Community Recognition and Private Members' Statements

Here you can read and watch the community recognition, and private members' statements I've made in Parliament.

TRIBUTE TO GARY NAIRN AO

 

Mr STEVE WHAN (Monaro—Minister for Skills, TAFE and Tertiary Education) (19:32): I pay tribute to Gary Nairn, AO, who passed away recently at the age of 73. Gary was the Federal member for Eden‑Monaro from 1996 to 2007.

 

He was the Liberal member for Eden‑Monaro whom I opposed twice during my career but lost to. I then went on to work with him for a period when I was a State member and he was the Federal member.

 Gary was a gentleman and a great local member. He remembered everybody's name—something I have always envied. He was very active in his post‑political life in things like the Mulloon Institute and his original profession of surveying. He was always committed to his community.

Not so long ago he moved to Queensland with his wife, Rose, but unfortunately found out that he had lung cancer and died just a few weeks ago. I extend my condolences to Rose, Ben and Deborah and to Gary's grandchildren.

TRIBUTE TO JOHN EDWARD AKISTER

 

Mr STEVE WHAN (Monaro—Minister for Skills, TAFE and Tertiary Education) (20:30): Tonight I pay tribute to John Akister. His daughter told me on the weekend that he passed away recently at the age of 86. John was the member for Monaro from 1976 until 1988. He won four elections and was the local member for nearly 12 years. He was a member of the Wran Government and a Minister in that Government. He was the last Labor member to represent the electorate before me.

John came into politics from a fascinating background. He came from Sussex in England, and was an orphan. His mum was 17 when she had John, and she handed him over to his grandmother. She then handed him over to a local workhouse, which later sent him to an orphanage. He grew up in the orphanage, which he left at the age of 15. He went off to a job in Manchester as an electrical fitter and was then called up for national service. He later decided that he wanted to escape wintry England and came to Australia, where he backpacked around before getting work in Cooma as an electrical draftsman on the Snowy Mountains hydroelectric scheme.

From then, John became an important member of the community. He joined the Labor Party. For a while, he was captain-coach of the local Cooma rugby team, now known as the Red Devils—I am not sure whether that was their name then. He won the key seat of Monaro after then Liberal member Steve Mauger died, and helped Neville Wran come to power in 1976. His win was a surprise to many people, but he went on to hold the seat for four elections. He was a great local member. I remember well—yes, I am old enough to remember—my father working with him when my dad was the member for Eden-Monaro. John was a stalwart of the Labor Party who worked with Dad, and Dad supported him later when he became the member for Monaro.

One of John's characteristics was his incredibly broad accent. Many people would say that he was a great bloke but they could not understand a word he said. He had a strong accent but was committed to our local area. He is commemorated by a building at the Cooma jail, which bears his name. During my previous term as the local member, I  tried to get a government office building in Queanbeyan named after John. He was acknowledged but the building was not named after him. Unfortunately, the Coalition then sold off the building—as it tended to do. John is certainly well worth remembering for his contribution to the Monaro electorate, where he was the local member for 12 years. He had an incredible history. He did not meet his mother until he was elected to Parliament. He met her for the first time just before he was sworn in and she came to Australia. He had a tough upbringing, but some people would say that it made him a tough person.

John is survived by two children. Vanessa let me know about his passing the other day. I understand that he had suffered from dementia for some time. He was living in Sydney the last time I spoke to him. He is certainly remembered by many of the older residents of Cooma as a prominent member for the area and local resident, and for his contribution to the Snowy scheme and to our communities. I have twice this evening talked about deceased former members for our local area, which is a little sad but it is important to acknowledge them. Probably not many members recall when John Akister was the member for Monaro, but his election was a harbinger of the Wranslide that came later. He was a very successful member, and served as Minister for Corrective Services. He was voted out in the 1988 election, when he discussed attempted changes to forestry and gun controls. He went on to work in private business and I understand that he renovated a few houses as well. My thoughts are with John's family and children. Rest in peace, John Akister.

 

JUNIPER BERRY FARMING

 

 

Mr STEVE WHAN (Monaro—Minister for Skills, TAFE and Tertiary Education) (19:10):

I was delighted to see Adriane Reardon's story on ABC'sLandline program about local farmers from Bibbenluke, near Bombala, in the Monaro electorate, are growing world-class juniper berries that are now being used by North of Eden distillery.

