Speech at Innovation Award grants announcement for type 1 diabetes

Simon Birmingham: Thanks so much, Mike, for that welcome. We've got a little prop down here to assist Declan. I could stand on it and pretend that I'm like some sort of basketballer, but I'll remain at normal height and we'll keep that here for Declan when his time comes. To parliamentary colleagues who are present, obviously the Minister for Health Greg Hunt, thank you for making this a powerful demonstration of the Government's commitment to helping people with type 1 diabetes, particularly the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Other parliamentary colleagues, Rowan Ramsey, the chair of the Parliamentary Association, and Senator Zed Seselja from the ACT and Assistant Minister in the Government. Ladies and gentlemen all. 

The wonderful research team at the Australian Research Council, who are here, and who I am always so proud as Minister for Education and Training to stand alongside and to support their work. Because research is something that we invest in as a nation because we are determined to create new opportunities, to solve problems, to improve lives, and we do so through our research undertakings in a whole range of different ways: Research that can create business opportunities and new jobs, research that can create better ways of implementing public policies, more efficient ways of doing things, research that can improve lifestyle in all manner of ways, and of course health and medical research, research into prevention, treatment, cures that can make such a huge difference to peoples' lives. 

The people here know better than I do that around 120,000 Australians have type 1 diabetes, with an estimated cost to Australia of some $14.6 billion annually. The costs of doing nothing, in terms of work in this space, are much, much greater, which is why as a Government, over a prolonged period of time we've showed regular commitment to doing so. And in that, I want to pay particular tribute to former colleague Judi Moylan, who is here, and prior to Rowan's work really helped to champion within the parliament these types of actions and reforms. 

Today I'm going to have the pleasure of announcing further work in this space: Some $4.5 million in innovation award grants for research into type 1 diabetes. This is part of the Type 1 Diabetes Clinical Research Network – a clinical research program led by JDRF Australia, backed by the ARC's Special Research Initiatives Scheme. We have a long and proud history of investing and supporting this work in a range of different ways, and I'm certainly keenly following, as Mike made mention of, the $35 million investment we're making into the 1TD Clinical Research Network, which includes great initiatives such as ENDIA in my home state – the world's only study investigating environmental causes of type 1 diabetes from pregnancy through to early childhood, so that we can find ways to prevent type 1 diabetes in the future. It's led by Professor Jenny Couper at the Women's and Children's Hospital in Adelaide, recruiting some 1400 babies from a first degree relative with T1D from sites across all mainland states. So led out of Adelaide, but with national research, including regional and remote areas. It's a critically important piece of research which we hope can lead to prevention, and I'm delighted that 600 families have already agreed to participate in that work.
What's exciting about the grants we're announcing today is that they include at least one researcher from outside of the field of type 1 diabetes. They are innovation grants; they're meant to promote collaboration between different areas of research specialisation. It's a core part of our overall National Innovation and Science Agenda as a Government to ensure that we encourage and put in place mechanisms to get researchers from different fields and different disciplines to work together, to bring different ways of thinking to tackling the problems that we face as a nation. And we'll leave no stone unturned in the research we want to back to prevent those from suffering type 1 diabetes in future, or to help people who have it to lead the fullest lives possible.

Today's grant rounds support bold and promising research, led by three award recipients. Firstly, a study by Associate Professor Charmaine Simeonovic from the ANU, which takes a look at understanding how insulin-producing foetus cells are damaging and damaged during type 1 diabetes development. Secondly, research by Associate Professor Stuart Mannering from St. Vincent's Institute of Medical Research into scene-of-crime immune cells that are somehow involved in the destruction of foetus cells in the pancreas of people with type 1 diabetes. And finally, a first time investigation by Associate Professor Shane Grey from the Garvan Institute of Medical Research, which looks at ways to promote the regeneration or repair of remaining foetus cells in people with type 1 diabetes. These are three very different bodies of work tackling different issues that can make a big, big difference. One of the pleasures of being in politics is … I thought I could hear the bells.

