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State MP Phil Donato reflects on the highs and lows of 2022

December 27, 2022

By Phil Donato

As the MP for Orange, the highlight of the year was meeting so many fantastic people of all ages who make up my electorate.

From the "high" in the early part of the year of coming out of lockdown and tight restrictions due to Covid, and life getting back to normal as we caught up with family and friends, to the "low" of the end of year floods – it really has been a year of contrasts.

This year I was again amazed by the dedication of so many in our community who give time to a diverse range of organisations that enrich the lives of others. From young people to seniors, so many of you are an incredible asset to your communities.

Of course, the many high points experienced throughout the electorate for the greater part of the year contrasted with the devastation caused by the flood and rain events in November, with the residual physical and emotional effects carrying through Christmas, New Year and beyond.

This once in a lifetime event was the biggest challenge of the year as people have had to pick up the pieces of lost homes, stock and livelihood.

(L-R): NSW premier Dominic Perrottet, prime minister Anthony Albanese and Orange state MP Phil Donato speak with a Eugowra local. Facebook.

And speaking of communities – one of the tasks I always enjoy as a member of parliament is being able to help communities by supporting their grant applications, and then seeing them put into action.

A smaller grant of just a few thousand dollars can make a huge difference to the operation of some clubs and organisations, which engender the true spirit of our communities.

Mental health has remained a strong focus for me in 2022, as it has been since I took office in 2016.

Tragically we have lost too many lives to suicide this year, and every time I heard of another life lost, it was truly a low point for me.

My heart goes out to the families who have lost a loved one. In some small way I hope events such as the Mr Perfect barbecues held in Cook Park this year will help build connection for some in the community.

On this same issue I continue to advocate for increased bed numbers in the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Unit at Orange Health Service, which serves a vital role.

The monthly Mr Perfect barbecue is a chance for men to get together and have a chat. Facebook.

A Safe Haven for Orange is also a goal I intend to keep working towards – a place where people can seek immediate support during a mental health crisis.

I have to say one of the most enjoyable and fun experiences of the year was watching former Orange Kinross Wolaroi student and true "legend" Nedd Brockmann come over the finishing line at Bondi Beach. He raised an incredible $2.5 million for homeless charities in his Herculean 4,000km run from Australia’s west to east coast – well done Nedd!

Throughout 2022 I have witnessed first-hand the incredible dedication of our frontline workers – nurses, aged care workers and our first responders, who are so often backed up by volunteers.

Mandating nurses in nursing homes this year was a great source of personal satisfaction for me – albeit at the federal level and following a royal commission, which exposed shortcomings in these facilities.

I am so passionate about this issue and was bitterly disappointed the NSW government would not support my bill when I introduced it in 2017 and again in 2022, palming it off as a federal issue.

Many families in my electorate who have a loved one in a nursing home feel a great sense of relief – as do I.

And continuing on the nursing front – I felt proud to be standing in the company of our nurses and midwives during rallies this year in the ongoing fight for improved staff/patient ratios.

Anyone who has spent time in hospital with their loved ones knows nurses are run off their feet and for me it is disappointing that the working condition claims of one of our most highly respected professions fail to be recognised by the government.

Stock image.

Palliative Care provision remains well and truly on my radar as I continue to speak with families and members of my task force.

While there are now dedicated palliative care beds at Orange Hospital on the southern side of Medical Ward A, these beds are for the final few days of life.

Working closely with Orange Push for Palliative, 2023 will be the year when we move into a new phase for a dedicated hospice in the grounds of Orange Hospital.

The vision is this hospice will provide not only end-of-life care, but respite so families can take a break; pain management; and a range of supporting diversionary activities.

During the year the issue of teacher shortages from early learning centres to high schools was a major concern in our community.

The fact these shortages meant - in one instance - 15 classes at one of our local schools had to be merged in the school hall on one day, is just one indication of how the system is breaking under the strain of teacher shortages.

The aftermath of the fire at Glenroi Heights Public School. Copyright: Orange News Examiner.

The school year at Glenroi Heights Public School did not end on a happy note, after the main administration and library areas were destroyed by fire on December 5. The school community immediately rallied in support.

Finally, I would like to say what a privilege it has been for myself and my terrific electorate staff to service the people of the Orange electorate this year.

Many of you have come to us at a time when you are experiencing great distress over a personal or business issue, sharing your challenges and difficulties. We will continue to work on your behalf in 2023.

I wish you a safe, happy and healthy 2023.


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