NSW Seniors Week 2018
It is fantastic to recognise the Seniors Festival, or as it was previously known, Seniors Week, as a matter of public importance. I thank the member for North Shore for bringing the matter before the House. This year, 2018, marks 60 years since Seniors Week began as a statewide initiative to support and encourage active, social and healthy lifestyles among our amazing seniors across the State. Each year there are hundreds of diverse events for seniors to participate in, including theatre programs, sports events, education sessions, exercise groups, information technology [IT] programs, lunches, dinners, picnics, music shows, and many, many more.
The most popular event is the Premier's Gala Concert. I am sure every member in this place is familiar with the popularity of the concert. Each year, my office is swamped with eager callers hoping to secure tickets, which I am very happy to dispense. These events are incredibly valuable because they each provide an opportunity for our seniors to be active, engaged and connected—not only among each other, but also within the communities that they have helped to build. Seniors Week also provides an important opportunity for us all to recognise the significant, meaningful and varied contributions our seniors and seniors organisations have made within our local communities. As the acting shadow Minister for Ageing, I recognise the tireless work of the member for Canterbury, Sophie Cotsis, the shadow Minister for Ageing, who has done so much work engaging with seniors and seniors organisations across New South Wales, particularly those in multicultural communities.
Across the board, there is still so much more to be done to assist our seniors to live the lives they want to live by providing services where they are needed and when they are needed. Harnessing the experience and dedication of our seniors builds stronger and safer neighbourhoods. Supporting and facilitating greater participation among our seniors leads to healthier and happier lives across all generations. That is why Seniors Week is so important and why all members of this place support it so strongly. Across the State, events will continue to take place until Sunday 15 April. For anyone who is interested, all remaining events are listed on the Seniors Festival website. If anyone is unable to access the website, their local member of Parliament will no doubt be able to assist them.
I am so fortunate to represent an area that is blessed with many people who have made the decision to retire to Port Stephens. Every day in my community, as in so many communities across New South Wales, seniors give so generously of their time, skills, experience and expertise. They are members of Landcare groups; Meals on Wheels; local sporting clubs; service clubs; Voice, Interests and Education of Women [VIEW] clubs; RSL clubs; University of the Third Age [U3A] organisations; and so many more. Without their contributions, I cannot imagine how our communities would look. They certainly would not be thriving as they are now. I have been particularly impressed by the University of the Third Age club in Myall River and in Port Stephens, which focuses on lifelong learning and bringing people together. I always enjoy meeting with my local U3A members who live by the motto, "Just because you've stopped earning, doesn't mean you should stop learning."
As the member for Port Stephens, I am proud to represent an area that was revealed in the latest census to be the "oldest" in Australia. The beautiful town of Tea Gardens has a median age of 65, compared to the Australian median age of 38. It is one of the most vibrant, active and creative communities that I know. This year alone, I have joined with them to open a new art gallery and a new bridge clubhouse. Both of these initiatives were entirely brought together by volunteers and seniors in our community. Up until last year, the celebration of Seniors Week was marked in Tea Gardens Hawks Nest with the Grey and Thespian Mardi Gras. This year, it is Greyfest. It has been downgraded slightly, but the community is seriously awesome. They are a great example of a strong and connected community doing creative, exciting, fun things.
Far from being concerned about the ageing population, we should embrace the assets we have, thanking them for their daily contributions that make our communities stronger, and supporting their efforts to live healthier and happier lives. Most importantly, we have an obligation to ensure that the right social structures and community services are in place so that our valuable older people can live their lives with the respect and dignity they deserve. And, just as in my community of Port Stephens, there is always room for a bit of fun. I congratulate and thank all the local senior organisations across New South Wales that have hosted and supported local events for this year's Seniors Festival. Once again, they have contributed to an incredible program of events across the State. I encourage everyone to get involved, with events continuing until this Sunday. I hope all the participants learn from and enjoy the NSW Seniors Festival 2018.