Gillian Thomas is one of a large contingent of NSW polio campaigners heading to Canberra on Wednesday 31 October 2012. As well as updating Polio Australia’s four Parliamentary Patrons about the late effects of polio, how they affect her, and what services she and her fellow polio survivors need, Gillian will also be presenting  Polio Australia’s Petition  to these Federal Parliamentarians.

Gillian contracted polio at 10 months of age. After completing her education she worked in the public and community sectors, and in recent years has run her own small business. Gillian has been supporting and advocating on behalf of polio survivors since the late 1980s through her volunteer activities on behalf of Polio NSW and Polio Australia. The increasing and debilitating impact of the late effects of polio might be slowing her down but they haven’t stopped her yet!

What is a memorable childhood experience?

Having contracted polio as a baby I spent most of my early childhood in hospitals. Recollections from this time are only fleeting but I do remember the distress I felt whenever my parents left after a visit, especially as time went on and I was moved to a rehabilitation facility far from home.

How have the late effects of polio impacted on you?

After putting in the hard work as a child to learn how to walk with two full-length calipers, I thought I had put polio behind me. Then, in my thirties, I started to suffer from the late effects of polio. My balance and mobility went out the window and in their place came overwhelming fatigue and a loss of endurance, which has a tremendous impact on my ability to keep functioning at the level I want and need to.

Why are you going to Canberra?

Polio survivors don’t complain. We have quietly carried on with our lives. But now, more than ever, we need support and it’s time to give us a fair go by funding the health and support services we desperately need. In particular, the important services provided by Polio Australia and the State Polio Networks need to be acknowledged, valued and resourced. Volunteers (especially those experiencing the late effects of polio) cannot shoulder the load forever.

Which Members of Parliament are you meeting with?

The Hon Catherine King MP
Parliamentary Patron of Polio Australia
Member for Ballarat, Victoria
Parliamentary Secretary for Infrastructure and Transport; Parliamentary Secretary for Health and Ageing
Party: Australian Labor Party
Chamber: House of Representatives

Ms Jill Hall MP
Parliamentary Patron of Polio Australia
Member for Shortland, NSW
Government Whip
Party: Australian Labor Party
Chamber: House of Representatives

The Hon Greg Hunt MP
Parliamentary Patron of Polio Australia
Member for Flinders, Victoria
Shadow Minister for Climate Action, Environment and Heritage
Party: Liberal Party of Australia
Chamber: House of Representatives

Mr Mark Coulton MP
Parliamentary Patron of Polio Australia
Member for Parkes, New South Wales
The Nationals Chief Whip
Party: The Nationals
Chamber: House of Representatives

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