12 March 1991 - Current
Ms CRUGNALE (Bass) (16:29:45): Budam ba marramb-ik wandhanada guleeny ba badjurr ba Torres Strait Islander marrmbeena ganbu-ngi koolin-bulok. Ba yarraga marram nerrim nerrim ba babadiyl wurdiyalyal dinu-mari-a biik ba baany. Boon wurrung ba Woiwurrung galen-barreeam narram-dhana biik yannathan-ut. Ba marram-dhana birrarang-ga Yuma-djerri-ngat ba ngulu weelam. I wish to also sincerely acknowledge the hurt, the dispossession and the scars that run deep from the hands of white people. There are many wrongs that still need righting, a history that needs retelling and a relationship that needs recasting so we can all walk forward as Australians together. I cannot tell my story without including my family, both the one I have come from and the one I have made. My family on both sides called the mountains of Abruzzo in central Italy home. Their lives and their story intertwined with the land as farmers, woodchoppers, field workers and builders. The ancient Italic people called the Samnites—warriors, short in stature, strategic in battle—joined with neighbouring tribes and fought three wars against the Romans. They were the first gladiators of that time, and they rest in the fields by the river in their thousands in my grandmother’s village of Alfedena. My grandmother used to say, 'Never set the table without a bottle of wine’ and 'Bread is your best friend’. Like many around them, my family were displaced in the Second World War, their houses bombed, burned and ransacked. They lived in refugee camps, lost newborns from malnutrition, had children separated from them and hid in the mountains, and some were captured and held at gunpoint. My mother still to this day says, 'You have no idea what it is like to go hungry’. These stories and more were all part of our growing up: adversity and hope, gratefulness and compassion, family and community. My parents came here by boat and settled in regional Western Australia, wanting a better life for their future children and grandchildren. For them education and hard work was the path to economic and social improvement. Play fair, fight with the facts, give credit where it is due, be the first to admit you are wrong and look out for your neighbour; this was the essence that held us as a family. My father gifted me a Victa lawnmower—a real one—for my sixth birthday and set me to work, and I spent the next eight years as his assistant in what you could call the 'construction industry’ on his building site, bricklaying, tiling, levelling concrete and making his coffee. Subsequent birthday presents were classically Italian: oversized blocks of parmesan cheese and my best friend, loaves of bread. As a builder my father would read the ground and know its strengths and vulnerabilities, and he would spend time getting that first piece of string level and right. It was a metaphor for life, really: know your base, invest in the foundation and set the formwork well. Like my dad’s, this is Labor’s story: building a strong society from the ground up, getting the foundations right and doing the hard work. My eclectic working history has taken me to the Kimberley, the Latrobe Valley, Bass, Melbourne, Cambodia, Mexico and El Salvador. I have been extremely blessed to have worked for some amazing people over my life. I worked in a bilingual school and on an oral history project for senior Kukatja, Ngardi and Wangakunkja women, both in the Kimberley. As part of my work we collected over 40 tapes of language and assembled a collection of these stories, now in print. Their stories of cooks riding camels on the Canning Stock Route in the 1930s are some of my most treasured. Making musical instruments with street kids in Mexico from discarded objects; teaching English to migrants and refugees; joining young mums to take over the town of Morwell with paste-up images of them pregnant, with their children and with hundreds of little baby footprints—with council’s permission, of course; making wire drawing installations with kids from Bass Valley Primary School; and being a support worker in a mental health drop-in centre here in the city—the thread that runs through is community and people, many of whom sit outside the mainstream. At the heart of my working life has always been the principle of social justice: Labor’s core values of fairness, inclusion and opportunity. When the Royal Commission into Mental Health was announced, it brought me to tears. My sister is no longer here for a number of reasons but also because the system let her down. Six months after she closed her eyes to the world I wrote letters because I did not want any other family to go through what we went through. But this government will dissect this broken system and start again, making sure everything—the services, the supports, the early interventions—is right. I hope everyone from everywhere—across every culture, in every community and across all ages—puts in a submission, because only you can help change the system for the better through your story and experience. I had the honour to serve as a Bass Coast councillor for four years and as mayor for one. It was a wonderful experience forging connections with people working in business, health, education, farming, the arts and the environment. This work gave me insight into the issues, needs and aspirations of the people and communities of Bass. It was this insight that led me to join the party. I ran for Bass because I could no longer stand by and watch the growing inequality in our society. Despite Australia’s prosperity, far too many are doing it tough. The seat of Bass is unique. It takes in the growing outer metro suburbs of Pakenham and Clyde, the rich market gardens of Cardinia, the nature-based tourism of Phillip Island and a beautiful coastline made up of marine parks, reserves and significant wetlands. At one end of my electorate is Pakenham, and only 20 years ago it was a country town. Now it is a thriving, multicultural urban community. At the other end of the electorate is the Bass Coast, a community of coastal towns and villages where the environment is the economy. Wonthaggi has a rich socialist union history, starting out as a state coalmine. Koo Wee Rup, in the middle, is the nation’s asparagus-growing capital, and there are so many other places and spaces with unique points of interest and difference. We have enjoyed strong growth, and with that come new opportunities but also many challenges. It is really essential that we have a strong local economy, accessible health and social support services, modern educational facilities, efficient transport links, local jobs, housing and a healthy environment. But as I said earlier, people are doing it tough. We have too many highs and lows—and for the worse—when compared with our regional and metropolitan counterparts. We have high teenage pregnancy rates, low average household incomes, high rates of family violence and low year 12 completion rates. Bass is ranked amongst the highest in the state for the number of children with developmental vulnerabilities. Our food insecurity is one of the highest. The number of children attending three and five-year-old maternal and child health checks