Page 520 - Week 02 - Wednesday, 23 March 2022
education campaign to improve the community’s understanding of cardiac arrest and to increase awareness of and training in CPR and the use of defibrillators.
The reason for my motion today is that resuscitation saves lives. St John Ambulance ACT estimates that ready access to defibrillators could save about 100 lives each year in Canberra. In a speech in this place on 23 November last year, Minister Steel stated:
One person injured or one person dying on our roads is one too many.
Surely the same philosophy applies to our hardworking schoolteachers and public servants—that one teacher or public servant dying from cardiac arrest is one too many. That is why this notice of motion is so important—because defibrillators are often the difference between life and death. It is as stark as that.
St John Ambulance has been calling for defibrillators in our schools and government workplaces for some time. Minister Steel responded on 13 January last year to a letter about the issue from St John Ambulance ACT CEO Adrian Watts. Unfortunately it was not the response Mr Watts and his army of dedicated St John Ambulance volunteers wanted to hear. Minister Steel revealed that ACT government directorates have defibrillators installed “in a number of ACT government occupied buildings” and “some of these are publicly accessible”—only some. I guess it is the luck of the draw as to whether you are fortunate enough to work in one of the “number of ACT government occupied buildings” with defibrillators. As politicians we are among the lucky ones, with a defibrillator located in our workplace, the Legislative Assembly, on the ground floor near reception.
Unfortunately the picture for our government schools is not good. Minister Steel revealed in his letter that, as of October 2020, only 38 of the 89 public schools in Canberra have defibrillators. I salute the dedicated P&C bodies that have fundraised to install their own defibrillators. But given the thousands of Canberrans who visit our schools every day—teachers, support staff, students, parents, tradies, grandparents and others—this is not good enough. Government leadership is required. Government action is required.
It is also a fact that young Australians, our kids, also die from sudden cardiac arrest, often while competing on sports fields—providing further urgency to having defibrillators in all schools, as is necessary. As Poppy Brown from the Red Cross put it to me, there may be undetected heart issues among students, but on a hot day, with our kids running around the oval or participating in school athletics carnivals, tragedy can occur. Our schools must be ready to respond with an onsite AED that is prominent and accessible to the whole community.
Before concluding, I want to turn to another important part of my notice of motion, calling on the government to examine installing defibs on all our ACTION buses. The 2020-21 annual report for Transport Canberra and City Services reveals that we have 455 operational buses in our fleet. Having onboard AEDs makes sense and is a measure the government should consider.
In his letter to Mr Watts, Minister Steel notes that there are defibrillators in seven of the Transport Canberra incident response vehicles, which are located at every major