Locally produced gin has had a boom over recent years, but most of it is made with imported berries. I congratulate local farmer and agricultural scientist Lucy Vincent and her husband, Bruce Campbell, on growing such an in-demand crop in a climate that suits the berries. Lucy and Bruce established their orchard in 2018. Since then they have cultivated 600 trees across their property. 

Their product is so good that it has been studied by researchers at the University of Tasmania and has been found to be at or above the international benchmark for essential oil content. High quality, world-class agricultural produce is one of the things that the Monaro is known for, where we have the perfect climate for growing juniper berries. I wish Lucy and Bruce all the best with their venture.

FIRST STEPS PREGNANCY SUPPORT

 

Mr STEVE WHAN (Monaro—Minister for Skills, TAFE and Tertiary Education) (19:33): I congratulate Sarah, Ingrid and Laura, the directors of First Steps Pregnancy Support [FSPS], on the realisation of their amazing efforts to establish a new not-for-profit organisation aimed at providing women in need with comprehensive and complete care during their pregnancy.

 

 

The organisation will be a single point of contact for women to access a range of medical services and connect with other supports and provisions. The organisation caters to teenagers, First Nations people and women facing financial hardship, particularly those with no access to private health insurance. The First Steps directors came to see me last year with their fabulous idea, and they have managed to put it in place with volunteers, donations and support from businesses and the community. They have now opened their centre in Queanbeyan, which is a fantastic achievement for them.

 

Supporting women, especially those going through pregnancy in difficult circumstances, is extremely important in creating healthy children and a healthy society. I congratulate FSPS and wish them all the best for the future.

JINDABYNE SAP

Mr STEVE WHAN (Monaro—Minister for Skills, TAFE and Tertiary Education) (21:01): Recently I had the pleasure of joining the fabulous Minister for Regional New South Wales and fellow Queanbeyan resident, Tara Moriarty, in Jindabyne to announce the first projects of the Snowy Mountains Special Activation Precinct. The Government is proceeding with projects that provide a really important base for the future of Jindabyne. The work of the special activation precinct provides a 40-year vision for the development of a community that is at the heart of some of the tourism potential in New South Wales. It also ensures it will be a good place for the people of the Snowy Mountains to live. I am very pleased one of the first projects is a new water treatment plant to ensure that current and future Jindabyne community members and visitors enjoy safe drinking water. Far too often Jindabyne has boiled water alerts, which are not appropriate in this day and age, particularly when there is such a fantastic source of water in Lake Jindabyne.

 

Another announced project is an upgrade of the Jindabyne sewage treatment plant to protect public health and the environment for future generations. We will also enhance electrical, water and sewer networks to futureproof services. We want to foster a great Jindabyne community and support environmental sustainability. We will also enable land acquisition for future housing development, including affordable housing projects. We will also preserve the corridor for the Southern Connector Road. We are going to invest in a Jindabyne mountain bike and adventure park to attract year-round tourism and enhance visitors' experience of the region. As people who have visited the Snowy Mountains in the summertime know, an area that used to focus on only winter tourism is now a year-round destination. Mountain bikers, in particular, love going to the area. I now see mountain bikes on the back of most cars heading up there. As an active mountain biker, I declare a personal interest in mountain bike parks.

 

We are also progressing the plans for the enhancements to Lake Jindabyne's foreshore to shovel-ready status, but at this stage we need further funding. These projects are important for the future of Jindabyne. This a 40-year plan. The recent announcement covered the first stage of projects, with approximately $196 million dollars in State Government funding allocated over this period of government. I expect there will be additional funding provided as we go forward with these projects, which form the basis of some really important development and activity in the Jindabyne area. Planning for the special activation project started under the previous Government. This Government has turned five years of discussion into delivery of projects. I remain somewhat bemused that a program planning the 40-year future of Jindabyne did not bother to do any planning for health. I will seek to remedy that over the next few years.

