Mr STEPHEN JONES (Throsby) (13:42): In parliament today I pay tribute to Marlene Cooper, a passionate leader, community volunteer and advocate for people who are vision impaired or blind. Marlene is a formidable woman. A few weeks ago she called my office to put a rocket up us, saying, 'We want the National Disability Insurance Scheme in our region as soon as possible.' In her eight years on the Wollongong City Council access committee, she has trained over 600 council staff in accessibility issues and advised over countless plans and access issues.
But I think Marlene's most profound example of leadership had to do with visiting her dentist. The dentist was not very keen on letting her into the surgery with her assistance dog. So she started by approaching the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission. But, with the help of a friend and a talking computer, she chased down the policies of the Australian Dental Association in New South Wales. She found that, while their policies were otherwise really good, they were silent on the issues of assistance animals. So she found out when the New South Wales dental association was going to review their policies and set to work. Marlene put together her case and put it to them. Today, Marlene tells me, the dentists have a policy that asserts the rights of people to access their dentist with assistance animals. Marlene Cooper's leadership has made a difference for people who are blind or vision impaired around the nation, and I commend her for her efforts.
Image: Wollongong City Council, 2015.