Mr BELL (Mount Gambier) (15:56): I rise today to talk about an inspirational person in my electorate, Tessa Deak. Recently at the 7NEWS Young Achiever Awards, Tessa received the Rural Doctors Workforce Agency rural health award. This award recognises the positive input volunteers in regional and rural areas have had and their dedication to those in need in the health service.
Tessa is courageous and, whilst she may suffer from myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) commonly known as chronic fatigue syndrome. She has more than contributed to the community. In year 9, Tessa was diagnosed with ME and, following that diagnosis, it significantly changed her goals and plans for the future. To raise awareness of ME within the local community, Tessa and her mother, Fiona Fulford, hosted an awareness night to shine a light on what it is like to live with ME and what challenges people face when they live with such a chronic illness. This was held in 2018 with the screening of the film Unrest.
Following such a successful event, Tessa did not stop there. She then established a support group, Chronic Illness Support Limestone Coast. This then snowballed into the Wellness and Wellbeing Festival being created, which was held at the City Hall and the Cave Gardens precincts in Mount Gambier. The festival included workshops, presentations, stalls and activities, all showcasing local products, businesses and services which support different aspects of wellbeing. Over 400 people attended the festival.
Tessa has also been volunteering at Headspace at Mount Gambier for the last two years. Through this role, she visits schools as part of a peer education role delivering programs and speeches on mental health. At the present time, Tessa is working hard with the support of the Stand Like Stone Foundation, a philanthropic foundation, to develop a program that will be rolled out in schools, titled Just Relax: Let's Talk About (Dis)Ability.
Tessa contacted me in relation to the program and indicated that the aim was to educate students on disability, accessibility and inclusion and to also empower students to not only see the change that needs to happen but also be the change. Finally, I would like to read a small part of an email which Tessa sent to me in May 2020 and which I think is quite powerful:
We know young people have the capacity to create great change and we see the gap in education around this topic, so we believe engaging with young people is where to start. We want to start a program in schools, educating students on disability awareness and inclusion. We need to change the thoughts and language around the subject, and we need to empower youth to make a change within their school and community.
Tessa once commented that she did not know what she could do with the rest of her life and whether she would ever be able to contribute to society at all. At just 21, Tessa is definitely making a significant contribution and I look forward to hearing more of her achievements in the future, as I am sure there is a lot more to come. Congratulations, Tessa Deak, on your achievements and making sure you are passing knowledge and awareness on to others in our community, and for that we are very grateful.