 

I acknowledge the to and fro I have in the local paper with local resident Phil Daley. He has pointed out that we are spending money to buy back land we owned a few years ago with Snowy Hydro. I acknowledge his point. Yes, we are buying back land that the taxpayers of New South Wales previously owned. It is not the first time this has happened. It is a bit of a shame there was a lack of forward planning from the previous Government. But unfortunately we cannot avoid this spending at this stage because we need to buy the land that future housing development will occur on in Jindabyne. We can then apply Labor's policy of ensuring a percentage of affordable housing. One of Jindabyne's major challenges is that we do not have affordable worker accommodation in the community. Teachers often get posted to Jindabyne but cannot find anywhere affordable to live. The same thing happens to people who work on the ski fields. Labor is addressing that issue in Jindabyne and in Cooma with a similar development as we move forward.

 

There are some great opportunities for the Jindabyne community coming out of this work. I look forward to working with the community and our terrific Federal member, Kristy McBain, to determine what Federal funding can assist some of these projects as well.

 

BOMBALA SHOW - DI INGRAM AND SALLY-ANN THOMPSON

Mr STEVE WHAN (Monaro—Minister for Skills, TAFE and Tertiary Education) 21/3/24

Last weekend I had the privilege of being with Di Ingram at the opening of the Bombala show and congratulating her, along with the community, on the well-deserved award of life membership to the Bombala Exhibition Society.

 Di has served the society and the wider community for most of her life and seeing the reception from her family members and show-goers was a very special moment.

I congratulate Di for her community spirit, and showing what her commitment to such a fantastic agricultural show has done for the area. I'd also like to give my condolences to family and friends of Sally-Ann Thompson, who recently passed away.

 Sally-Ann was, Sophie Campbell told us, an integral part of the show as the steward of the photography pavilion. Her passion saw many people become involved in photography, and the 2024 Bombala show was dedicated to her memory.

COUNTRY SHOWS AND BUNGENDORE HIGH SCHOOL

 

Mr STEVE WHAN (Monaro—Minister for Skills, TAFE and Tertiary Education) 21/3/24 (17:29)

 

 Tomorrow is the start of the Sydney Royal Easter Show. It also marks the end of our local show season in Monaro. I will come back to the Royal in a minute. This show season in the Monaro electorate involved the regular round of shows at Braidwood, Delegate, Dalgety, Cooma, Bombala, Nimmitabel and Queanbeyan. All those shows attract the locals, provide an important social occasion and allow many people to show off their produce.

I thank all the show committees who put a lot of hard work into getting the country shows up and running. Many show committees have been doing that work for many decades. I was at the Bombala show recently, and Di Ingram was given a life membership of the Bombala Show committee for her decades of work. I congratulate Di. This year's show was their 149th show, as best they understand it, which makes next year's show a very special one. It indicates the community's commitment to keeping the local agricultural shows running and, since COVID, making them bigger and better.

Particularly in smaller country towns, the shows are important as a social meeting point for people who perhaps do not get to talk to each other much. They are also important for highlighting the work of our farmers, through the produce and skills on display. The Cooma Show saw Emily Rowson crowned as the Cooma Young Woman of the Year. She has been given the honour of representing the region at the Sydney Royal Easter Show over the next week or so in the Young Woman of the Year competition. She follows hot on the heels of last year's Royal Easter Show winner, who also was the Cooma Young Woman of the Year. It is an important and special occasion to celebrate young women who have a strong commitment to their agricultural communities and shows.

The Royal, of course, is a massive occasion for many people who travel from country areas around New South Wales and also for people from the city who attend. It has traditionally been called the bush meeting the city. It is a great opportunity for people to see the work of our farmers and rural producers and maybe get an understanding of where their food comes from. It is important to support those communities. I have the pleasure of attending the Royal next Thursday. I am looking forward to seeing the many people from TAFE NSW, who will show the work that TAFE does in agricultural and other sectors, including hospitality. It will be a special occasion. The fantastic Minister for Agriculture, Tara Moriarty, will also spend time at the show over the next week or so, highlighting the great work that agriculture does for New South Wales.

In the time I have left, I change subjects completely and talk about Bungendore High School. It has been a frustrating project for the community. The previous Government promised and announced a site to the community, without notice, which caused controversy. There was legal action, and a decision was handed down suggesting that the planning needed to be redone. I talk about it today because the Department of Education and I have recently put out information to the community about the next steps. The department is expected to resubmit a planning application by May for the Bungendore High School to be located on the proposed site. The planning department is likely to take at least four months to consider it. So the people of Bungendore will be waiting longer for the school. That is extremely disappointing and frustrating, but we have no choice but to go through that process.

