Home - Claire Moore - Labor Senator for Queensland

ADJOURNMENT - World Down Syndrome Day

Senator MOORE (Queensland) (23:28): World Down Syndrome Day is celebrated on 21 March each year. The day was created to raise awareness about Down syndrome to overcome prejudice and to promote the respect and integration into society of all people with Down syndrome. The date of 21 March was specially chosen to connect with Down syndrome, known also as trisomy 21 because it is characterised by the presence of a third chromosome-three instead of two-in the chromosomal couple number 21 of the human cells. Hence, obviously, the choice of the 21st day of the third month. In this month we will be taking celebrations again into our parliament by having a parliamentary morning tea to celebrate the occasion on the closest sitting day to 21 March, which is 17 March this year, and also by having a notice of motion in this place-our parliament coming together to celebrate World Down Syndrome Day and to talk about the national campaign.

At the morning tea, the Minister for Social Services will launch the advertising campaign that is produced for the international Down syndrome community each year-pro bono-by Saatchi & Saatchi. This year the theme is: 'How do you see me?' The advertising campaigns of the last few years are a hard act to follow because they have been extraordinarily effective. I will mention just three of those previous campaigns tonight before getting onto the one for this year, because I think each one shows creativity-linking knowledge and awareness. The first one I saw was about effectively integrating people with Down syndrome into the community. The Saatchi & Saatchi campaign that year used the technique of showing alternative versions of well-known national and international TV and print campaigns-featuring actors with Down syndrome in place of the original actors and models. People with Down syndrome also took part in well-known live Italian TV shows. The alternative campaigns were intended to promote the importance of integration in a unique way-by realising it. High-profile participating brands included Averna, Carrefour, CartaSi, Enel, Illy, Pampers and Toyota. The advertisements used were all very well known. I recommend that people check out YouTube to see the effectiveness of showing these ads with Down syndrome actors. They highlight the theme of inclusion and show that we have to address prejudice, especially in workplaces and schools.

Last year we saw the story of Salvatore and Katarina, which emphasised the importance of independence. I spoke in this place about the stunning YouTube program which looked at two young couples making the decision to live together-as we would expect anyone to be able to do independently and with confidence. Again this campaign showed the effectiveness of linking creativity with extraordinary messages about making sure that people are treated with respect. That year the concept was that people with Down syndrome had the right to live independently and to be fully integrated into society, and that those rights should be protected. That is important no matter where we live, and the campaign presented that very personably through allowing us to meet Salvatore and Katarina.

My favourite campaign, which I talked about last year and the year before, was the one called 'Dear Future Mom.' This is one that I think everyone should look at on YouTube. It was stimulated by a letter sent to Italy's national Down syndrome association by a mother-'Future Mom'-who had found out that the child she was carrying had Down syndrome. Her question was: 'What kind of life will my child have?' The Saatchi & Saatchi people then filmed a response to that question from 15 people with Down syndrome expressing to their own mums exactly what their lives could be. Its message to the community was clear: people with Down syndrome can be independent and effective. They talked about being happy, being able to write and being able to travel. My favourite response to Future Mom in the film was: 'He'll be able to help his father fix his bicycle'.

Given that legacy, what are Saatchi & Saatchi during this year? The 'How do you see me?' campaign focuses directly on challenging the issues of prejudice and low public expectations of people with Down syndrome. The viewer of the advertisement is confronted with the message of 'what my life could be'. It shows someone working, having a relationship and living in the community. All the way through, the voice-over says, 'How do I see myself? This is how I see myself.' We see images of how we see ourselves-healthy, successful and independent-but the catch is that this is exactly the same image that people with Down syndrome should be able to have. Through the creative process-the campaign will be unveiled at our morning tea and fully launched into the community-the message is quite clear: that you should challenge directly any concept of difference or of dependence. The message must be perceived in the same way had the viewer had Down syndrome or not. The message must be the same: we can make decisions, we can be independent, we can be successful. The video ends with the reveal. Finally we see the true image of the narrator-again, a challenge for all of us to ensure that the message gets across.

At the parliamentary morning tea, members of the Down syndrome community in the ACT will join with federal MPs and senators to view the ad to think about what the message is. A young woman from Canberra, Naomi, who is a young adult with Down syndrome, will be coming to join in the celebrations and tell us and the minister directly what her life is about and how she should be able to be seen in her life. In addition to the advertising campaign, Down Syndrome International will be hosting a conference at the UN in New York on the World Down Syndrome Day, seeking to drive and international and social media conversation about their My Friends, My Community campaign-again, the benefits of inclusive environments for today's children and tomorrow's adults.

Down Syndrome International wants to get the My Friends, My Community conversation going all around the world online. We can all help by using the hashtag and posting anything which we think promotes inclusion of people with Down syndrome-photos, messages or quotes-just to reinforce this message. People with Down syndrome, on an equal basis with other people, must be able to enjoy full and equal rights as children and as adults. This includes, naturally, the opportunity to participate fully in community. The reality for many is that the prevailing negative attitudes result in low expectations, discrimination and exclusion, creating communities where children and adults with Down syndrome cannot integrate successfully with others.

When children with Down syndrome and other disabilities are given opportunities to participate, all children benefit from this shared environment of friendship, acceptance and respect for everyone, and high expectations are then created. In addition, the environments prepare all today's children for life as tomorrow's adults, enabling adults with Down syndrome to live, work and participate with confidence and individual autonomy, fully included in society alongside their friends and peers.

Last year the Australian parliament was the only parliament in the world to mark World Down Syndrome Day when we passed a motion of support. We will do that again in this place, hopefully this week. This will again be the only national parliament to host a parliamentary morning tea and a viewing of the advertising campaign. The support the Down syndrome community in Australia received from our national parliament was actually noted at the UN conference last year, so we made a difference. We made a difference in our parliament for people all over the world with Down syndrome. So, on this World Down Syndrome Day, we will again note the importance of working, living and participating in the community with confidence. That is what we need to celebrate on World Down Syndrome Day.