The Monaro’s Bronnie Taylor speaks to the NSW Assisted Dying Bill

NSW Nationals MLC, Bronnie Taylor on the family farm near Nimmitabel. Photo credit: https://twitter.com/bronnietaylor
NSW Nationals MLC, Bronnie Taylor on the family farm near Nimmitabel. Photo credit: https://twitter.com/bronnietaylor

It’s been an emotional day in one half of the New South Wales Parliament, with Members of the Legislative Council, AKA the upper house, speaking to the “Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2017.”

Introduced by Nationals MP Trevor Khan, the legislation would allow terminally ill patients to take action that would cause their death with the assistance of doctors.

Following a similar Bill currently before the Victorian Parliament, under the proposed NSW law, only patients over the age of 25 and those expected to die within 12 months would be able to legally take their life.

The proposal is that patients must be assessed by a psychologist or psychiatrist and have their decision signed off on by two medical practitioners, including a specialist.

It’s action that can be challenged by close family of the patient in the Supreme Court.

Party leaders have given all MPs a conscience vote on the issue, but for it to progress to the lower house – the domain of local’s like Andrew Constance and John Barilaro, the Bill first needs to pass the upper house.

The Monaro’s Bronnie Taylor sits in the upper house and spoke to the Bill from her perspective as a nurse.

“The fact is that all the money in the world thrown at palliative care will not be able to help everyone and anyone who says otherwise is simply not speaking the truth,” Mrs Taylor told parliament.

Speaking to About Regaional later in the day, Mrs Taylor said, “I am very disappointed that this legislation was defeated by one vote tonight. I found it a difficult day.

“I respect everyone has their own opinions but I am absolutely convinced that this is a good Bill and should have passed.

“My heart goes out to all those that so desperately wanted to die with dignity which they so deserve,” Mrs Taylor said.

Read and watch Bronnie Taylor’s full speech to parliament below…

I understand that the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2017 is an emotive issue for everyone so I take this opportunity to thank everyone in the Chamber for the respect shown during this process.

We all come from different places, we all have different beliefs but we are all here to do the best we can.

I genuinely believe we all try to do our best, albeit in very different ways. I have thought long and hard about what I wanted to say today.

I have consulted widely with many people. I have strong connections with people in the health industry in many different professions.

I am conscious that many members wish to speak today so I will attempt to keep my contribution brief and to the point.

I still think of myself—and I always will—as a nurse. I love and value the profession; it was so very good to me.

I speak as someone who has walked the walk and talked the talk. I spent more than 20 years as a nurse before I entered this place just over 2½ years ago, all of that time specialising in cancer care, oncology, with eight years as a clinical nurse specialist in palliative care.

We all have our own stories of death and dying.

On this day, World Pancreatic Cancer Day, I remember my dad, Ward Washington, who died from a horrible insidious disease.

Dad lived in Sydney next to one of the best hospitals in the world but it did not equate to him getting the best palliative care—something for which I can vouch.

My father was a devout Catholic and I do not think he would have chosen the option of this legislation if it were available to him.

But it leads me to a point that has been talked about in the media—that the answer to all of this must be better palliative care and that access to good palliative care depends on one’s postcode.

That simply and most definitely is not true.

My husband, Duncan—a man of much wisdom and common sense; a farmer, lawyer and economist—lost his mum to metastatic breast cancer when he was 20. I remember it well.

I was doing my first practical at the time, doing a community nursing placement. I knew then that I had found my passion.

Duncan’s family cared for his mum at home. They live half an hour out of Cooma, which is the main town, and have a long dirt driveway so one could say that they are isolated.

They felt so grateful to be able to have her at home to die. They had excellent palliative care in Nimmitabel, postcode 2631, population around 300.

Mrs Walters was their generalist community nurse; she still works at Cooma Community Health. This brilliant nurse, with a wealth of experience, worked closely with Duncan’s mum’s general practitioner [GP], Dr Vic Carroll.

