Speech to NSW Parliament by Mr Bart Bassett

I inform the House about the Western Sydney Suicide Prevention and Support Network. Members often speak in this place about programs or causes in their electorates that are usually of a positive nature. Unfortunately, tonight I will speak of a group that was founded out of deep sadness and grief at the loss of loved ones. Last Wednesday evening I attended a special occasion, which was hosted by the Western Sydney Suicide Prevention and Support Network, to launch a suicide prevention kit. The event was held at the Hawkesbury Race Club. Suicide claims 2,000 lives in Australia every year, and about 65,000 Australians will attempt suicide. The Western Sydney Suicide Prevention and Support Network was established in 2009 to help the bereaved share their feelings of pain and anguish, and to discuss suicide prevention strategies.

About 70 people from all walks of life attended the launch, including Louise Markus, Federal member for Macquarie; Tiffany Tree, Deputy Mayor of Hawkesbury City Council; and Jim Aiken, OAM, a former mayor of Penrith City Council. Representatives from the NSW Police Force included Inspector Harry Goddings, Penrith Local Area Command; Sergeant Melissa Clarke, Hawkesbury Local Area Command; and Inspector Peter Jenkins. Tony Cassidy, Manager of Wesley LifeForce, and David Cook, District Governor of Rotary District 9690, were also in attendance. I also met many parents who had lost adult children to suicide. One mother, whose son had committed suicide recently, had driven from Gulgong to attend the launch. She spoke from the heart about how important it was to remember her son and his legacy, and how his life and time on earth had had meaning. It was a very powerful and moving speech.

People from all walks of life are affected by suicide; it does not discriminate amongst socio-economic groups. Peter Webb, Chair of the Western Sydney Suicide Prevention and Support Network, comes from the Kurrajong North Richmond Rotary Club. Peter has not lost a loved one to suicide directly. He was asked to take on the role because of his involvement in mental health forums and information sessions in the community for many years through Rotary. Dr Gregory de Moore, a psychologist based at Westmead and Blacktown hospitals, was the guest speaker. He spoke about the life of Tom Wills who had died at the very young age of 44. Tom committed suicide on 2 May 1880. Unfortunately, Tom has been forgotten. He was a character who lived life to the full and his legacy lives on today. Tom Wills was one of the pioneers of Australian football. He was instrumental in introducing rugby union to this country and in drafting the code for Aussie Rules. One day following Tom’s suicide the press went to interview his mother; she denied having a son.

Behind every statistic there is a human being who lived, breathed, loved and was loved. Suicide is a tragedy of unmeasured pain and grief for families, friends and loved ones. The Western Sydney Suicide Prevention and Support Network was the initiative of Genean Beetson of Simplicity Funerals in the Hawkesbury. She had noticed an increase in the number of suicide-related deaths coming into the funeral home. She wanted to do something to support those loved ones who struggle to deal with the grief; she also wanted to break down the stigma attached to and increase awareness of suicide. That wonderful groups such as the Western Sydney Suicide Support and Prevention Networks exist is unfortunate, but they provide a vital community service. The Cancer Council Relay for Life is yet another great cause that does so much to assist in fundraising and raising awareness of cancer, a horrible disease that affects too many in our community.

Our aim should be to see the day when groups such as these no longer exist, where we can live in a world without cancer and without suicide. I was honoured to be asked by the patron of the Western Sydney Suicide Prevention and Support Network along with Councillor Jim Aiken, OAM, to attend. I thank all who give of their time and talents to support causes such as the Western Sydney Suicide Prevention and Support Network. I will do whatever I can to help save lives and prevent people from committing suicide. Donations to this organisation will help to provide more suicide prevention packs for distribution to western Sydney local area commands and extending to the Blue Mountains. I congratulate the Western Sydney Suicide Prevention and Support Network on its great work in supporting those affected by suicide and in ensuring that the stigma of suicide is minimised. It is important for people to feel comfortable when talking about suicide and, hopefully, others will be less likely to consider committing suicide in the future.