I apologise to the people of Bungendore that they have sometimes held overly optimistic ideas of when the school might be delivered, given the problems it had. But I will get updates every couple of weeks to make sure that we get the project back on track. I recognise that it is a controversial site. I have sympathy for the people who did not like the site. However, we have no choice now but to go ahead and get a school in place, hopefully before we run out of room in the demountable school that has been built on the primary school lawn.

LEN KEMP

 

Mr STEVE WHAN (Monaro—Minister for Skills, TAFE and Tertiary Education) 21/3/24 (17:04)

 

 I acknowledge and thank Len Kemp, who has been helping students at Queanbeyan High School with maths for about five years.

 He has about 25 years in paid and volunteer positions as a mathematics assistant or tutor, working with both primary and secondary schools across the Australian Capital Territory and New South Wales.

 He has worked with students at Woden Special School, Charles Condor School, Jindabyne Central School, Cooma Christian School, Karabar High School and Queanbeyan High School. Queanbeyan High School head teacher Kerrie Jenkins says that he holds a diploma in cartography and civil engineering, a survey drafting certificate, and has a long working background, including army experience.

When Len first started working at Queanbeyan High School, it was only for a couple of days per week. However, he has gradually increased that and now comes in nearly every day, only missing days when he and his wife have a special event or he has a medical appointment.

I understand that Len is not well at the moment. I put on record the thanks of the community and the school for his great sacrifice and the work that he has done to help young people studying maths over many years.

MELISSA PHILLIPS - WOMEN IN THE RFS

Mr STEVE WHAN (Monaro—Minister for Skills, TAFE and Tertiary Education) 21/3/24

I noted recently in the Monaro Post an article on Melissa Phillips. For the past 15 years, Melissa has worked as a psychologist in the Thredbo volunteer ski patrol, providing often critical support for the patrol's members.

Ten years ago, Melissa decided to join the Monaro District Rural Fire Service, and since then has gone on to become one of a handful of women in senior roles. While Melissa says the work is challenging, she was raised knowing women can do anything. As a result, she become one of the few women in the region qualified to drive fire trucks, been appointed to the role of deputy captain, and has recently trained as a peer support officer with the RFS.

Since the Black Summer Bushfires and COVID-19, Melissa says: "The mental health workload has increased exponentially…" which is why we're so fortunate to have people such as Melissa in our communities filling these important roles.

Melisa, her husband Steve, and all three of her children are members of the local RFS. I join the Post and the community in acknowledging those efforts.

WILL AND SHONA BROWN - MECHANICS IN BOMBALA

Mr STEVE WHAN (Monaro—Minister for Skills, TAFE and Tertiary Education) 21/3/24

Small communities like Bombala often have challenges keeping vital private services viable. That's why I was pleased to see recognition recently in the Monaro Post of the work Will and Shona Brown have been doing.

 For the last few years, Will and Shona Brown have been running a mobile mechanic service around the Bombala region, providing a unique service to the township. However, when they discovered the last remaining mechanic in Bombala would be closing its doors at the end of 2023, they decided to give it a go and fill the gap.

 Since February 5, the husband-and-wife duo has been operating the only mechanic service in the township. They've leased an existing shop from Mike Cottrell, who ran Cottrell Motors in town for 50 years, which meant the shop came with some useful equipment, but they have had to build up everything else themselves. I join the community in commending them on their efforts!

JOHN AND DOREEN MCLOUGHLIN

 

Mr STEVE WHAN (Monaro—Minister for Skills, TAFE and Tertiary Education) 19/3/24 (22:54)

 

I acknowledge John and Doreen Mcloughlin of Jindabyne. Not only is John a great Labor man but he is also a community hero—as so many country Labor people are.

Every Christmas, John and Doreen create a truly amazing Christmas lights display at their home. Over the years it has become a major attraction. John and Doreen get nothing but thanks for their 10 weeks of hard work. Every donation they receive from visitors goes straight to the community.

 Last Christmas they raised over $10,000, with over $8,000 going to the Snowy Mountains Care and Early Learning Centre and over $2,000 going to the Thredbo Early Childhood Centre. The money for the early learning centre will go towards refurbishing and improving the outdoor play area, so children have a safer and more enjoyable space in which to learn.

