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Legislative Assembly

19 February 2019
Pauline Richards  (ALP)


Ms RICHARDS (Cranbourne) (18:42:26): Speaker, I add my voice to those of others in here today in congratulating you on your re-election as Speaker in this place. It is a great privilege to stand here today, shoulder to shoulder with my friends in the Labor Party, those across the aisle and on the crossbench in this the 59th Parliament of Victoria, in a government where there are an equal number of women and men in our cabinet. It is an extraordinary honour to represent the people of Cranbourne, a place I proudly call home. It is an incredible gift, the faith of my neighbours, and something I take seriously. In my journey to this place I have been blessed with the dedication of so many people, without whom I would not be here today. I would like to begin, though, by acknowledging those who came first to Cranbourne. For many thousands of years Cranbourne has been the traditional land of the Kulin nation, the Boon Wurrung and the Wurundjeri people. I pay my deepest respects. I honour elders past and present and those emerging leaders of the future. To our Indigenous custodians I say thank you. I grew up in a Labor family. My father was a rank-and-file Labor Party member who loved the optimism imbued by the language of the 'light on the hill’. He was a man inspired by a commitment to social justice and the need to act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly. His father was a mechanic who worked evenings as a taxidriver. His father was a widower with a young family to raise, but what he desired most, and the reason he worked such long hours, was that his children would have the opportunity promised by education. I hear my grandfather’s story repeated in Cranbourne. It is a story of long hours worked, sometimes in two jobs, and sacrifice for the promise of education. My own father cared deeply about civic trust. He was a 'branchie’. He was prone to conspiracy theories. He would love to be here today. He died in the weeks before the 2014 election and his last cogent words to me were, 'Love, the 2PP is holding up nicely’. I come to this place buoyed by the love of my family: my brothers, Martin and Gerard, and my sister, Maree, together with my extended family, my beloved nieces and nephews, my aunties and uncles, sisters-in-law and brothers-in-law, who have unconditionally loved and supported me. I am proud to be a member of your brood. For your unconditional love, I say thank you. To the village of people who remind me what genuine friendship looks like, I say thank you. I have been blessed with an extraordinary partner. Paul Kearsley, I understand from those around us that your dedication is writ large on your face. I look to you to organise my life, to provide wisdom and for your unwavering love. To you, Paul, I say thank you. To my daughters, Erin, Ruby and Sophie, my heart swells at the sight of your faces, so familiar, so similar. I feel pride in the adults you have become. I love you so much. To the inspirational family I acquired in my marriage to your father, Thomas, Oliver and Madeleine Kearsley, you brought a spark to our Brady Bunch family. You brought so much joy, so many pranks and so much laughter to my life. To you all, I say thank you. I am proud to stand in this place as the first female member for Cranbourne, unquestionably as my mother’s daughter. My mother’s father was in training to be a Jesuit when he met my grandmother while on sabbatical. Fortunately for us all, he left the seminary for the love of my grandmother but maintained his belief in action. My mother was always more about action than words. Having achieved a year 9 education, my mother returned to university in her 40s and started her first career outside the home after that. Even now at 87 years my mother continues to work in the community, supporting women and children, teaching English to those who have recently arrived—connecting the community together. My mother was a family violence worker. She cared for women and children long before our nation and our state were willing to confront this deep, dark secret. To my mother, on behalf of the women you have supported, I say thank you. It breaks my heart that family violence is still our number one law and order challenge, contributing to more illness, disability and death than anything else for young women in our community. I would like to pause for a moment to reflect that there were 4378 incidents of family violence in my community last year. We can and must do better. Premier, I will never forget your commitment to women and children. You said you would hold perpetrators of family violence to account. You told us there was nothing more important. I am so proud to join you in continuing this work to fight against gender inequality and disrespect. To you, Premier, for keeping your word and for being a true Labor leader, I say thank you. There is a lot going on in Cranbourne. We are widening the roads, we are duplicating the train line and we are building a community hospital and new schools. I am so proud of our commitment to education. Our children deserve the best start in life, and they will get it. To the most recent arrivals, those who struggle to be understood, I am inspired every day by the people who live in Cranbourne. Cranbourne has a profound multicultural story, and this may well be the aspect of my community I enjoy the most. Our shared story is one based on success, meaningful contribution and shared values—an acknowledgment that we are stronger together. Labor views people who have recently arrived, those who have chosen to make Victoria and Cranbourne home, as community builders. There is nothing better for the soul than fronting up to a door and asking that most important, open question about what matters most. It is a humbling experience, asking that question. It is one that I repeated over and over, thousands of times in this last year. Rather than tiring me, it was energising. People were overwhelmingly grateful to have the opportunity to tell their story. To the people of Cranbourne, your stories are optimistic. To those I met who had endured extraordinary, perilous journeys, I say thank you. To those whose heritage is Afghani, to my lovely neighbours and friends from the Pacific