Page 2037 - Week 06 - Tuesday, 21 June 2011

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In 1993 it became clear to me that I needed to be here in Canberra where my ex-wife had moved with our children. She had grown up in Canberra and many of her family members are Canberra residents. I bought a dental practice in Turner and later moved to Civic. This financial commitment sharpened my appreciation of the ups and downs of running a business with employee relations, overdraft financing and cash flow management. I sold the practice in 2009 and stopped working there in January this year in order to make a career change; although I was not expecting the one which brought me here today.

Outside business my community involvement in Canberra was initially with the ACT branch of the Public Health Association. In 1997 the ACT government, under Kate Carnell, decided to establish an Indigenous education consultative body. I applied to join this body because of my commitment to the improvement of educational outcomes for Indigenous children. I was elected as the inaugural chairperson.

During my term as chairperson the consultative body signed a compact between ACT Indigenous families and the Department of Education and Community Services. This agreement acknowledged the past and set out significant commitments by Indigenous families and the department to achieve improvement in Indigenous education.

I helped found the Indigenous Dentists Association of Australia in 2004 and was the inaugural president. The principal objective is the promotion of good oral health for Indigenous Australians through supporting Indigenous dentists and dental students. With no resources, other than the personal sacrifice of its members, the association has been able to influence policy development at the highest level. Oral health goals are now integral to national Indigenous health policy.

For the last two years I have been Chairman of the ACT and Southern Highlands Division of the Australian Dental Association. I am proud of two initiatives which this division instigated. Firstly, in conjunction with the Salvation Army and ACT Health we have reached out to a group of people here in the ACT who cannot afford to seek dental treatment.

I want to pause here to acknowledge the work of volunteer dentist Dr Colin Seaniger, and I also want to acknowledge Liz Dawson, whose untiring efforts have supported this program.

The second initiative has been about introducing dental assistants into the school-based apprenticeship scheme. This meant that dental practices could take on year 11 or 12 students who want to be dental assistants—they work part time, continue with their year 11 or 12 schooling and attend CIT for the certificate III qualification. This is a great opportunity for Canberra dentists to find a solution to the perennial problem of staff shortages. I enjoyed my visit to one of these CIT classes last week.

I am a strong supporter of the arts in Canberra, especially through my role as a board member of the Capital Arts Patrons Organisation. CAPO has raised nearly $2 million over the last 28 years to support Canberra artists. This effort is the direct result of generous donations by Canberra businesses and artists.

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