JOHN Brogden has urged the community to ‘‘come out in numbers’’ to support the expansion of a Sutherland Shire-based organisation that helps children whose parents have a mental illness.
The former state opposition leader spoke candidly about his own illness while promoting a dinner to launch the Australian Kookaburra Kids Foundation.
Mr Brogden agreed to be patron of the foundation, which grew from Camp Kookaburra.
That organisation started in the shire 10 years ago, before it extended to St George and further afield.
The organisation now supports more than 400 children and aims to set up regional centres in the Illawarra, Orange and Tamworth.
Mr Brogden, who is patron of Lifeline Australia, was diagnosed with depression a decade before he attempted to end his life after resigning as opposition leader in 2005.
‘‘Having a mental illness myself and being aware of how many people in the community have a mental illness, I know how lucky I am to have a good support network around me,’’ he said.
‘‘Without being too personal, I hope my kids won’t be negatively impacted by my illness and my wife and I work hard to make sure that doesn’t happen.
‘‘We are quite open about it, just as we would if I had a physical illness.
‘‘But for a lot of people who do not have a support network, it is very difficult and even harder for their kids.
‘‘No child should be disadvantaged because their mum or dad has a mental illness.
‘‘This foundation is a fantastic initiative and I encourage people to come out in numbers and support it.’’
The organisation’s chief executive Pam Brown said there were more than 340,000 children in NSW living with a family member who had a mental illness.
‘‘At present, we receive no government funding and rely entirely on community support,’’ she said. ‘‘We run five camps a year and other school holiday activities and we are also involved in early intervention health education.’’
Ms Brown said camps were staffed by volunteers, mostly police, nurses, teachers, fire brigade officers, psychologists and youth workers.
‘‘Many children, when they come to camp, have never actually spoken about the situation in their homes,’’ she said. ‘‘They discover there are other children like them and that they are not alone.’’
Heathcote MP Lee Evans, who is among many politicians attending the function, said some of the children were primary carers for their parents.
SEVEN Network news presenter Chris Bath (pictured) will MC the function at Sharkies leagues club auditorium on Thursday, July 12.
Her husband, sports reporter Jim Wilson, will also attend, along with news presenter Jessica Rowe and her husband Peter Overton, of 60 Minutes.
Soul Mystique, of Australia’s Got Talent fame, will entertain and organisers hope Channel Nine will arrange an appearance by one of the contestants from The Voice.
Cronulla Sharks players have also rallied behind the event.
Tickets are $80 a head, with corporate packages available.
Contact: 0408 402 591, or 0421 829 913 (corporate).