombs exploded in Bali night­clubs, killing and injuring hundreds of people. At the local hospital, there was a shortage of painkillers. Graeme Southwick, an Austral­ian doctor on duty, asked patients to assess their own pain levels. He kept being told by patients in the ‘Australian’ ward that they were okay – the person next to them was suffering more.

Coming across this account, the historian John Hirst was reminded of the description of injured Australians in Gallipoli nearly a century earlier. He quotes the official war historian Charles Bean, who describes the suffering and then says, ‘Yet the men never showed better than in these difficulties. The lightly hurt were full of thought for the severely wounded.’ Even in the midst of their own pain, the first instinct of many Australians was to think of those worse off than themselves.

Continue reading ‘Battlers and Billionaires Extract in the Daily Telegraph’ »

Closing the Gap

I spoke in parliament about the Prime Minister’s statement on Closing the Gap.

Prime Minister’s Statement on Closing the Gap, 12 March 2013

It is a pleasure to follow the member for Hasluck in this important debate on closing the gap. He is the only Indigenous member of the House of Representatives and the Senate, which is an indication of one gap that we need to work to close. Were Indigenous Australians to be represented in this place in proportion to the number in the Australian population there would be at least five Indigenous members in parliament and many debates, this one included, would be richer for that. I hope we will see Nova Peris joining the next Senate, but we still will have further to go. It is an indicator of how many of these gaps take too long to close.

I am proud to represent an electorate which is the home of the Ngunnawal people. Often when I am looking for stories of Indigenous Australia I turn to Stories of the Ngunnawal, an excellent book which discusses some of the stories of the Ngunnawal elders. One story by Dorothy Brown Dickson reminds us of how tough it was for some of the Ngunnawal people. Ms Dickson grew up in an Aboriginal reserve in Yass. She refers to how tough life was for the young men. She says:

Continue reading ‘Closing the Gap’ »

Canberra’s Centenary, and the Case for a Bigger ACT Assembly

I spoke today on a bill to give the ACT Assembly the power to set its own size.

Australian Capital Territory (Self-Government) Amendment Bill, 12 March 2013

It is a pleasure to rise to speak on the Australian Capital Territory (Self-Government) Amendment Bill 2013 today, the 100th birthday of Canberra. This morning we had a re-enactment out the front of Parliament House of the ceremony of the laying of the foundation stone. I have here the program for that ceremony, which was held on 12 March 1913. Today’s ceremony aimed to shadow that historic ceremony of 1913, when sheep greatly outnumbered the residents of Canberra. The ceremony this morning acknowledged the rich history of Canberra—not only the political heritage but also the social tapestry of the city. I was very pleased today to hear the member for Stirling speak so warmly of the city that I have the honour to represent in the federal parliament.

Walter Burley Griffin said that he was designing a city for a nation of ‘bold democrats’. To borrow a phrase from Seamus Heaney, I have always thought of Canberra as being the kind of place where hope and history rhyme. In the centenary celebrations, Canberra has been given an opportunity to celebrate but also to remember much of our history. Historian David Headon has produced a series of centenary booklets and centenary director Robyn Archer has made sure that history has been interwoven into the celebrations.

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Canberra Cavalry

I spoke in parliament today about the Canberra Cavalry, and argued that mine is the sportiest electorate in Australia.

Canberra Cavalry, 14 February 2013

On Saturday night the Canberra Cavalry blasted Perth Heat out of the park to win the title of Australian Baseball League champions. Baseball may be a game that is played on the southside, but it is a game close to my heart. As somebody who enjoys numbers and sport and also the enthusiasm with which the sport is played, it is great to see a Canberra team coming out on top. In particular I pay tribute to Canberra’s first baseman, Aaron Sloan, who was named MVP of the season, hitting .625 and scoring three runs of the weekend. Canberra Cavalry are building a local fan base.

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Sky AM Agenda – 11 February 2013

On Sky AM Agenda today, I spoke with host Kieran Gilbert and Liberal Senator Mitch Fifield about why a profits-based mining tax has volatile revenues, why Labor is committed to seeing low-income earners pay no tax on their superannuation contributions, and the importance of politicians not meddling in criminal investigations.

