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Special Guest: Q&A with Guy Barnett on Diabetes Australia’s Young Leaders Forum

1 October 2013

On 26 August 2013, Medtronic attended the launch of Diabetes Australia’s Young Leaders Forum at the University of Melbourne. It’s an ambitious project to promote the issues faced by Australians living with diabetes aged 15-29 and we hope it brings greater attention and understanding for the condition.

While there, we spoke with Diabetes Australia’s Government Advisor and Liberal Senator for Tasmania, Guy Barnett, to learn more about the initiative:

MDT: Tell us a little about Diabetes Australia and your areas of focus.

GB: At Diabetes Australia (DA), we are committed to reducing the impact of diabetes on all Australians. We formed in 1984 as the national body for people affected by and at risk of all types of diabetes including type 1, type 2 and gestational diabetes. This is a community of more than 2.7 million people.[[i]]

Prior to the recent Australian election, we announced our National Diabetes Strategy and Action Plan as a way to address issues voiced by our community. Diabetes will become the number one burden of disease in Australia in the next five years; therefore some emphasis has been placed on prevention.  However, more than two million Australians live with diabetes today so equal access to healthcare and support is also important. The goals of the National Diabetes Strategy are;

Goal 1: Preventing complications – optimal management and earlier diagnosis

Goal 2: Prevent more people from developing type 2 diabetes

Goal 3: Reduce the impact of diabetes in pregnancy for mothers and children

Goal 4: Reduce the impact of diabetes in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians

Goal 5: Strengthen prevention, care and cure through knowledge and evidence.

MDT: What area of the ‘National Diabetes Strategy and Action Plan’ do you feel the community can most influence?

GB: I believe the community play a critical role in all areas within the National Diabetes Strategy. The contribution they make through advocacy and efforts to raise awareness are astonishing, and bring a face and a person to the disease. Whether to their local Member of Parliament, local hospitals and schools, or amongst family and friends – starting the conversation is the first and most important step in signifying the burden and enormity of diabetes on the community.

I am very inspired by the unity and determination of Australians affected by diabetes, particularly our Young Leaders. I believe they can do anything.

MDT: Why was the Young Leaders in Diabetes program formed?

GB: The Young Leaders program aims to unite young people living with type 1 and type 2 diabetes, by empowering individuals to share thoughts on issues that directly affect them, while also  working together to help address areas within the National Diabetes Strategy. These Young Leaders will be the face and voice of more than 31,000[ii] young Australians currently living with and managing diabetes.

MDT: What role will Young Leaders play in advocacy and policy decisions?

GB: As representatives of this group, Young Leaders will be encouraged and supported to advocate governments and policy makers to bring about change for people living with diabetes. Areas include diabetes management, research, access to appropriate technology, as well as mental health and support.

As their first Canberra-focused activity, nominated representatives of the Young Leader group will visit Parliament House in coming months. They will meet with Ministers and MP’s to provide a strong and united voice, raising issues that affect all young Australians living with diabetes.

MDT: Will the Young Leaders have an opportunity to connect with other leaders from around the world?

GB: Australia is fortunate to host the World Diabetes Congress in Melbourne in December 2013. This event brings experts from around the world together to share the latest evidence, best practice and hope for the diabetes community.

At least 20 Young Leaders will attend the Congress and meet other young leaders from around the world. They will also use this as an opportunity to share issues and ideas, and explore innovative ways to help improve awareness of diabetes amongst the general community.

MDT: What else is DA doing?

GB: During Diabetes Awareness week this year, we launched Faces of Australia. This campaign complements the National Diabetes Strategy to raise awareness of diabetes, the continuing rise of the epidemic and the very significant financial implication on Australians. Approximately 280 Australians develop diabetes every day – nearly 100,000 Australians developed diabetes in the past year[iii]. Every one of these people deserves to have a voice.

Together, both the Faces of Australia program and Young Leaders in Diabetes program aim to address one goal – greater awareness and greater equality for those living with diabetes today, and in the future.

For more information about Diabetes Australia’s efforts including the Young Leaders in Diabetes program visit:


Guy BarnettAbout Guy Barnett:

Guy Barnett is an Ambassador for Diabetes Australia. A former Senator, Guy held senior parliamentary roles in government and opposition involving health, diabetes, economics, law and public accounts, and has more than three decades of experience in politics, government and the law.

Diagnosed with type 1 diabetes on 15 January 1997, Guy is an advocate for both prevention and equal access to treatment and technology. Guy is a husband, and father to three kids.Image

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