When not doing the lights, John can be seen volunteering at the bar for the Bushpigs rugby union team or in a host of other community roles.

I thank John and Doreen. Jindabyne would be a much poorer place without them.

CHLOE PAILTHORPE - MONARO WOMAN OF THE YEAR 2024

Mr STEVE WHAN (Monaro—Minister for Skills, TAFE and Tertiary Education) 14/3/24

When I first received a nomination for Chloe Pailthorpe as Monaro's Woman of the Year, it was a bit of a no-brainer, she was more than deserving of the title.

Chloe and her husband Mike moved to Bungendore 10 years ago, since then, have become pillars of the community. When a fire ripped through nearby Carwoola in 2017 destroying 8 homes, three-and-a-half-thousand hectares of land, and injuring 2 firefighters, community members donated food, clothing, and household items to help rebuild.

Born out of this, Chloe and other community members decided to open an op-shop and food hub to provide for people doing it tough in Bungendore and Captains Flat. Seven years later and Chloe and her 50+ team of volunteers are going strong. They run a Christmas hamper appeal as well as the free breakie club at the local school.

It's people like Chloe and her team that embody community spirit. They work hard and ask for nothing in return to make Bungendore and Captains Flat such amazing small towns. It's this reason I'm proud to congratulate Chloe on her title of Monaro Woman of the Year 2024.

CURRAWARNA ASSISTED LIVING FACILITY

 

Mr STEVE WHAN (Monaro—Minister for Skills, TAFE and Tertiary Education) 12/3/24 (20:40)

 

I welcome the opportunity to update the House on the fabulous work that the community of Bombala has done to get the Currawarna aged facility reopened. I attended the reopening on 29 February. It was well‑attended event, with the committee, many members of the community and some of the new residents of the facility in attendance. Like many people in the community, I was disappointed when the operator of what was the Currawarna nursing home decided it could not continue to operate the facility and closed it at very short notice. The decision meant that families had to send elderly loved ones hundreds of kilometres away from their hometown and their friends and families. It was a devastating blow, but the Bombala community refused to accept it.

Members of the community rallied around and came up with a practical plan to reopen Currawarna as an assisted living facility. They did not just say to the Government, "You should fix this"; they said, "We are going to fix it"—and then they asked the Government for help. I am delighted that prior to being elected as a member of the Minns Labor Government I secured a commitment of $840,000 to back that community's amazing fundraising efforts. At that stage it had raised a phenomenal $160,000 and Labor's commitment was to fund enough to reach the $1 million in operating funds that it felt the facility needed. Since then, it has continued to fundraise and the small community of 2,000 to 3,000 residents managed to raise $340,000 between them. They put in an amazing effort, with fundraisers from garden parties and bowls days through to a nude calendar featuring some local identities—including the chairman of the fundraising committee, who happened to be Mr February. On opening day his image, with a strategically placed saddle, was on display around the facility,

The outcome is a facility that is a step for people who are not able to live at home but who do not need high care. It will have full-time staff, such as cooks, and support for its residents. It will receive ongoing Commonwealth aged-care funding, such as the aged-care packages that are available at levels two and three. It is a great concept from the community. There was a grey area about how it should be funded, and it was lucky that the issue was raised during the election campaign. I secured the agreement of the then Treasurer to supply the $840,000 in funding. I am keen to see how the model works and how it can be used for the future of aged care in other rural communities. As aged-care standards have increased over the past few years and more nurses have been required in nursing homes, many rural and regional nursing homes, particularly smaller scale nursing homes, have found it difficult to find and afford those staff. There are shortages right across the aged-care sector and the nursing sector. For many communities, that has meant their facilities have had to close down or reduce services because they have not been able to find those staff.

I look forward to seeing the success of the model that the Bombala community is operating with Currawarna. The key is for people to use it. Whether they are from Bombala or Jindabyne, I urge community members from the south‑east region—particularly those families with elderly parents or family members who are finding it difficult to live at home—to go and have a look at the Currawarna facility with their family members to see whether they like it. The advantage of the Currawarna facility is its location right next door to the Bombala MPS, which has high-care aged beds and will get another 20 of those thanks to funding provided by the Minns Government and the Federal Labor Government. That could provide those step‑through opportunities of care in the community with people they know in the nearby area. I urge people to consider that for their elderly relatives.