Duncan’s mum died surrounded by her husband, Peter, who carefully and lovingly cared for her, her sons and her treasured friends.

That was great palliative care, delivered by a community nurse and a GP—no fancy hospice, no specialist—just a great team in a rural community. 

Importantly, it was a community that cared for her and the family because that is what we do in the country; we care for each other in times of challenge and sadness.

When specialist doctors in the cities say that people in the country do not have access to good palliative care, they should come down south and have a look.

I know that is lacking in some centres but all of the specialists in the world will not solve that. What is needed is good basic nursing care, professionals who are willing and able to spend time with people and their families.

I have worked with people who are dying and their families for most of my professional life. I, too, have personal stories but I speak today from my professional experience.

 I spoke earlier about being a clinical nurse specialist based in Cooma and I covered the entire Monaro area.

The fact is that all the money in the world thrown at palliative care will not be able to help everyone and anyone who says otherwise is simply not speaking the truth.

I know we need more resources and I will fight for that every day in this place while I am privileged to be a member. I can also relate many stories of the patients I have cared for but that is not my job today.

However, specialists who state in the media that anyone who wants to end their life at a time of their choosing after being diagnosed to be in the terminal phase of their illness is depressed and after receiving specialist palliative care will change their minds is a falsehood and something I find offensive.

The whole notion that excellent palliative care can cure everyone’s suffering is not true. Anyone who has worked with people who are dying knows emphatically that that is not true.

Watch Bronnie Taylor’s speech in parliament HERE.

Let us all be honest and truthful in this debate.

People’s opinions are their own and they should not be imposed on others as if they were fact when they are not.

It is an interesting fact that when people are diagnosed with a disease—and I use cancer as an example as I know a little about this—they are always given the option of treatment to prolong their life, treatment to make them live longer, regardless of whether that treatment has a less than 5 percent chance of working.

People are offered that option and it is their choice. We give people the right to choose if they want to extend their life so I ask: Why do we not give people the option to end their lives, at a time of their choosing, surrounded by the people they love and above all—the ultimate—with the dignity that they so deserve?

We have spoken a lot about vulnerability and I have seen it time and again. Vulnerability comes when we feel we are losing control. It is a horrible feeling.

I used to say to my patients when I sensed their vulnerability, “This cancer will not define you or control you. You need to define it.”

We worry that this will hurt our most vulnerable. I completely disagree; this legislation will empower them and give them control.

I would like to quote Dr Charlie Teo of whom I am very fond. Dr Teo said:

“I am proud of my reputation of never giving up on patients who still have the will to live despite what others believe to be an exercise in futility.

“I am equally as proud to support Dying with Dignity because the only situation that would be worse than not having control of your life is to not have control over your own death.”

They are powerful words from an outstanding individual who does so much for so many at the most vulnerable time of their lives.

I quote from my husband whom I have been quoting a lot, as I do about most things. He sent me this text the other day which states:

“There is happiness and peace in knowing you will retain control over your own destiny, even if in all likelihood you don’t use it.

“Knowing you will slowly lose control will surely increase suffering and misery. And giving your control over your destiny to the government … well that is very dissatisfying.”

The fundamental reason for my vote today is based on the ultimate principle that I do not believe that government and politicians should tell people how to run their lives.

My belief is that we need to get out of the way. Our responsibility is to provide a safe framework.

I quote from the excellent position paper of the New South Wales Nurses and Midwives Association, even though the association and I do not always see eye to eye. However, I commend the association for this document.

It states:

“Our members provide high quality palliative care that for the majority is able to alleviate physical pain and provide adequate comfort.

“Unfortunately, palliative care is not effective for all patients and some experience unbearable pain and suffering for prolonged periods of time.

“We believe that legislation reform in this area will actually provide protection to people who are vulnerable.”

The draft bill, which is rigorous in its requirements, requires that a person who wishes to seek assistance should express such a wish to three separate health practitioners over a minimum period of nine days before assistance can be provided.

It also requires that a person be deemed of sound mind before assistance can be provided.

