ADJOURNMENT; Australian Health Humanitarian Aid

October 16, 2017

Mr HAYES (FowlerChief Opposition Whip) (19:40): In the worlds of Nelson Mandela:

Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity, it is an act of justice. Like Slavery and Apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings.

Mandela's words capture the spirit of a remarkable organisation in my electorate called the Australian Health Humanitarian Aid, which goes by the acronym AHHA. AHHA is made up of a team of dedicated doctors, optometrists, dentists and volunteers who work in collaboration with the Rotary Club of Liverpool West and regularly visit Vietnam and Cambodia to treat the poor and those who are unable to obtain medical assistance.

Following extensive planning and fundraising, in August this year a team of 120 AHHA volunteers travelled to Phnom Penh to perform medical procedures for disadvantaged people in various villages throughout Cambodia. With the help of their in-country partners, the Khmer Sight Foundation, treatment was provided to hundreds of patients who, due to poverty or remoteness, had not been able to receive appropriate medical or dental attention. Screening in Cambodia had been carried out in advance, with those patients selected being mainly the elderly, orphans, and children with special needs. The AHHA team faced a new and rather unforeseen setback in the form of major flooding and monsoonal conditions. While this made it difficult for patients to be transferred from outlying areas, the AHHA team remained optimistic, committed and worked tirelessly to provide the much-needed assistance. The eye and dental teams operated from the local hospital and university. Patients came from far and wide. Waiting rooms were full of patients being prepared for eye surgery or dental procedures.

The AHHA team also travelled to remote villages to provide medical examinations and treatment. The remote villages were mainly occupied by stateless people, who are not recognised by either the Cambodian or the Vietnamese governments. The conditions in these villages were dire and resembled, as we would perceive them, refugee camps.

In addition to the medical and dental treatment, special humanitarian assistance was also rendered. It has always been a key aspect and main motivation of the AHHA's field trips over many years to be able to improve the living conditions of the poor and disadvantaged. Knowledge transfer was also a significant part of the focus of the 2017 AHHA field trip. Local doctors and students worked alongside AHHA volunteers in surgical theatres, as well as in consulting rooms, learning how to use new medical technologies and procedures and gaining hands-on experience to improve patient outcomes and care. Seminars were conducted by the AHHA team, where they provided information on the latest medical and dental procedures to university students and members of the local medical profession. It is hoped that the benefits gained by the university students and local professionals from these seminars will be passed on to their colleagues and applied in the future treatment of patients. Due to the dedicated AHHA volunteers and the Rotary Club of Liverpool West, many Cambodians now have a new lease on life and a real future. They can once more be an active and productive member of their local villages and communities, but, more importantly, they have regained their sense of self-esteem.

During the 2017 mission, AHHA provided 354 eye surgeries, 1,362 dental procedures and 800 GP consultations, and distributed 200 prescription glasses and over a thousand sunglasses. The humanitarian aid team have also provided 600 water filters in Cambodia and 1,176 water filters in Vietnam in addition to the distribution of food parcels and financial donations.

Although we are not immune to health issues here in Australia, most of us are fortunate to have the information and resources that allow for early detection and effective treatment. Many people around the world are less fortunate. I thank Dr William Trinh and his dedicated team. They are truly making a difference for the better in our world.