Finally, I congratulate the committee behind this effort—Keith Campbell, Karen Brownlie, Rosie Gillespie-Jones, John Murdoch and Zoe Joseph—and the many members of the community who organised and participated in the fundraisers I mentioned earlier. Bombala will be a great community for aged-care options. The Kennedy Homes project is also being built there, which offers independent living facilities funded by bequest. There is a really great range of options for a small community to offer aged care in our region.

TRIBUTE TO JACK SEALY - OAM

 

Mr STEVE WHAN (Monaro—Minister for Skills, TAFE and Tertiary Education) 12/3/24 (18:58)

 

I pay tribute to Senior Legatee Jack Sealey, AFSM, OAM, our region's last World War II veteran, who passed away last week at 99. Jack Sealey was one of Queanbeyan's greats.

He worked very hard for Legacy for almost 25 years. He was a member of the Rural Fire Service for over 60 years and received an Australian Fire Service Medal. He signed up for the air force on his eighteenth birthday and served in the Second World War.

Jack was an outstanding volunteer for our local community and an outstanding character. When he went around selling Legacy badges, nobody had a choice but to buy one. He used to come to my office and say, "Steve will have one of these", and leave the $10 badge on the counter and say, "He can pay me later", if I was not there. He managed, in his way, to really drive Legacy. Many Legacy members in Queanbeyan will miss him.

I express my condolences to his three children, eight grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren on this sad occasion.

COOMA SHOW AWARD WINNERS

Mr STEVE WHAN (Monaro—Minister for Skills, TAFE and Tertiary Education) 8/2/24

The Cooma show is coming up, and the rural achiever and young woman of the year have been announced. Congratulations to Louise Doyle, this year's rural achiever, and Emily Rowson the 2024 young woman of the year and the 2024 Zone 3 finalist.

Agricultural shows play an important part in building and connecting rural communities. I'm delighted to see that these two women from Eucumbene and Jindabyne have such a positive impact and message for their area.

Ensuring a love of agriculture is passed on through the generations is what keeps these industries and areas alive. While it may be a little late, I'd also like to congratulate Florance McGufficke who was named The Land Sydney Royal AgShows NSW Young Woman of the year for 2023.

Florance is a Cooma local who grew up on her family's Merino sheep farm and is completing her degrees in agriculture and business at the University of New England. Florance has a bright future in agriculture, and we all look forward to seeing what she does.

MONARO ELECTORATE SCHOOL EVENTS AND COLLEEN SYMINGTON

Mr STEVE WHAN (Monaro—Minister for Skills, TAFE and Tertiary Education) 23/11/23 (17:30)

I acknowledge the great work of students and teachers in several high schools in the Monaro area and one outside the Monaro area. Recently I was privileged to attend the CSIRO Generation STEM event at the Bicentennial Hall in Queanbeyan. Generation STEM was born out of a need to strengthen and diversify the New South Wales science, technology, engineering and mathematics pipeline through connection, engagement and research-backed programs. It is held in a number of places around the State, one of which was Queanbeyan. As part of the day, and before I got there, the Generation STEM event included a showcase of many of the employment and training opportunities available to students who are interested in STEM subjects. I hear that it was extremely well attended by many of the local schools.

I saw two local schools show off the projects they had been working on as part of the Generation STEM event. They were expected to find a problem, research it and come up with some ideas for how they might solve it. Yass High School, which is in the Goulburn electorate, came along with an enthusiastic group of people who had been working on a flood warning system for low-level crossings in the rivers in the area. That was borne out of the fact that a number of their crossings have closed in recent years with flooding. They worked with a local technical company getting the equipment they needed, developing software and reporting, and used a web-based mapping application to show whether a crossing was flooded.

Those young people did some terrific work. I congratulate them and their teacher, Kate Vale, and other Yass High School staff who were there; Keith Rosario, who is from the company they were working with; and students Bill Phillips, Freddie Grose, McLean Young, Noah Salzke, James Dokter, Tashi Phillips, Ella Collins and Jess MacDonald. They were all very enthusiastic and did a terrific job. I think they were about to sell me the product at one stage.