Menslink

I spoke in parliament today about Canberra charity Menslink.

Menslink, 6 February 2013

Last week I was part of a local team that helped to raise funds and awareness for Menslink at the Prime Minister’s XI cricket match at Manuka Oval. Menslink is a Canberra charity that provides counselling and mentoring services to young men. It recognises that while both young men and women suffer from anxiety and depression, the rates of young men who reach out for help are far too low. Only about half of all young men who need assistance reach out for it. There was an overwhelming response from the public to Menslink and a recognition of the important work that Menslink does. The crowd was asked to wear blue in support of Menslink and many did. As a result of more than 100 volunteers who worked the crowd at Manuka oval, six new volunteer mentors have become involved. Four young men and their families have made contact with Menslink and the charity raised almost $5,000. The main purpose of Menslink’s involvement on the day was to raise awareness, but it was pleasing that a number of corporate sponsors and individuals pledged further support for Menslink in the future.

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Social Entrepreneurship

I spoke in parliament yesterday about social entrepreneurship in Canberra, discussing a breakfast meeting with social entrepreneurs and the Ben Donohue Walk and Run for Fun.

Social Entrepreneurs, 27 November 2012

On 16 October this year I held a breakfast meeting with a small but passionate group of local social entrepreneurs: Bradley Carron-Arthur, Courtney Slone, Katrina Marson, Melanie Poole, Tony Shields and Ben Moody. The aim of the breakfast was to bring together these social entrepreneurs to share their stories, experiences and their ideas for solving some of the challenges they face. I hope in the future they can act as a brains trust for one another and for other budding social entrepreneurs. Their projects range from coordinating volunteers and boosting mental health awareness to improving Australia’s international development efforts. I would like to thank them for their ideas and their efforts to assist those in need and for helping to build social capital. Social entrepreneurs are people who take an idea and with passion and persistence bring to fruition enterprises that assist those in need.

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Parliament Apologises to Peter Norman

Parliament today passed my motion of apology to Peter Norman (with no dissenting voices). Here’s the motion, with the third paragraph tweaked into a more general apology than originally drafted:

DR LEIGH: That this House:

(1) recognises the extraordinary athletic achievements of the late Peter Norman, who won the silver medal in the 200 metres sprint running event at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, in a time of 20.06 seconds, which still stands as the Australian record;

(2) acknowledges the bravery of Peter Norman in donning an Olympic Project for Human Rights badge on the podium, in solidarity with African-American athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos, who gave the ‘black power’ salute;

(3) apologises to Peter Norman for the treatment he received upon his return to Australia, and the failure to fully recognise his inspirational role before his untimely death in 2006; and

(4) belatedly recognises the powerful role that Peter Norman played in furthering racial equality.

Here’s my speech to parliament in moving the original motion. My additional remarks on the day the motion was passed are below.

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Talking with Alan Jones about Peter Norman

Peter Norman

Sometimes you get to do something in parliament that puts a lump in your throat. Seeing the smile on the face of 91 year-old Thelma Norman after parliament debated my motion about her late son was one of those moments. The other speakers were Melissa Parke, John Alexander, Graham Perrett, Dan Tehan, Rob Oakeshott and Steve Irons. All spoke poignantly about different aspects of Peter Norman’s extraordinary life (click on their names to read their speeches). Here’s mine.

Peter Norman, 20 August 2012

Iconic images emerge from every Olympic Games.

‘Golden girl’ Betty Cuthbert taking home three gold medals in Melbourne.

Kieren Perkins’ stunning performance from lane 8 in Atlanta.

Cathy Freeman carrying Australian and Aboriginal flags after winning the 400m in Sydney.

But perhaps the most powerful image of the modern Olympics is this one.

Life magazine and Le Monde have declared it one of the most influential images of the 20th century.

An image of three brave athletes at the 1968 Mexico City Games making a statement on racial equality.

One of them was Australia’s Peter Norman.

