Shayne Neumann MP
Federal Member for Blair

Australian Labor
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FOCAL 40th Anniversary


My electorate of Blair is blessed with having many organisations who work tirelessly to improve the lives of people with disability. I speak today of Focal Extended, which this year marks its 40th year of providing service to people with a disability and their families and carers in the Ipswich and West Moreton region. It is a tremendous achievement.

It was my privilege to attend Focal's recent formal dinner at the University of Queensland Ipswich Campus to celebrate that milestone. The keynote speaker was former LNP senator Sue Boyce, who herself has a child with Down syndrome and who has had a longstanding interest in this area. The entertainer that night was Tim McCallum. I have had a lot to do with Tim in his work with MAX Employment, but he is a well-known performer, singer and public speaker. The event saw the launch of the commemorative book entitled 40 Years of FOCAL, edited by Judith Nissen and researched by Alex Tyson. It is a beautifully produced publication detailing the history of Focal and its achievements. It tells about a group of remarkable individuals who work together to transform an idea into a local institution.

Focal originated as what was known as the Challinor Centre, formerly known as a lunatic asylum many decades before, in 1973. In fact, the Challinor Centre is the current site of the University of Queensland Ipswich Campus. An enduring reminder of this remains in Focal's name, which stands for Friends of Challinor Aid League. From its start, Focal was established with a strong executive and significant community support.

I want to congratulate a number of people. I particularly want to congratulate the founding committee people, such as Betty McCrindle and Margaret Blakey, right through to today's committee members, so very ably led by President Roy Henderson and Vice President Tony Swords. I also want to commend Sonja Gilchrist in her role as CEO of Focal. I have had a lot to do with Sonja. She is doing an excellent job in managing the current challenges and planning head for this wonderful organisation.

Focal provides centre based group activities, direct in-home care assistance, an out-of-school-hours care program, and respite and support for families and carers. I congratulate Focal for the work they have done. There would not be a politician in the Ipswich and West Moreton region that has not been lobbied by Focal. Its role has evolved and expanded over many years. I look forward to its continued participation with the National Disability Insurance Scheme. Its services are greatly valued by people in the Ipswich and West Moreton region and I am sure they will play an important role in the National Disability Insurance Scheme as it gets rolled out in Queensland in the years ahead.