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‘Biggest challenge’: Why MPs were in tears

Written by on May 15, 2024

Emotional scenes have broken out in Victorian parliament as a first-term MP detailed her motor neurone disease fight.

Emma Vulin, the Labor MP for Pakenham, on Melbourne’s southeast edge, revealed her MND diagnosis last month.

But on Wednesday the Legislative Assembly was a sea of blue pom-pommed beanies in support of disease sufferers, their families and research.

Melbourne AFL icon and Australia’s most prominent MND campaigner, Neale Daniher, was also in parliament as the FightMND Big Freeze campaign prepares for its 10th anniversary.

Ms Vulin told parliament she had faced many hurdles in her life, including having a stroke at age 36 and a close political campaign.

“ … and now I face my biggest challenge – motor neurone disease,” she said.

“I am not the only one facing the beast: There are over 2000 Australians and over 500 Victorians living with MND, and that is also a lot of friends and families who are impacted also.”

Ms Vulin said she curled up and cried for two days after being diagnosed and then pulled herself together.

“Just like the legendary Neale Daniher says, ‘Don’t say, do!’ – except for me, it was, ‘Stop crying and do!’” Ms Vulin said.

She said the disease had progressed to inflict a “very weak” right arm on her.

After Ms Vulin announced her diagnosis, Mr Daniher and his wife Jan invited the MP and her partner to their home to talk through tips, information and the road ahead.

Motor neurone disease causes neurons to degenerate and die. Muscles become weaker and weaker. Sufferers are then paralysed. There is no known cure.

MND Victoria chief executive Kate Johnson was also in parliament; the organisation provides mobility aids, equipment and counselling.

“They are an incredible organisation who do a large range of things but predominantly help with the care of people living with MND from the beginning through to palliative care,” Ms Vulin said.

The Danihers’ organisation, FightMND, is hosting its 10th Big Freeze campaign this year, with athletes and celebrities sliding into ice water at the MCG in a few weeks.

Following her speech, MPs gave Ms Vulin a standing ovation, as parliamentarians wiped tears from their eyes.