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Big Bang Ballers

I spoke in parliament yesterday about the ‘Big Bang Ballers’ program, working with disadvantaged youth in Australia and overseas.

Big Bang Ballers, 16 August 2012

Last Saturday night it was my pleasure to attend the Gunners versus Bandits game at the ACT Basketball Centre, part of the South East Australian Basketball League competition. I was invited there as a guest of Tony Jackson, the CEO of Basketball ACT, because it was a special evening with all proceeds going to the Big Bang Ballers campaign to use basketball to fight youth poverty and social disadvantage around the world. In Afghanistan the Big Bang Ballers are currently providing basketball courts to young Afghani girls who until recently could not even consider sport, let alone play it.

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Apology to Peter Norman

Next Monday, parliament will be debating my motion to apologise to the late Peter Norman, whose courageous stance for racial equality got him blocked from competing in subsequent Olympics. Here’s the motion:

DR LEIGH: To move—That this House:

(1) recognises the extraordinary athletic achievements of the late Peter Norman, who won the silver medal in the 200 metres sprint running event at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, in a time of 20.06 seconds, which still stands as the Australian record;

(2) acknowledges the bravery of Peter Norman in donning an Olympic Project for Human Rights badge on the podium, in solidarity with African-American athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos, who gave the ‘black power’ salute;

(3) apologises to Peter Norman for the wrong done by Australia in failing to send him to the 1972 Munich Olympics, despite repeatedly qualifying; and

(4) belatedly recognises the powerful role that Peter Norman played in furthering racial equality.

Talking GPs with Mark Parton on 2CC

Mark Parton hosted me on 2CC this morning to talk about my GP survey. We also had a brief chat about the Olympics, as well as Tony Abbott’s hypocrisy on free speech.

London Olympics

I moved a private member’s motion in parliament today wishing our Olympians and Paralympians well in London.

2012 London Olympics
25 June 2012

To move—That this House:
(1) notes:
(a) that the 2012 London Olympics will take place from 27 July to 12 August and the Paralympics will take place from 29 August to 9 September, with London becoming the first city to host the modern Olympics on three occasions; and
(b) the diversity of the Australian team, comprising athletes from all parts of Australia;
(2) recognises the dedication and hard work of the extraordinary athletes that make up the Australian Olympic and Paralympic teams, and their coaches, friends and family;
(3) acknowledges the unique role played by the Australian Institute of Sport in preparing athletes for the Olympics and Paralympics; and
(4) wishes our athletes well in London.

Fraser is the sportiest electorate in Australia. In any Olympic sport, I would pit my electorate against the electorate of any other person in this place. Of course, it helps to have the Australian Institute of Sport! But it is also true that Canberra has plenty of non-elite athletes. Over 40 per cent of the ACT public plays some form of organised sport. The nation’s capital is also its sporting capital.

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Intergenerational Disadvantage in Canberra

I spoke in parliament about my latest community conversation on disadvantage, which focused on intergenerational poverty.

Fraser Community Summit, 31 May 2012

Every six months or so I hold a conversation to talk about disadvantage in the Fraser electorate. On Tuesday, 29 May I was pleased to welcome 10 representatives from local community sector groups up to Parliament House for an early breakfast conversation. I call it a community summit, but really it is more of an informal conversation with people I regard as my brains trust on poverty.

The focus of this conversation was on intergenerational disadvantage and how to stop the cycle of poverty from replicating itself across generations. One of the attendees at the summit made the point that disadvantage itself is now more complex than it was in the past and is often interrelated with issues such as mental illness, poor health, substance abuse, domestic violence and addiction. Another attendee told the story of a child whose parents were addicted to hard drugs and who was never given anything by his parents; all he had were the things that he had found or stolen. Another spoke about families who eat McDonald’s every meal because it is simpler to get takeaway than to prepare a meal. Attendees were concerned about the impact of imprisonment on the children of those who are behind bars.

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Celebrating Volunteers

Andrew Leigh and Grace Gill with Local Sporting Champions

I spoke in parliament last night about some of the many extraordinary volunteers in Canberra.

