By Marvin Thomps – researched from http://www.melaniegibbonsholsworthy.com
MP for Menai Melanie Gibbons has declared early on – during her inaugural speech, to be accurate – that her main advocacy for this term lies in providing support to people with disability and mental illness. “I will judge my time as a parliamentary representative and the performance of this government by how successful we are in supporting those living with disabilities,” she said in her inaugural speech in June 2011.“The benchmark must be by how much we have improved their lives and delivered greater independence.”
Her pet projects have remained aligned with this vision more than two years after she has outlined her priorities. The two pivotal roles she now holds accurately reflect on her chosen advocacies. Gibbons is an Acting Speaker of the Legislative Assembly and Deputy Chair of the Committee on Children and Young People, and is a Co-Chair of the Parliamentary Friends of Mental Illness Group.
For local political observers, the long-standing commitment of Gibbons to help heighten support for people with physical and mental disabilities can be anchored to her years of professional and personal experience with related health conditions, as well as her electorate’s present situation. This decision is seen as a natural route for her to take, after she had earlier revealed how she had seen first-hand “the unfairness and difficulties that the elderly and many people with disabilities face on a daily basis.”
Improving the lives of the disadvantaged is an advocacy close to her heart, and the following reasons may have also strengthened her commitment on healthcare, mental health and disability issues:
She has a personal stake on the issue. Gibbons has said that one of her life heroes and main inspiration for her principles is her uncle Bourke Gibbons. Bourke has cerebral palsy, is a dual paralympian, and is described by the local paper as an “amazing fund raiser.” Her uncle’s influence on her is seen early in her career. Prior to the elections, she worked for the charity Technical Aid to the Disabled.More recently, she served as chair of the Sutherland Shire Council’s Aged and Access Committee.
There is a significant autism rate in her community. Records show that more than 50% of children with autism from NSW are living within a 40km radius of Liverpool. Gibbons is aware that autism is a collective concern, and that helping affected individuals is also providing support to the community. “Not only is the child with autism affected but so is his or her family, and in turn, the community,” she said.
Local support groups need support. “Funds are vital to not-for-profit organisations… that rely on the generosity of the community,” she said. On behalf of Premier Barry O’Farrell, Gibbons has presented Liverpool-based Autism Advisory and Support Service a $5,000 grant to help the release of an autism awareness DVD in April 2012. Since then, she has continued to work for the improvement of local healthcare and more support for medical workers and professionals.