Greg Hunt: I apologise. I wish you all the best and I won't be late for the division but let me just say very briefly, as Judi knows, I've twice walked 500 kilometres for JDRF. This is about Declan, and Liam, and all of these beautiful kids. It's our contribution, it's the least we can do. The heroes are the kids and the heroes are the researchers. I wish you well, I congratulate you, and I better move quickly. Thank you.

Simon Birmingham: Thank you Greg, and it's the perils of doing these things in a parliamentary sitting day. I could hear that faint sound of bells in the background and was wondering which of us was about to get a tap on the shoulder.

As you heard, they are three very different research projects, but three research projects that can and we hope will have profound impact. But of course research can often sound a little esoteric. Importantly, one of the great pleasures in politics is hearing from people as to what makes a real difference in their lives. The stories of people in the research community but also the people affected by research about how it can benefit them and today we're going to have the wonders of hearing both from a researcher and from Declan, shortly, about the type of difference, support from the likes of JDRF, the type of difference this type of research support can make. 

As Mike mentioned, my wife and I are really looking forward to attending the Botanica event in SA later this year and joining you and Jerry and those in South Australia who are doing so, but we're committed to providing ongoing support for JDRF, for research, for all people with type 1 diabetes. These awards that our recipients today have received are extremely competitive. The ARC has significant interest in them, puts them through their paces to make sure they are the best use of public funds to make the greatest difference. I congratulate those researchers and wish them every success and like everybody here, look forward to seeing the outstanding difference that hopefully they will make in years to come. Thanks very much.

Greg Hunt: Look, thanks very much to the magnificent Judi, to Mike from JDRF, to Simon, to the ARC, to our researchers, in particular to Zed Seselja and to Rowan Ramsey, and everybody associated with supporting type 1 diabetes. But above all else, to our beautiful kids here, to Declan and Liam and all of the representatives of JDRF, you make us really proud. You make us really proud because, you know what? Life throws things at all of us and you get on and you live life and you celebrate life and you do amazing things.

I know from my electorate that there are many families, you know, we have our share of the 120,000 magnificent children and adults with type 1 and I know from my electorate that it can be hard and there are concerns. But the progress we've made and the courage and the incredible inspiration that you provide what give us a source of sustenance. So against that background, as Judi mentioned, I was lucky enough to have been involved with JDRF and to have done two slightly elongated walks for diabetes and we raised money for JDRF because of beautiful kids such as Chloe and Justin and Ellie-May in my electorate. And if in some small way we've been able to contribute, that's very satisfying.

Now, working with Simon, he on the education and research side, myself on the health side, it's a real privilege to have this role. And let me just move from the kids and the families for a second to research. As a government, we contribute about $10 billion to research and development in different ways in Australia. A huge part of that is on the medical research side, where we have the three big programs: the National Health and Medical Research Council, or the NH and MRC, which is really the health parallel to the ARC; we have the Biomedical Translation Fund, which I had the privilege of helping to establish; and we have the Medical Research Future Fund, and they provide us with a base for going forward to support the magnificent researchers we have here today. And their task is part of our task and that is to look at amongst many other great challenges, the challenge of finding a cure for type 1 diabetes; prevention and cure. Much of the focus has rightly been on treatment because that's where we've been but now we move into those next two great phases of prevention and cure and we will not rest until there is a global cure for type 1 diabetes. It may not happen overnight but the course of history in my view is inevitable. It will be achieved and it will matter and it will be of profound importance to these beautiful families. 

In that context, Simon has announced the new research grants and innovation grants today. What I want to confirm is- I've met with Judi Moylan and Diabetes Australia only in the last 24 hours. We will very shortly be making an announcement on our $54 million election commitment on continuous glucose monitoring. I'm really thrilled that it's going at a faster pace than I had hoped and that we will make the announcement earlier than I had hoped. And so I'm looking to do that within the next few weeks. But as of yesterday, I think we have the basis for delivering that continuous glucose monitoring to families and to these beautiful kids. You really- you're what it's about, and to Declan and to Liam and to the rest of our beautiful JDRF representatives, you make us feel better about what we do, because you are inspiring in what you do. Thank you.