Volunteering in the ACT
22 May 2012

Over recent decades, Australians have lost social capital. We are less likely to be civically engaged in our communities; we are more disconnected than we once were. But this does not change the fact that there are many great volunteers in Australia, and no part of the country is more likely to volunteer than here in the ACT. Tonight I want to share with the House three stories of volunteering in the ACT worth celebrating.

Volunteering Awards

Last week I attended the 2012 ACT Volunteer of the Year Awards. Across a wide range of awards the contribution that volunteers make to our community and our economy was recognised. The 2012 ACT Volunteer of the Year was Dr Mary Webb. Nominated by Multiple Sclerosis Ltd, Mary has provided volunteer service to those people in the Canberra community with MS. Over the years, she has also made a valuable contribution through her service to various advisory bodies.

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Local Sporting Champions

I had the pleasure of identifying local junior sporting champions to receive $500 (individuals) or $3000 (teams) grants towards their competing in state and national competions outside of the ACT. Bronson Harrison from the Canberra Raiders assisted me and commented on the high standard of local junior athletes.

Ride for the Little Black Dress

I spoke in parliament last night about ‘Ride for the Little Black Dress’, a fundraising event organised by the Jodi Lee Foundation to raise money for and awareness of bowel cancer. The ride is named because Jodi Lee – who died two years ago – loved to wear little black dresses.

Ride for the Little Black Dress
13 March 2012

Last Saturday, it was my pleasure to join a group of men who were riding for the Jodi Lee Foundation’s ‘Ride for the Little Black Dress’ from Canberra to Melbourne. The ride set off from the forecourt of Parliament House and among the leaders were Nick Lee, husband of the late Jodi Lee who died two years ago; his friend Andrew Poole; cancer doctor David Rangiah and ACT Chief Minister Katy Gallagher. It was a sunny day but we were speaking about one of the darkest topics in Australia.

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Brad Runs North

I spoke in parliament today about 22-year old Canberran Bradley Carron-Arthur, and his 4000 km run to raise money for and awareness of mental illness.

Brad Runs North
1 March 2012

Running is one of my favourite pastimes and over the years I have managed to put in a reasonable number of kilometres, but nothing like the local Canberra boy Bradley Carron-Arthur. Twenty-two year old Brad is running from Canberra to the far tip of Australia, past Cairns, past Cooktown, ending east of Punsand in Cape York, a journey of 4,000 kilometres. Brad is raising money for the Australian Foundation for Mental Health Research. To date he has raised $9,450 of his $20,000 target. Having left Canberra on New Year’s Day this year, Brad has so far travelled over 2,284 kilometres. According to the latest update two days ago, he had covered 22 kilometres that day and he was in Bundaberg. His trip has not been without its dramas. Apparently the batteries in his headlamp died just before he had to swim across a swollen creek that was cutting across the road. He made it across and arrived safely in Bundaberg, but I do not envy him with the rain that is going on at the moment.

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Promoting Cancer Research and Treatment

I spoke in parliament today about cancer research and the Ben Donohoe Run and Walk for Fun.

Ben Donohoe Fun Run, Capital Region Cancer Centre
24 November 2011

Ben Donohoe was a sports-loving, caring and intelligent nine-year-old boy who lived with his parents, Robyn and Peter, and siblings, Luke, Lauren and Kate. An active boy who particularly loved cricket and soccer, he played every sport. He also loved his music and would sing and dance around his bedroom to the sounds of Shrek, Robbie Williams and Shannon Noll. Ben attended Latham Primary School and was in year 4 when he was diagnosed with a brain tumour on 10 June 2005. When he became sick, his mother Robyn would often ask him if there was anything she could get for him and Ben would simply say, ‘Just a cuddle.’ That is a testament to his caring nature. Despite an operation to remove the tumour and despite Ben’s determination, the tumour was too aggressive. Ben passed away on 2 August 2005, less than eight weeks after being diagnosed.

Continue reading ‘Promoting Cancer Research and Treatment’ »