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Legislative Assembly

19 February 2019
Katie Hall  (ALP)


Ms HALL (Footscray) (16:31:00): I acknowledge that here and in Footscray we are on the traditional lands of the Kulin nation. I offer my respects to their elders, past and present. When I reflected on what I wanted to say in this speech, I decided that more than anything I wanted this to be a tribute to the people and places of Footscray—Footscray, Braybrook, West Footscray, Sunshine, Sunshine West, Maribyrnong, Maidstone and Tottenham. The streets of these suburbs have provided the backdrop for some of Australia’s great stories. So, Footscray, this is my tribute to you and my hopes for the future of our vibrant and fascinating corner of Melbourne. I have a strong sense of belonging in Footscray. I am a member of the sixth generation of my family to live in the inner west. There have been times when we have lived in other parts of Melbourne, but Footscray is a place that calls you back. When I am sitting on the Doug Hawkins wing with family and friends, when I am eating banh mi on Barkly Street or when I hear the ships announce their arrival in the port, I feel at home. Footscray has a personality that is hard to pin down. Peter Haffenden from Melbourne’s Living Museum of the West once told me that he thinks of Footscray as a bit like the book The Magic Faraway Tree—that every few days a new land comes along with new characters to meet and different stories to tell. I like that analogy, because the many lands of the inner west coexist beautifully, and every day I am inspired by our local heroes and their stories of endeavour, activism and triumph over adversity. There was William Cooper, the Aboriginal activist who dedicated his life to the advancement of his people. In 1938 he led the world’s only protest of Kristallnacht, marching from his home in Footscray to the German consulate. We carry with us the spirit of the workers of the Sunshine Harvester factory, who fought for and secured the landmark decision to enshrine a living wage. Those workers changed Australia for the better forever, and it is our job to protect their legacy from those who seek to undermine it. There is the late Ron Palmer. Well known as Mr Footscray, he dedicated his life to local causes—our brass bands, restoring our river, saving our Doggies and telling our stories. There was George Seelaf, the proud, parochial legend of the meatworkers union. He started his working life at the Angliss meatworks and went on to be a champion of the arts for working people in the west. It is because of George that we have the groundbreaking Footscray Community Arts Centre and Ercildoune, the heritage-listed home of the Footscray Historical Society. The public artwork dedicated to George Seelaf is located on Vipont Street, named after my great grandmother, Linda Vipont. Nana Vipont volunteered for the Red Cross for 70 years. She welcomed newly arrived refugees at the hostel in Maribyrnong. She was a feminist and a woman of compassion. Nana was 104 when she died, the City of Maribyrnong’s oldest resident. There is Fatih Yargi from West Footscray. He established the Australian Light Foundation in Tottenham and organises shipping containers full of emergency supplies to go to refugee camps across the globe. Fatih is here in the gallery today—thank you for everything you do. There is Denis Nelthorpe, who runs Westjustice, our local community legal service. You will never meet a fiercer defender of social justice than Denis. It is the nurses at Tweddle, Footscray’s famous hospital for parents and babies, which celebrates its 99th birthday this year. I am proud to say that this beacon of support to families will be rebuilt by this government, increasing its capacity by 40 per cent. It is the determined residents of Footscray who in the early 1900s agitated against the polluting industries. They believed the people of Footscray deserved their own gardens like those in the eastern suburbs. They fought and they won, and Footscray Park remains the most beautiful Edwardian gardens in Australia. To me it will always be the place where my dad proposed to my mum. Of course there is the army of local legends who more than once saved the Footscray football club from going under. Our community owes a debt of gratitude to these people every time we hear sons—or nowadays daughters—of the west ring out across West Footscray. These are just a few of the people who have made and continue to make our community so strong, and their work inspires me every day. I am optimistic for our future. Like our fairytale premiership team, I say, 'Why not us? Why not Footscray?’, and I know that the Andrews Labor government believes that too. To many the inner west is a place where dreams of freedom, fairness and democracy have come true. We share the hope that belongs to the waves of refugees and migrants from faraway lands who continue to arrive in Footscray to seek a better life. It is home to the extraordinary Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, which every year provides essential services and aid to more than 4600 people. They are supported by hundreds of volunteering Melburnians, who believe that everyone deserves their fair go, their shot at an opportunity in Australia. As the member for Footscray I will do whatever I can to support their important work, and that includes advocating for more public and social housing. Ours is a community that lifts people up. But too often I hear stories of people trying to get ahead without the basics, people living on the edge of homelessness in motels and rooming houses because of job insecurity or mental illness, or because they are seeking asylum. Of course Footscray is home to some innovative solutions, including McAuley House, Victoria’s first purpose-built accommodation and support hub for women who are homeless as a result of family violence. It was funded by a $4 million Andrews government contribution, part of Labor’s comprehensive response to the Royal Commission into Family Violence. This is a government that lives its values. These investments do not make the front page of the newspaper, but they do change lives. And I will always fight for more public, crisis and social housing in the inner west, as well as inclusionary zoning, because developers can also play a role in