is the lowest in the state. The rate of cancer in females is one of the highest. Youth unemployment, substantial underemployment and growing job insecurity affect us all as a community. A classroom-and-a-half is born each week on one side of the electorate, and we have a rapidly ageing population on the other. Mortgage stress, rental stress—our caravan parks are our social, crisis and emergency housing. People are driving crazy distances for work. Our elderly travel for hours on the bus to Dandenong Hospital with their X-rays under their arms. This is not good. When we have people not travelling so well, we are not well as a collective. The statistics are backed with stories—stories that are real and meaningful, distressing and enlightening, including parents not able to afford specialist support for their children, women in violent situations not knowing where to access help and families from war-torn countries here also to build a better future for their children singled out and judged at every turn. It was no surprise then that the voters of Bass responded so positively to this government’s plans for three-year-old kinder, mental health professionals in high schools, dental vans in schools, community hospitals, free TAFE, the Local Jobs First program and Solar Homes. Locally we also committed to four level crossing removals and a new super‑station, two community hospitals, eight schools, a coastal park, inland parks, the CFA, ambulance and police stations, and significant school upgrades—Bass is loved. All these programs will make a significant difference for Bass. This is why I am here, this is why I am Labor and this is why the people of Bass voted for an Andrews Labor government. We will deliver stronger local economies creating local jobs, improving economic opportunity and cutting into travel times. We need better public transport, an integrated system that is efficient and regular for everyone. As a first step we need more bus services to link with V/Line and metro services to the city, as well as buses in and around where we live. We need better health and social support services tailored for each community and resourced according to need. We want to continue to protect and enhance the environmental assets and natural resources we have and for which we are justifiably famous. And, importantly, we need much better social housing, because without the safety and security of housing everything becomes so much harder. In new housing estates we need to mandate affordable social and emergency housing. We need allocated space for future solar battery storage, rain gardens and space for trees to be trees and more than just decorative adornments. The focus needs to be on livability and quality, and everything we build also has to be done through a climate change lens. The strength of my community can be found in examples like that of the friends of Samantha Fraser, a mother of two young children who was killed in her own home in Cowes last year. In the midst of their grief Samantha’s friends determined that some good at least should come out of her tragic death. They have worked tirelessly ever since, in partnership with council, police and health services, for more supports to tackle family violence in the Bass Coast region. The Change for Sam strategy was funded by this government late last year. People in Bass have extraordinary resilience and a strong sense of community, and this has been so visible recently with the fires at Grantville and those still going in Bunyip, Yinnar South and throughout Gippsland. The community have wrapped their arms around those affected, rallying to help in every which way they can. Donations to relief centres abound. Stables and paddocks have been offered for horses, dogs and livestock. Homes have been thrown open. This is community. Strike teams have come from right across the region and the state. For those CFA volunteers who work, their bosses have let them off while still receiving their wages to go and fight the fires in their community. Businesses are offering free this and free that. Everyone is chipping in. As the first Labor representative and the first woman representative for the seat of Bass, I will fight to make their voices heard, here in this chamber and beyond. No-one arrives here without help and support—and lots of it. I want to acknowledge the former member for Bass, Brian Paynter, for his service to our community and wish him all the very best. Thank you to the electorate of Bass for putting your collective trust in the Andrews Labor government and in me. To the magnificent branch members, supporters, friends, family, the unions, the Community Action Network, donors, volunteers and everyone on our campaign team—indeed everyone in the great Labor family—we turned this seat around because of your hard work, commitment and spirit. To the Premier and everyone making up the very large caucus, as well as your staff, thank you. I am thrilled to be a part of this team and this government at this time. I would like to especially mention Kay Setches, local branch member and a former minister in this place—a positive disruptor who has been at my side throughout. To Elaina Haig, who I still have in my phone as 'wants a new high school in Pakenham’, we are going to do it, and we are going to open it together in 2021. Branch member Eric Kent from Lang Lang, who was first elected to the other place in 1970 and who was the Minister for Agriculture in the Cain government, at age 99, with tea in his Gough Whitlam mug, held my hand with strength and sent me on my way after preselection, saying, 'Return as the member for Bass’. I overwhelmingly endorse Eric’s hope of receiving a letter for his 100th birthday this June from a Labor Prime Minister. To my Mark, always by my side, we have walked across many lands and through many tunnels together, with your guitar in hand. Labor courses through your veins. Our boys cherish the stories of your granddad Bill O’Neill working the trains with Chifley, being secretary of the New South Wales railway union and lands secretary and, importantly, fighting for equal pay for women in the railways back in the 1940s. To our little Aquilini, Augustus and Luciano, adorable warriors, short in stature momentarily, please keep asking questions and challenging the status quo, and write back to Lego in Denmark because their response on plastic packaging simply was not good enough. Walk proud with your history, and look out for each other and those around you. Know that those golden threads that pass through you also weave around you, connect you to your yesterday and thread your tomorrow as a story of family and community. I am proud we ran a positive, forward-thinking grassroots campaign. We listened intently, we told our story and we brought all our conversations with the people of Bass to the table. So to the people of Bass—and in conclusion—we will make our stories heard. We will bring forth our ideas, our priorities and our challenges constructively and with formidable intent. We will work together to meet the challenges we face head-on with dignity and with determination, because Bass matters and we are worth it. Members applauded.