I believe the legislation is rigorous and commend the working party for its bravery and courage. It has done a good job.

Under this bill, people will need approval from three doctors. I trust doctors; I trust that they will make the right decision and not allow people to access the provisions in this legislation if they do not qualify.

Clause 29 of the bill specifically states that this is not about letting people commit suicide.

It is not about telling people with mental health issues that they are unworthy. This legislation would not give them access so it is wrong to draw that conclusion.

People in this Chamber might not wish to use this legislation which is fine; it is their choice. But they should not impose their views on others.

It is their right to choose, which is the way it should always be in a free and democratic country such as Australia.

I support this bill.

Bronnie Taylor is the Parliamentary Secretary to the Deputy Premier and Southern NSW and is a Nationals MLC.

*Text taken from NSW Parliament Hansard.

Historic Bombala school given a future as part of the community

Bombala Infants School, ready for new energy. Photo: Ian Campbell
Bombala Infants School, ready for new energy. Photo: Ian Campbell

Plans are underway to turn the Bombala Infants School into a place of learning again, with a safety net in place guaranteeing a positive outcome for the community.

Locals were taken by surprise when an auction sign went up on the school’s fence back in June.

The site overlooking the town first opened as a place of learning in 1863. James Poulton, the school’s first teacher had 75 kids to mark off his role on day one.

As an aside, school fees amounted to ninepence per week for the two eldest children in each family and sixpence per week for each additional child.

Solid as a rock. Photo: Ian Campbell
Solid as a rock. Photo: Ian Campbell

In the mid-1990’s the school was closed and childhood education in Bombala consolidated on the Bombala High School site.

TAFE moved into the space for a period of time offering a range of vocational and special interest subjects, however changes within TAFE and the opening of the Trade Training Centre at Bombala High took momentum and opportunities away from the historic site.

With the State-owned building empty and unused its future was put out to the market, swift community action halted the sale with the Member for Monaro, Nationals Leader, and Deputy Premier John Barilaro gifting the building to Snowy Monaro Regional Council.

Not much has changed since kids last played here. Photo: Ian Campbell
Not much has changed since kids last played here. Photo: Ian Campbell

The group that formed to stop the sale is now looking at its next step and a new chapter in the buildings 144-year-old story.

Sue Haslingden from the Bombala and Delegate Region Arts and Culture Advisory Committee says with the new Council in place it’s time to get going.

“My three children went to school here, a lot of families have incredible ties with this beautiful old building, ” Sue says.

Sue is a former Bombala Shire councilor and has just been elected to the merged Snowy Monaro Regional Council, she also remembers taking part in art and photography classes at the old school under TAFE.

“Once the art classes stopped we just found rooms here there and everywhere and applied for arts funding to bring instructors in a few times a year,” Sue says.

“We approached TAFE about using this space, but it would have been at a commercial hire rate, so it just wasn’t viable for us.”

Sue Haslingden, part of the Bombala and Delegate Region Arts and Culture Advisory Committee. Photo: Ian Campbell
Sue Haslingden, part of the Bombala and Delegate Region Arts and Culture Advisory Committee. Photo: Ian Campbell

A resumption of arts and cultural activities is seen as part of the old school’s future.

“Over the years we’ve lost Ando Public School, Bibbenluke has just gone, this building is such a part of Bombala,” Sue says.

“This building was put here by the community, the building itself was funded through fundraising and back in the early days even the teacher was funded by community efforts.”

The thought of the building being sold and the proceeds deposited into the combined TAFE coffers was a ‘red flag to the community’ Sue says.

“It was a real concern that the money from the sale wouldn’t be turned back into our community,” she explains.

The building is home to two vast learning spaces. Photo: Ian Campbell
The building is home to two vast learning spaces. Photo: Ian Campbell

With a business plan already in place through the gifting arrangements between State and Local Government,  the Arts and Culture Advisory Committee is now waiting to get the keys and put the plan into action.

“We would like to see this place as the home of a local progress association, as a place for tourist and cultural events, and as a community meeting place for a range of interests and groups,” Sue says.