Islands and New Zealand, to those enthusiastic teenagers whose parents escaped conflict in the Sudan and to the generous people of Sri Lankan, Filipino and Indian heritage who have chosen to make Cranbourne home, I say thank you. Your unifying trait is your hope for the future, especially for your children. Just like my grandfather, I see that many of you are working in two jobs. I would like to take a moment to acknowledge one group whose testimony was in equal parts heart-wrenching and memorable because the stories were so filled with love. To you, my friends at the Cranbourne family drug help support group, who opened your hearts to me, those of you who shared your challenges and support each other through compassion, I say thank you. I told you that addiction, suicide and mental ill health recognise no difference in class, income, age, religion or ethnicity. We can and we must do more. I am so proud to stand in this place and know that work is already underway on Australia’s first Royal Commission into Mental Health. To the Minister for Mental Health, I say thank you. There is great need in Cranbourne, but there is far more optimism and beauty. From the grandeur of the Cranbourne botanic gardens in the south, to the slice of heaven around the lake in Lynbrook, to the meticulous gardens in the new estates, Cranbourne is the unsung jewel of Melbourne’s south-east. Cranbourne’s older residents love the joy of this still close-knit community. For 16 years Cranbourne was served by a gentle, great man, Jude Perera, who served everyone with no regard for status. To you, Jude, I say thank you. My path to this place is paved with the generosity and faith of so many. To the true believers of the Labor Party, I say thank you. You gave your own time and opened up your hearts. You know who you are. There are too many to name; however, I cannot join this place without tipping my hat to Alison and Mark Edwards, Lesley Nelson, Dale Wilson, Sheri, Merih, Gary, Dylan, Brett and Olga, Rod, Tom, Annaliese, Fiona, Helen, Vanessa, Liam, Martha, Amrit, Margaret and Bernadette. You are the backbone of the movement. To Daniel Benjamin and the Deakin University Labor Club, I say thank you. To those who are continuing this work, Karen Moxey and Alfonso Silva, I say thank you. Although always a member of my union, it was during the WorkChoices campaign that I first really got active. It was when I joined teachers, cleaners, nurses, parents and students in speaking to people about why penalty rates mattered that I saw firsthand the profound power of people. I stand on the shoulders of the great and the good women and men of the union movement, but none come close to the Electrical Trades Union. To Troy Gray, Danny Filazzola, Graeme Watson and Howard Worthing, for your support and wise counsel, I say thank you. You were there when I needed you in 2007 and you stood with me again in 2018. To the men and women of the Australian Nursing & Midwifery Federation, especially Lisa Fitzpatrick, for your commitment to health care and your members, I say thank you. In Jamie Trotter I knew I had landed the heart and soul of Labor’s south-east, a man whose own Labor story inspired us but whose gentle, steely demeanour disarmed us. Jamie Trotter, to you and to the mother who raised you to be so fine, I say thank you. To my campaign team: the patient Lee Talarmis, Mat Hilikari, Mark Kettle, Matt Harris and Declan McGonigal, I say thank you. To Chris McDermott, you are topnotch. Together with Chris Wheeler, Noni Sproule, Nadia Harrison, Luke McMahon, Jane Lawless, Georgia Brumby and Zoe Edwards—my kitchen cabinet—you are without peer, and I say thank you. There is no wiser counsel than Alan Griffin, a Labor great who knows how to tell a great Labor story. Thank you, Alan. To Sam, Stephen and Kos, I always felt well supported. Thank you. This government set a cracking pace and people in Cranbourne noticed. To the party’s leadership, for reminding us that good government means staring down hatred, sexism, homophobia and racism, I say thank you. To the Deputy Premier; to the Minister for Child Protection from neighbouring Narre Warren North; to the member for Carrum; to our Cabinet Secretary, the member for Macedon; and to the member for Eltham, for reassuring me and taking the time to check that I was okay, I say thank you. To the Minister for Prevention of Family Violence, for backing me in, then holding me on a steady course—your friendship is precious and you are wise beyond your age—I say thank you. In the other place, to the Minister for Health, Jenny Mikakos, a woman who fights every day for justice, I say thank you. To the President of the other place, Shaun Leane, for showing decency, humanity and loyalty, I say thank you. I have had the opportunity to serve an apprenticeship under the guidance of Victoria’s Attorney-General, Jill Hennessy, a friend to so many in this place. Your extraordinary intellect, your courage and your sheer capacity for hard work left us all in awe. You have taken on reform with the courage of a lion, but it is your cracking wit, your uncanny insight and a real belief in me and those around you that I will always remember. Thank you so much for your support, but mostly thank you for smiling in reassurance when I needed it most. Speaker, I wake to the sweet sound of children playing in the streets around my home. Cranbourne is a young community. To those who live in new houses, hang sheets on your windows while you save for curtains, work long hours, leave early in the morning and return late at night, I see you and I say thank you. To the woman I met who was just getting her life sorted out, who was holding it together—just—you had a rough start to life, and I remember you. You said your children were doing well at the local primary school, and you were hoping to get your drivers licence back so you could take your children to the beach. You want to go to TAFE. You deserve a second chance. For placing your trust in Labor, I say thank you. In closing I would like to celebrate the beauty of the diversity of my community by thanking the people who put their faith in me. In your mother tongue I say thank you—dhanyavaad, salamat, nandri, tuhada dhanavada, obata stutiyi, tashakor, xiexie, gracias. Thank you, Speaker. Members applauded. Business interrupted under sessional orders.