Thanks to the member for Bass. It’s always a pleasure to follow her thoughtful contributions. It really does feel like a thoughtful and different parliament that we are in, and I have really been enjoying listening to all the first speeches in this place over the past couple of days. The diversity of life experience, the diversity of thought that has come to this chamber can only make us stronger. What’s also clear in all our newly elected members is the passion they have for serving their communities and for doing that while they’re here. That’s been a wonderful experience to be able to be part of, and I know there are still more of those contributions to come.
For me, it’s an honour to be back in here, re-elected as the member for Jagajaga, and I say to my community: a very big thank you for once again electing me and choosing me to represent you. It is a privilege that I feel every day—I will not forget—and I will do everything to work on your behalf and to make sure your lives are enriched by us being here in government in this place.
A lot of stories have come out of this election, but one of the stories I want to focus on in this speech is that story of community, because I think one of the things that people said to us in this election was that they value representatives who are connected to their community. On this I perhaps want to pick up on a narrative that I think has been slightly unfair or perhaps misrepresented in some of our media coverage. It is the idea that those of us from major parties aren’t connected to our communities or in fact don’t spend time with our communities. I don’t want this to sound like I have a major chip on my shoulder; that’s not where I’m coming from—maybe a little bit!—but I do want to acknowledge that I am here on behalf of my community and I am connected to that community. I grew up in my community, and I live there now with my children, just like so many people. I use the services. I talk to the people. That is what drives me when I am here every day.
During the election campaign there were so many opportunities for me to talk with members of my community, and I want to thank everyone who took the time to talk to me. It was clear to me that, while people weren’t happy with where our country was and while they were disappointed in the leadership that they were getting in this place, they did think it could be better and they wanted to engage on how it could be better. I really want to thank everyone to took the time to have that conversation with me—to not just fall into this idea that all politicians aren’t that great, that there’s not much we can do to make things better. Those people actually chose to stand on a street while I was standing there, on the street corner, and have a conversation with me about how things could be better. When I knocked on their doors they told me about what was important in their lives, and we had a conversation about some of the ways that I and this government might be able to make their lives better. So I’m really proud and really pleased that I’m here once again and have the opportunity to do that as part of a Labor government.
On that theme of community, I want to take this opportunity to also talk about some of the local commitments we made to Jagajaga during the election campaign, because again I think this shows that, as a federal government, we understand that we work at a number of levels and we have a number of responsibilities to communities. My community is one that has a strong medical precinct—we have the Austin Hospital, we have the Mercy Hospital for Women, we have Warringal hospital and we have the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Centre, so it’s a very strong health precinct—and many people who work in health care. I want to say thank you to all of them. I know you are still doing it really tough. I know you are stretched. I know this is a really tough winter, and we’ve been saying ‘thank you’ and ‘this is tough’ for two years now. Please know that I hear from all of you who contact me—who explain to me what it is like at the moment to be working in our health system and the strain that is there—just as I hear from the people in my electorate who talk to me about how hard it is to access healthcare services at the moment. This is an example close to my heart, but people tell me how, when your child has a cough or a cold and needs to be seen by a doctor, the stretch is so great at the moment that the waitlists are too long.
I was particularly pleased that one of the commitments we made to Jagajaga during this election was for a Medicare urgent care clinic in Heidelberg—in that area where our Austin Hospital is currently overstretched and where the emergency department is overwhelmed, despite the absolute best efforts of the doctors and nurses who I know are working their guts out in there. They need more. They need more support. They need a government that is committed to Medicare and to a primary health system that means not all the pressure goes onto our hospitals. And that, obviously, is what a Medicare urgent care clinic is designed to do. So I’m very pleased that we have been able to make this commitment to Heidelberg, and I’m really looking forward to working with the community and with our healthcare professionals to deliver that.
Another important area in my electorate is Heidelberg Heights, which is a growing area with lots of young families moving in and enjoying the proximity to the city and to good services as well. As I said, it’s just down the road from a major medical precinct. But, as a growing area, it lacks a community hub, I suppose—a community focus in terms of a place where community groups can meet and that can be used for that sort of purpose. So I was very pleased that one of the local commitments we made during the election was to redeveloping the pavilion at Shelley Park. This park supports local football clubs and it has done so for many years—it has a grand history—but it could use an update to make it a modern, fit-for-purpose facility. So I’m really pleased that we’re going to help bring this pavilion into the 21st century and allow it to be opened up to more of those community groups and to the growing community in Heidelberg Heights to strengthen those community connections. The North Heidelberg Sporting Club and their president, Warren Haysom, have been very active over my first term in government in engaging with me about their vision for this community facility. Together with the Diamond Valley Superules Football Club, I’m confident they’ll be going from strength to strength.
Further up the northern end of my electorate, I’m pleased to say that we will be supporting upgrades at Eltham Lower Park, again an important piece of community infrastructure in Jagajaga. Our commitment of $2 million there will kickstart the much-needed upgrade of the pavilion, which is used by the Lower Eltham Cricket Club and by the Eltham Lacrosse Club. These are both great community clubs, ably led by Stephen Stanley and Luke Kendall, respectively. I do want to say that I have had the opportunity of watching quite a few lacrosse matches over the past few months, and I never realised it was such a violent game, so I’ve had some new experiences there.
The funds will also help to deliver a dedicated off-leash dog park on site. I know that will be a space that will be well utilised by many people in Eltham and surrounds who need that. When we look at the infrastructure of our communities, I know in Jagajaga these open spaces—these parks—have been areas that through COVID, through periods when we have been closer to home, have been so valuable. It is one of the reasons why I’m very pleased that we’ve been able to make this commitment as well. The funds will help deliver some amenity upgrades—seating, revegetation and bathrooms—for people who are enjoying that park, so I’m very pleased to be able to deliver that.
