Doorstop Interview, Parliament House, Canberra

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The Hon Matt Thistlethwaite MP

Assistant Minister for Defence

Assistant Minister for Veterans’ Affairs

Assistant Minister for the Republic

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Ben Leeson on 0404 648 275

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6 September 2023

SUBJECTS: Senate inquiry into sport related concussion and head trauma.

MATT THISTLETHWAITE, ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR DEFENCE: Good morning, I'm Matt Thistlethwaite, the Assistant Minister for Defence but I'm here today speaking as the Co-Chair of the Parliamentary Friends of Rugby League. I wanted to thank Senator Pratt and all the other Senators that looked at this very important issue of head trauma and concussions in sport and thank them for the recommendations that they have made.

I grew up playing rugby league and a mad Rabbitohs supporter and I grew up and went to school with the brothers of Mario Fenech. Mario is a legend in the community that I represent. Captain of the Rabbitohs for many years, played for his state and Australia. But it's been heartbreaking to watch the effect that repeated head knocks have had on a beloved member of our community. And my thoughts are with his family as they deal with the consequences of repeated head knocks for a lot of footballers later in life.

At the time when Mario and many others were running around on the football field, we didn't know about the dangers of repeated head knocks, but we certainly do now know now the damage and the danger that can be caused for repeated head knocks in sport. And that's why this Senate committee report is so important for administrators of different sports and for governments moving forward about how we deal with the trauma associated with head knocks. And most importantly, how we make sports safe for all Australians, particularly kids who love the game of rugby league, of AFL and rugby union and soccer and play it on a daily basis throughout our community.

I want to pay particular tribute to Mark ‘Spud’ Carroll for his fantastic advocacy in forcing the various sporting codes and governments to take a more serious look at CTE, concussion and head trauma. He has been supported by former footballers such as James Graham and we've seen only this week the family of Steve Mortimer. Other greats like Wally Lewis, like Ray Price, like Andrew Johns, have come out to say that they are suffering the consequences of repeated head knocks. We now know that everyone involved in these sports has an obligation to make sure that the sport is safe moving forward, given what the science has determined and what we now know. And these recommendations will form the foundation of the sports getting it right into the future to make sure that these codes are safe for all to play. Thanks.


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