the provision of affordable housing. Change is upon us, and the inner west is booming. The population in Footscray is set to grow by 140 per cent in the next two decades. The factories my family members worked in, such as Kinnears and Ryco, are being transformed into thousands of apartments. The Maribyrnong defence land where my grandfather and great-grandfather worked is now on the market, being advertised by the federal government as a place that could accommodate 6000 homes. The fact is: it cannot and it should not. It is well known that the soil there is heavily contaminated. That precious parcel of land was poisoned in the nation’s interest at the expense of my community. To give it back in the same condition they received it in would be the right thing to do. Like many of its neighbours, I believe it should be a green wedge for the inner west. We could certainly use the open space, because there was a time in recent history when developers were allowed to let rip. Many developments were approved, with towers far exceeding height controls but with no open space or infrastructure contributions and no affordable housing to offset the density that was allowed. That was an injustice. Our young and rapidly growing community is rightfully demanding more open space, cleaner air and trucks off local roads whilst wanting to preserve the industrial heritage that makes us unique. I am proud to be joining a government that will deliver 24-hour truck bans and environmental protections for our waterways. Across suburbs once designed for factories and freight, we have to continue our efforts to deliver safer cycling connections and to increase our tree canopy to reduce the urban heat island effect. Footscray is a young electorate. The average age of residents is 33, and last year there were 5475 babies born at Sunshine Hospital, including my son, Ned. When we left busy Sunshine Hospital we passed the almost finished Joan Kirner Women’s and Children’s Hospital. To me this represents the future and optimism of the west—infrastructure everywhere, investments in families and a changing local economy. The old industries are making way for the new. We have a wealth of creative start-ups and small businesses, and a thriving knowledge sector. It is supported by Victoria University and this government’s landmark investment into TAFE, making sure people do not get left behind as industry changes. Health care is a growing industry locally, and I am so proud to be joining this fine Labor government as it builds a world-class $1.5 billion hospital for the Footscray community. It is the hospital we deserve. It is the hospital healthcare workers deserve. It will be transformative, and it will be second to none. In Sunshine the local economy will be revitalised by airport rail. Across the inner west schools are being rebuilt, asbestos is being removed and breakfasts are being served. They are filling tummies and fuelling young minds, and soon the dental vans will do their important work. Minister Merlino, thank you. I joined the Labor Party when I was 15 years old as a student at a time when the Kennett government was closing schools. Education was a catalyst for my early activism and, along with the environment, remains one of the two policy areas that I am keenly interested in. I owe this to my parents. Mum taught me to believe in the power and great leveller of public education and that teaching is a most noble profession. She is here today. Thanks, Mum. My dad was a horticulture lecturer. He encouraged me to have an inquiring mind and to care about the environment, and it is from Dad that I inherited my love of the mighty west. Before Dad died he told me not to give up on politics. I am sure he would have loved to see his daughter representing the party he believed in for the area he grew up in. To my whole family, thank you for a lifetime of support. To my brothers, Dan and Nick, my sister-in-law, Deb, Nick’s partner, Louise, my parents-in-law, John and Carmel, and their fierce, loyal kids and partners, Luke and Talara, Nikki and Sam, Jessie and Stephen, thank you. To my husband, Sam McCrone, my partner in everything, thank you for being the best dad to Tilly and Ned and my wisest counsel. To Tilly and Ned, my love for you is the motivating force behind me being here. I want Footscray to be the best possible place for you and for all the children of the inner west to grow up in. To the true believers who helped me get here, my campaign managers, Katherine Munt and Owen Virtue, your thoughtful and generous leadership helped me every day, especially when Ned arrived. I can never repay the debt of gratitude I have to you except to work hard every day to achieve the best outcomes I can for our beloved Footscray. To our campaign committee of committed westies, Steve Howland, Achol Arrow, Megan Darling, Sel Sanli, Jacob Cook, Sinead Mildenhall, Celil Karaslar, Alice Mutton and Hannah Brown, thank you for your organising and your activism. To all the ALP members in Footscray, the people who doorknocked and donated, thank you. To EMILY’s List and Barbara Jennings, the Australian Workers Union and Ben Davis, thank you. You get by with a little help from your friends. To Carla De Campo, Liam O’Brien, Fiona and Mark Ward, Anna Hobson, Andrew and Andrea Hobson, William Kewly, Andres Puig and Pam O’Brien, thank you. I would like to thank two former members for Footscray, Marsha Thomson and Bruce Mildenhall. Thank you for your service and your passion for the west. To my mentor, the one and only, the trailblazing Nicola Roxon, thank you. Thank you to my friends here in the Parliament, in particular Minister Kairouz. You helped me to believe in myself every day and every step of the way. To Minister Scott, Tim Richardson, Sarah Connolly and the western suburbs sisterhood in this place, and to Minister Somyurek in the other place, thank you for your practical support and encouragement. To our Premier and this progressive government of the people—ours is a party of depth, a party that truly governs for all Victorians—thank you. To the people of Footscray, with clear eyes and a full heart I will work hard for you every day: For the cause that lacks assistance, For the wrong that needs resistance, For the future in the distance, And the good that I can do. I will give it my best shot. Thank you. Members applauded.