Type 1 diabetes is an incurable autoimmune disease that usually occurs in childhood. In Western Australia, around 120 children are diagnosed with type 1 diabetes annually and the rate is increasing.
An Australian first, the Telethon Juvenile Diabetes Centre opened in 2015, with the support of a $1.4 million Lotterywest grant, to provide a focal point for support for families, children and adolescents with diabetes.
The Centre connects and informs families and the wider community about the disease in a warm and friendly environment with a program that includes cooking classes, camps, guest speakers and a playgroup.
The Centre’s CEO, Bec Johnson, is also a type 1 diabetic and says the requirement for daily medical treatment and lifestyle management impacts not only on those with type 1 diabetes, but also on their families and carers. She is passionate about the positive role the Centre can play in young people’s lives;
“When I was diagnosed I felt so lonely. Type 1 diabetes is an incredibly isolating diseases to live with … It’s so important for children with type 1 diabetes to be supported and informed and connected and inspired and that’s what the Family Centre does.”
Emily Dowling, Mother to Finn (aged 6) was referred to the Centre through Finn’s endocrinology team and said the Centre had offered her a chance to make friends who understood what her family was going through and gave Finn support through each stage of his life.
“It also gives him friends that are the same as him. His friends at school aren’t the same. They don’t wear a pump. They don’t have to get their finger pricked every couple of hours or every time they eat, they can just go off and eat lunch”, she said.
“The Centre provides a place for us to sort of vent. We’ve got a sense of community. I’ve made some amazing friends who really understand what we’re going through and what our day to day life actually entails.”
Bec Johnson agrees:
“Lotterywest have helped us build so much more than a facility, they’ve helped us build a community.”