Appointing a project officer to activate and manage the space is one of the first steps to drive the idea forward.

“The town needs a place for a range of groups to call home, this will be a hub for the Bombala community,” Sue says.

An exit clause has been negotiated that guarantees funds from any future sale of the building would be returned to Bombala.

“So if our business plan doesn’t work, and we find we can’t maintain it or it’s not viable, in three years time we can sell it and the money stays in the community,” Sue says.

With plans for an opening event growing, Sue says, “Watch this space!”

Anyone for cricket? Photo: Ian Campbell
Anyone for cricket? Photo: Ian Campbell

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Bronnie Taylor sticks with State politics, says ‘no’ to Eden-Monaro seat

NSW Deputy Premier and Member for Monaro, John Barilaro addresses the first meeting of the Cooma-Snowy Nationals Branch in Cooma on July 10. Source: Nationals for Eden-Monaro FB
NSW Deputy Premier and Member for Monaro, John Barilaro addresses the first meeting of the Cooma-Snowy Nationals Branch in Cooma on July 10. Source: Nationals for Eden-Monaro FB

One of The National Party’s strongest voices in South East NSW has moved to end speculation about her political ambitions.

Monaro local, Bronnie Taylor says she won’t stand for preselection if The National’s decide to contest Eden-Monaro at the next Federal Election.

Commentary has been building since The National’s launched a Cooma – Snowy Branch in early July.

Despite the sitting State Member for Monaro, being the National’s John Barilaro, the move to establish a local branch has been interpreted as a tilt at the bigger Federal seat. Talk suggesting the Nationals are either playing push back against their coalition partner the Liberal Party or will be an ally and direct preferences to sure up their conservative comrades.

Mrs Taylor has been a member of the NSW Upper House for the last two years, a gear change after being Deputy Mayor of Cooma-Monaro Shire Council while combining a nursing career.

Her high profile and popularity in the electorate and recent appearance alongside the Prime Minister in Cooma had political commentators tipping Mrs Taylor as a possible Nationals candidate in a three-way contest for Eden-Monaro.

Speaking to About Regional, the NSW Parliamentary Secretary for the Deputy Premier and Southern NSW moved to squash such talk once and for all.

“I ran for State politics because I really care about the things that State politics is in charge of, things like health and education and really important social issues, and I am really happy where I am,” Mrs Taylor says.

Earlier media comments seemed to leave the door open, Mrs Taylor says she was taken by surprise but is now moving to clarify her position and will not be contesting Eden-Monaro.

“I think it’s really important that we have Members of Parliament that are in places where their strengths lie, and my strength lies in the work that I am able to do at the moment,” Mrs Taylor says.

With six years still to run on her NSW Parliamentary term, Mrs Taylor says she is confident a strong Nationals candidate will be preselected for Eden-Monaro if that’s what the party decides.

Going into the 2016 Federal Poll, the ‘bellwether’ seat was held by the Liberal’s, Peter Hendy.

Mrs Taylor believes Mr Hendy lost to Labor’s Mike Kelly because he wasn’t present or connected to the people.

Mike Kelly, Member for Eden Monaro. Source: Mike Kelly FB page
Mike Kelly, Member for Eden Monaro. Source: Mike Kelly FB page

Mike Kelly regained the seat he lost to Hendy three years earlier with a 5.84% swingHowever, the seat which takes in Tumut, Queanbeyan, Jindabyne, Narooma, Bega and Eden is still seen as marginal, and perhaps leaning towards the Coalition.

The sitting member says he isn’t surprised the Nationals are interested in Eden-Monaro and if they do contest the ballot it will be the first time they have done so since 1993.

In a blog posted last week, Mr Kelly wrote that the news was further evidence the Turnbull Coalition Government was “falling to pieces.”

“Instead of focusing on issues like jobs, penalty rates, schools and Medicare – the Turnbull Coalition are focusing on themselves,” Mr Kelly wrote.

