Reflecting on a great year for MS Australia

2014 is coming to a rapid end and what a year it has been for MS Australia.

Early this year we shared with you our official National Position Statements. These reflect key issues of importance to the MS community and have been used to drive our direction throughout this year.

www.msaustralia.org.au/were-here-for-you/what-we-do

The year commenced with a newly appointed Board Chair for MS Australia, Mr David Barnes AM, former Board Chair of MSWA was elected after the conclusion of Mr Rob Hubbard’s term as MSA Board Chair.

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Mr David Barnes

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Mr Rob Hubbard

We marked World MS Day in May with numerous events around the country raising funds and awareness about living with multiple sclerosis. MS Australia marked the occasion with a morning tea at Parliament House with the Parliamentary Friends of MS – pushing for more support for people with MS. A highlight of the event included the announcement of a new Co-Chair, Liberal Senator David Bushby from Tasmania.

Advocates had the opportunity to speak with members of Parliament and Senator Lundy addresses the event.

Advocates had the opportunity to speak with members of Parliament and Senator Lundy addresses the event.

2014 saw the welcoming of our new National Advocates Coordinator, Andrew Potter. Over the past several months, Andrew has done an outstanding job at providing leadership and management for the National Advocates group, ensuring the ongoing success and growth of the Program. Andrew is highly respected by his colleagues and national Advocates. He has taken on the role with an energy and enthusiasm that we all feel and admire.

MS Day. Senator Kate Lundy and Sen David Bushby and other politicians meet with MS sufferers and carers. 27 May 2014 Parliament House Canberra. Image David Foote-AUSPIC

Andrew Potter at Parliament House

The Federal Government’s Budget, announced in May, had key elements impacting those affected by MS. The introduction of the NDIS has been strongly supported from MS Australia. The Disability Support Pension (DSP), however, is a key issue of concern. MS Australia has taken a strong stand against the plan for people under 35 who access the DSP to complete periodic medial assessment to determine their eligibility for the scheme.

Through our advocacy efforts, our position that was opposed to the introduction of the Medicare co-payment was promoted. Such additional costs make it harder for people affected by MS to receive rebates for high out-of-pocket costs which poses barriers and challenges to a timely diagnosis and receiving appropriate medicines. We have recently called on the Federal Government to protect people living with MS in light of changes to the co-payment proposal, which does not exempt those with chronic conditions.

At MSA we continue to be vigilant in our advocacy initiatives, with various meetings with politicians and key decision makers to ensure the voice of 23,000 Australians with MS is heard.

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National Advocates at Parliament House

MS Australia wrote letters to all Federal Members of Parliament (252 in total) highlighting our concerns about the 2014-15 Budget and how it may impact those living with MS. We were delighted to receive many encouraging responses from politicians, to which some have indicated they will take up the issues we have raised. The annual National Advocates Conference in Canberra late this year which was a productive session for all involved. The Advocates agreed on future priorities and opportunities for advocacy and campaigning. They also had the chance to meet with key decision makers and have arranged separate meetings to further discuss issues affecting those with MS.

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Jenny Wallis, Suzanne Hadley and Lynne Smith at Parliament House

Last but not least, MSA was proud to announce winners of the John Studdy Award, MS Australia’s highest accolade. The deserving couple, Katrina and Mike Hemingway have been strong supporters and advocates of MSA for many years. Among their many fundraising and awareness activities, they recently walked across England raising more than $230,000 to fund the fight towards a cure.

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Katrina and Mike Hemingway

Finally, with great pride, I take the opportunity to thank the incredible team at MS Australia, whom I work with. It is timely to acknowledge each of you for your hard work throughout the year and recognise all that has been delivered to meet the annual performance goals to support of those people around the country affected by multiple sclerosis.

Whatever celebrations you and your family partake in, the team at MS Australia and I wish you a happy and safe holiday period. We look forward to another great year in 2015 and making a difference to the lives of those we advocate for.

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