My electorate is also home to the Yarra River; it is one of many electorates in Melbourne that the Yarra River flows through. A major policy that Labor took to this election was our commitment to urban rivers and catchments. That program really recognises that there’s a role for the federal government in looking after our urban waterways, that it doesn’t all fall on local councils and state governments and that, for the federal government, these are important parts of our infrastructure, of our communities and of our livability as well.
I’m so pleased that we’ll be delivering $1.7 million for a critical project in Yarra Flats Park: the rewatering of the Annulus Billabong to support the return of birdlife and other animals and plants to the park. I do want to thank the Friends of Yarra Flats Park, particularly Andrew and Sue Lees, who have spent many years advocating for this and shown great leadership One hundred and fifty thousand dollars will go to the Friends of Edendale in Eltham North, to ramp up their efforts to plant along Diamond Creek and to manage weeds and to help enhance the biosecurity of the creek corridor. Again, I want to thank that group for their hard work on behalf of the environment in our community.
I would also like to acknowledge the hard work of Terri Butler, who was our environment and water spokesperson when we made this commitment and who I know was really passionate about this program. I’m very glad that we’ll get to deliver it. I’m sorry that Terri won’t be here to do that. I know that the current minister, however, will share that passion and determination.
Here we come to one of the big themes of the election: climate. My community were very clear with me—and they have been for my entire time here in the parliament—that one of the things they expect me to advocate for them here in the parliament is action on climate change. Our government has a big agenda. We’ve seen some of that introduced today, and that is really important legislation that will end the climate wars and mean that we get on with making this country a renewable energy superpower.
On a local level, I’m very pleased that we will also be delivering a community solar battery in the Bellfield area, as part of the 400 community batteries we are rolling out nationwide. I know people in my community are really pleased that at least one of these will be delivered locally. This battery will store energy generated by solar households during the day, and it’ll draw from the stored energy at night when the sun doesn’t shine, helping to reduce local power bills and lower emissions by encouraging the switch to renewables. I want to thank Banyule council for working with me on being able to commit to this project and on the work at the Bellfield Community Hub, which this community solar battery will support. I know there’s interest across Jagajaga in quite a number of other locations. Rest assured, I will continue to advocate for more support under this project, but I’m very glad that we are starting with one.
I think that interest, that passion that my community is showing in this particular program, shows how ready our community is to make this switch to renewables. They are so far ahead, really, of where we have been previously in this place. They’re doing the work on feasibility studies about which might be suitable sites for a battery, and then they’re coming and advocating to me. Please continue to do that. I look forward to more conversations about more community batteries.
Other local commitments that are important to me and, I know, will be important to our community are: an upgrade to the Macleod College Music Academy to deliver modern facilities to inspire a new generation of young musicians in our community; an upgrade of performing art spaces at Bundoora Secondary College, which will support new digital equipment in the drama area, lighting and audiovisual equipment and building works so students have fit-for-purpose spaces to use; funding to support the L2P Himilo Community Connect driving program in Heidelberg West to make sure that more young people in my community get the experience and support they need to get their drivers licence; funding to help the Eltham Toy Library reach even more local families with discounted memberships, promotions to boost membership and upgrades to toy stock; and funding for Banyule Toy Library to help them expand their reach into the community and enable local families to access toy stock at a discount. All of these are really important local commitments. I’m so much looking forward to being able to work with our local community, with our state government and with local groups to be able to deliver on that.
Continuing my theme of community, I want to thank all the members of my community who made my campaign possible. We did run a very local campaign of engaging, of being available and of visiting many local groups. The people who did this with me, who were side by side with me in this campaign, were all local people. My state colleagues Anthony Carbines, Colin Brooks and Vicki Ward were all such great supports to me throughout my first term and through this campaign. Thanks so much to you. It’s a privilege to really get to work with you on behalf of our communities.
To all of my volunteers, who got up early at train stations, who joined me on street stalls and street corners, who walked the streets of Jagajaga to knock on doors, who took time out of their evenings to call voters and speak to them about Labor’s plans, who letterboxed so many houses, who set up and stood around on election day polling booths, who spent many long hours at early voting and all the other activities that ensured the campaign kept ticking: thank you for all of your passion. I would particularly like to thank those volunteers who took on leadership roles in the campaign: Jennie, Chris, Rob, Sandra, Rhonda, Garry, Katherine and Scott. I thank you all. I absolutely could not have done it without you.
And, of course, finally, to my family: there is absolutely no way I could have done it without you. To Daniel, who I think at times thought that we may have bitten off a little bit more than we could chew, with two children under four and an election campaign—I think he may have questioned my life choices and his life choices, but I always knew as we came through that he had my back, and I continue to know that and appreciate that. It’s not easy to have a job that takes you away from a young family—from a family at any stage—for such a period. It is important that in this place we acknowledge the people who are at home and making that part of our lives continue to function, so thank you, Daniel.
To my parents, who stepped in when it did seem like we might be about to break, and who do all those wonderful things that grandparents do: thank you—and Daniel’s parents as well. Daniel’s mum is, as I speak, at my house in Melbourne supporting him to look after my children. It really does take a village to be here. My family is a very important part of that village for me, so I really appreciate the sacrifices that they make so that I can be here.
Of course, to my children, who are too young to know what mum does, just that she’s in Canberra for work—’Is that your Canberra work?’ my daughter asks when I say I’m going out. The election campaign did confuse her a bit because mummy was out so much but not in Canberra. For them I really hope the benefits of what I deliver in this place outweigh the difficulties of having a parent who is away for a considerable amount of time. I thank them for allowing me to do this as well. Thanks.