The Jerrabomberra High School was also there with a number of different environment-focused projects on waste management, native birds, vertical gardens and urban heat. I went around to all of them and had them explain their projects to me. Again, they were really enthusiastic about their work. They were particularly enthusiastic because at the moment it was students in year 7 and year 8 from Jerrabomberra High School who were putting those projects together. They had made some great models and presentations to go with them. I will not mention all of their names but teachers Penny Whiting and Kingsley Vance were very important. I spoke to Emilia Wheatley, Melissa Whittington and Yasmine Dryden about their urban heat project. I congratulate those schools on their efforts.

Some other local schools were involved in something else really exciting this week—Schools Spectacular. I am going on Friday. Thirty kids from Karabar High School, accompanied by a number of incredibly dedicated teachers—one of whom is my daughter—will be attending. A number of the kids are performing in the dance groups and as the focus singers. Quite a few have been in the specialised programs that Karabar offers, because it is a performing arts selective school. They are doing a lot of the backstage and production work. Young people from Jindabyne Central School and Bungendore High School will also be there. I congratulate them all on their work. I am very much looking forward to witnessing the performance on Friday night. I have watched it on television many times. It is exciting and looks like it will be spectacular.

In the time left, and totally off topic, I congratulate Colleen Symington in the Whip's office on receiving her tenth anniversary award for working in the Parliament. As everybody in the House knows, Colleen is essential to the running of this Chamber and keeps our members on the straight and narrow. Well done, and may she be here many more years.

QUEANBEYAN DIWALI MELA LANTERN FESTIVAL

Mr STEVE WHAN (Monaro—Minister for Skills, TAFE and Tertiary Education) 23/11/23 (17:22)

Last Saturday night Queanbeyan held its first ever Diwali Mela Lantern Festival. A big crowd turned out by the Queanbeyan River and enjoyed a really joyous event, with fabulous dancing, food and the lantern festival.

Our region now has a large and growing community from India, particularly around Queanbeyan and Googong. They have made a wonderful cultural contribution to our community, and many residents joined in on the riverside on Saturday to celebrate light and knowledge.

I was pleased to join Queanbeyan-Palerang Mayor Kenrick Winchester, who of course turns up at every event and every sporting event in the Queanbeyan region. I congratulate him, the Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council and the Queanbeyan Multicultural Centre for making the celebration possible. I also thank the many great sponsors of the event, including Kammy Singh's company.

I thoroughly enjoyed many of the dance performances held on the night.

FRANK PANGALLO

 

Mr STEVE WHAN (Monaro—Minister for Skills, TAFE and Tertiary Education) 19/10/2023 (16:00)

 

I wish a very happy eightieth birthday to Frank Pangallo. Frank is a very prominent Queanbeyan resident. Having first been elected to council in the 1970s as one of our first Italian immigrant councillors, Frank was our mayor for 16 years.

 He provided that diversity to our local community for a very long time. He has a fabulous record in Queanbeyan and is well loved. He has been retired from council for a while now, but he is still a very prominent figure around town. He is always the first person to knock on my front door when he feels that I should run for something.

It is great to see him reach his eightieth birthday, though one would not know he is that ripe old age from looking at him. I wish Frank all the best on his eightieth birthday and thank him for his lifetime of service to the Queanbeyan community.

ABORIGINAL AND TORRES STRAIT ISLANDER VOICE TO PARLIAMENT

 

Mr STEVE WHAN (Monaro—Minister for Skills, TAFE and Tertiary Education) 10/10/23 (19:37)

 

On Sunday around 200 people gathered in Queanbeyan to once again express their support for a yes vote in Saturday's referendum. The Prime Minister came to Queanbeyan, along with our Federal member, Kristy McBain, and a number of members of the Federal and Australian Capital Territory parliaments. Kate Carnell also came as representative of Liberals for Yes. She is a former Liberal Chief Minister of the Australian Capital Territory. It was a gathering that crossed party lines because many of us felt it was important to once again emphasise the importance of voting yes as a modest and fair way of trying to help our Indigenous Australians to overcome some of the disadvantage they have experienced historically and that they continue to experience.

