Minto Public School Charity Fundraising

23 August 2016

Private Members’ Statement

Mr ANOULACK CHANTHIVONG (Macquarie Fields) (13:04): Small acts of kindness can have a big impact on society. Today I am delighted to acknowledge two young girls in my electorate who set out to help others and in doing so have triggered a wave of goodwill in the community, showing that generosity of spirit is not just the domain of adults. Astrid Graham and Tia Brennen, both of Minto Public School, have demonstrated kindness, compassion and maturity beyond their years. Both girls are exemplary role models and a credit to their families and the school community. There must be something special in the bubblers at Minto Public School.

Ten-year-old Astrid Graham's big smile matches her big heart. When Astrid heard that a friend had not received a present from Santa, she came up with an idea to make others feel loved on special occasions, such as Easter, Christmas and birthdays. Astrid set up a Facebook page called "Help Astrid pay it forward". She received hundreds of toy donations, which have since been donated to Uniting Burnside's Macarthur Brighter Futures, Intensive Family Based Services at Campbelltown and Youth Hope at Liverpool. Together with her mum, Patricia, Astrid has sparked a wave of generosity that has caught the attention of people near and far.

Astrid is helping not only children; for a number of years, Astrid has been creating art and craft and donating it to nursing homes to bring joy to older people at special times of the year. The artworks are designed for those who may not have anyone else in their lives. Next on Astrid's list is the creation of a ''box of cuddles" for children suffering trauma, family separation and/or violence. Children will be able to choose a cuddle toy from the box to give them strength when they need it most.

Equally generous in nature is nine-year-old Tia Brennen, whose "Tell Tia for Charity—recycled bikes for kids" Facebook page has more than 260 followers. Last Christmas Tia was visiting Sussex Inlet with her family when she noticed a pile of bikes dumped alongside some rubbish bins. Showing her initiative, Tia asked her mum, Clarissa, whether they could take the bikes home and donate them to kids in her local community who did not own bikes. Although there was not enough space in the car for this, Tia was not going to let that stop her. Instead, on their return home, Tia and her family started driving around the neighbourhood looking for unused bikes that could be donated.

As they say, the rest is history. Today Tia has distributed about 60 bikes with the help of the Police Citizens Youth Club Campbelltown, the Benevolent Society, Uniting Burnside at Campbelltown, Macquarie Fields Local Area Command, Minto on the Go and a host of other local organisations. Once Tia and her family collect the bikes, her dad, Simon, helps out with repairing and repainting, and Tia's younger sister, Harmony, performs quality assurance on the safety of the bikes by riding them, usually for longer than she is allowed to. Then the bikes are distributed to those less fortunate.

Tia's charity work has been recognised and supported by Macquarie Fields police. Officers have donated two bikes to her cause and are encouraging other residents to do the same. Tia says that by collecting bikes she wants to "make other kids smile". While Tia is keen for all kids to have the opportunity to own a bike, her other passion is animals and she is now collecting for PetRescue. Both Tia and Astrid are extraordinary young Australians whose commitment to helping others is simply amazing. Some members of the community have referred to the girls as "little angels", and that is a fair summation. Astrid's mum, Patricia, was spot-on when she said, "It's the small things that put a smile on people's faces." Who could disagree?

The value of kindness and its power to overcome adversity in building a stronger community can never be underestimated. Indeed, for these two Minto public school students kindness is in a class of its own and our community is all the better for their generosity of spirit and thoughtfulness for others less fortunate, particularly young people. I feel privileged to have met people like Astrid and Tia and their families and I am proud to represent them in this Parliament.