“The last thing the people of Eden-Monaro need is two Turnbull Coalition candidates bringing their Canberra power games into our local politics again.”

Mrs Taylor rejects any sense of political games.

“The [Coalition] agreement is that if we have a sitting candidate then you don’t run against them,” Mrs Taylor says.

“We don’t at the moment we have a Labor member, and so if the National Party is keen to run I really hope they do.”

Mrs Taylor says voters deserve a range of candidates to choose from.

“The voters will decide and they will vote for people on merit and they have shown that,” she says.

“They showed it last time [2016 Election] when the infamous bellwether seat of Eden-Monaro didn’t go with the Government because people chose a candidate they wanted for that time.”

Mrs Talyor hopes next time voters don’t choose the Labor candidate.

“But if they do they first deserve to have a choice between the Liberals and the Nationals,” she says.

Bronnie Taylor and PM Malcolm Turnbull, speaking about Snowy Hydro 2.0 in Cooma on June 28.
Bronnie Taylor and PM Malcolm Turnbull, speaking about Snowy Hydro 2.0 in Cooma on June 28.

“I love being part of the National Party, I really think they are the best party for rural and regional New South Wales.”

The NSW Liberal Party meets in Sydney this coming weekend to decide on how it’s candidates will be preselected for the next Federal Poll which isn’t due until late 2018 or early 2019. Former PM, Tony Abbott is pushing for greater grassroots involvement.

Local Liberals keen to contest Eden-Monaro at this stage are said to be Jerry Nockles, former Hendy staffer and current Head of Government Relations with UNICEF Australia and retired Major General, Jim Molan.

Labor’s Mike Kelly has a tip for any candidate that stands, “At the last Federal Election…they [voters] sent a clear message; they want their Federal Member of Parliament to be a person who is passionate about the region, works hard and listens to them.”

Big kids launch new Cooma playground

Deputy Premier and Member for Monaro, John Barilaro got a chance to goof off today (May 26) with the official opening of Stage 1 of the Cooma Lions Park upgrade.

Mr Barilaro left talk of nuclear power, council amalgamations, and the sale of Snowy Hydro behind as he tested the park’s new flying fox with Snowy Monaro Administrator, Dean Lynch.

The redeveloped Cooma Lions Park at Yallakool Road was officially opened today. There's a leash free dog area, improved seating and an adventure playground fitted out with a flying fox! Here is our Administrator Dean Lynch and Deputy Premier John Barilaro trying the flying fox.

Posted by Snowy Monaro Regional Council on Thursday, 25 May 2017

 

The work is the first step of a big vision for the park on Yallakool Road, just north of the Cooma CBD.

Lions Club members and Snowy Monaro Regional Council have got the job done ready for winter; stage 1 includes landscaping, road and parking area improvements, fencing of a ‘leash free’ area for dogs, installation of a flying fox, and most importantly new playground equipment.

Cooma Lions say the upgrade is already popular with local families and no doubt will pull a crowd over the busy winter months.

An extraordinary 1,500 volunteer hours have gone into the project which has been looked after by Lions Club Project Manager Chris Reeks and Construction Manager John Britton.

Chris says, “Our ongoing aim is to bring the park into the 21st Century and provide an up-to-date fun and recreational facility.”

Cooma Lions Club members, right proud of what has been achieved atYallakool Road. Source: Cooma Lions
Cooma Lions Club members, rightly proud of what has been achieved at Yallakool Road. Source: Cooma Lions

The dream of the club is to develop the site into an adventure playground, future works are likely to include additional car parking, construction of the next section of the Cooma North to Murrumbidgee walking/cycle path, as well as refurbishment and upgrade of the existing BMX circuit.

The club is also open to community suggestions for further upgrades.

Cooma Lions has a long association with the park having originally owned the site and carrying out the initial development before handing it over to Council to manage and maintain in 1986.

These works have been made possible by a grant under the NSW Government’s ClubGRANTS scheme.

 

*Content contributions from Cooma Lions and Snowy Monaro Regional Council