The Hon. PAUL GREEN [4.07 p.m.]: Since being formed as an Australian children’s charity in 1988 the Starlight Children’s Foundation has brightened the lives of seriously ill and hospitalised children and their families throughout Australia. It has also brightened the life of my son. Living with illness or injury can place an enormous strain on children and their families. The pain, loneliness and isolation that sick children feel dominate their lives and they often miss out on normal experiences that healthy children take for granted.
The Starlight Children’s Foundation provides positive distraction and entertainment for seriously, chronically or terminally ill and hospitalised children to take their minds off the pain, stress and isolation caused by their illness and treatment. The foundation provides programs integral to the total care of seriously ill children. While health professionals focus on treating an illness, Starlight is there to lift the spirits of children, giving them an opportunity to laugh, play and be children again, to have fun and to connect with other children through entertainment programs within and outside the hospital environment. It would have been good for me as a 12-year-old if such a program had been in place when I was in hospital for two months.
The Starlight Wish program of the Starlight Foundation helps to make children’s magical dreams come true. Children aged between four and 18 years who have critical, chronic or terminal illnesses qualify for a Starlight wish. Children are referred to Starlight through their social workers, doctors, nurses or allied health professionals. The Starlight Children’s Foundation also runs a number of other programs to bring joy and relief to ill children. The Starlight Express Rooms are high-tech interactive entertainment rooms in major paediatric hospitals with Captain Starlight as the catalyst for fun. And he is fun. I joined in with my child and Captain Starlight did a great job.
These rooms provide a haven for children to forget about their illness for a short time. Starlight Fun Centres are mobile entertainment units that wheel right to the bedside of a hospitalised child, bringing hours of fun and laughter, with many pre-loaded games and movies to enjoy. Captain Starlight is the children’s entertainer, and the catalyst for fun, magic and mayhem. Captain Starlight hits the road in the Starlight Express Van, visiting children in remote, regional and metropolitan hospitals around Australia. The Starlight Escapes program provides tickets to events, shows and activities, giving opportunities to children and their families to have fun times together.
Livewire, powered by Starlight, is dedicated to meeting the needs of adolescents—and their siblings—living with a serious illness, chronic health condition or disability. It consists of two programs, Livewire.org.au, a safe and supportive online community for 10- to 20-year-olds where members can connect and share experiences with others who understand what they are going through, and Livewire In-Hospital, a program transforming the hospital experience of adolescents through meaningful activities that enhance their personal development. This youth-targeted program gives young people and their siblings opportunities to experiment with their creativity, connect with one another or simply hang out with other teens.
Starlight does not receive government funding and therefore relies completely on donations from generous members of the community to fund their life-changing work. Through community fundraising, in 2013 the Starlight Children’s Foundation was able to bring relief to 130,000 seriously ill children, young people and their families. The foundation was also able to grant over 460 wishes in 2013, including princesses, puppies and snow adventures. During some of the most difficult times of their lives, sick children were given hope and something to look forward to, something to distract them from illness and treatments. Also in 2013, over 20,000 connections with teens were made. Livewire has been supporting seriously ill adolescents in an online capacity since 2008. In 2013 it was able to fill the gap in support for young people in hospitals as well.
Captain Starlight’s activities in the Starlight Express Room and in wards have continued to grow and reach more children than ever before. Indeed, 26 new Captain Starlight and 150 new Starlight Express Room volunteers joined the Starlight team to put a smile on the faces of over 113,000 patients and their siblings so that they could have a reprieve from treatment. The Starlight Children’s Foundation is a wonderful organisation, doing very important work. Illness, especially chronic or terminal illness, can be emotionally debilitating, both for the sufferer and for their families. The ability to bring relief during difficult times to children who suffer illness is a great gift. The Christian Democratic Party congratulates the Starlight Children’s Foundation on its wonderful and significant work and commends it to the House.