Aunty Matilda House gave the welcome. She was the National Indigenous Elder of the Year this year, and I have mentioned her before in this place. Aunty Matilda was very emotional when the Prime Minister got there, and that is because it is so important to people like Aunty Matilda and to Indigenous people that we get a yes vote on Saturday. I think some of them fear what voting no would express for Australia. Queanbeyan's deputy mayor, Esma Livermore, is our first Indigenous deputy mayor in Queanbeyan and, indeed, our first Indigenous councillor. She gave a wonderful speech at the event, and the Prime Minister spoke about the proposal itself. He emphasised some of the things that the no campaign has been saying that are not true. For instance, he emphasised that no‑one proposing the Voice has committed to spending a cent more; they are trying to use the Voice to ensure that money is better spent. He spoke about the fairness and equity of the proposal made by the Uluru Statement from the Heart, which has been falsely claimed by opponents to be a Labor proposal. He pointed out that it came from Indigenous people themselves because they want to see us taking this action to help close the gap.

I have made a number of comments on social media recently that have received some unfortunate responses, particularly about spending on Aboriginal people and Indigenous programs. I point out that, far from being bigger than the health spend, as some have said on social media, there is a direct spend nationwide of about $5.6 billion. That is about 1.1 per cent of the Australian budget being spent directly on Indigenous people. Of course, Indigenous people are also eligible for the services that everybody else in Australia is eligible for, including health and education, and that is only fair and right.

It has been disappointing to see opposition from people who go completely the other way and say that they will not vote yes because they want sovereignty or that sovereignty has not been ceded. I implore those people to put aside the sovereignty argument and take a step towards progress. If the Australian people cannot support this modest proposal to elect a Voice that has no binding authority over the Parliament, then they are hardly likely to vote for something that transfers sovereignty or recognises sovereignty and gives powers associated with that. We must take this modest step now to ensure that we can make progress.

Social media comments, in some cases, have been awful. Frankly, some of the comments on my posts have bordered on fascist in many ways. There is a tendency for some people to run these sorts of nationalist things up and to run campaigns that demonise people. We should dismiss the argument that prominent members of the Indigenous community are multibillionaires and will profit from this. That argument simply panders to fear and tries to raise the nationalist sentiments of fascists in many countries. It is a simple proposal and it is a simple point; this is to lift up people who undeniably experience poorer outcomes, and it is to give them a say in how they are lifted up. It will not cost anybody else. I say to the one or two people who watch my videos of Parliament that lifting someone else up costs absolutely nothing. Vote yes. It is the simple and fair thing to do.

STATE BUDGET AND MONARO ELECTORATE

 

Mr STEVE WHAN (Monaro) 19/9/23 (19:32)

 

I also note the impact of the budget on my electorate of Monaro. Not surprisingly, my take on the budget is somewhat different from that of the last speaker, the member for Holsworthy. At times I am amazed to hear the pleadings of members of a party that was in office for 12 years who say that everything was perfect when they left and has apparently gone to pot in six months. Sometimes I am even more amazed by members of a party who think it is electorally appealing to say you can spend as much money as you possibly can on untargeted assistance for people and get good results from it. The only result you get is some votes out of people. Untargeted assistance simply means that budgets go out of control, which is exactly the backdrop we had coming up to this budget.

We have seen from the Government the responsible process of bringing the budget under control and funding targeted measures to help people in our communities without privatisations and putting our State into debt. Today during question time members heard about the literally billions of dollars a year that the State will save in interest payments because we will not engage in the sort of profligate spending seen in the last year of the former Liberal‑Nationals Government. Its amazing members stand in this Chamber and bleat about how you can fund everything but still have a triple‑A credit rating. But then some of them, to contradict each other, say that the triple-A credit rating is more important than anything, not understanding that it is just a mechanism to assess the cost of borrowing.

In the Monaro electorate the budget has delivered a number of important election commitments that I made during the last election campaign. Planning is underway now for Googong High School, which will be in an area of high growth that will have a significant population. It is a new town outside of Queanbeyan and it is growing very fast. The Nationals, in government, decided that the town did not need a high school. It was somewhere further down the track and it did not allocate any funds to it. We will build it and we will open it in the first term of 2027. Stage two of Jerrabomberra High School will be built. Stage one was finally built by the Coalition 12 years after it first committed to the people of the area that it would build a high school. It will be 13 years since that commitment was made before it is open, so I am very pleased that we will build stage two of that straightaway.

There is work on the Ellerton Drive-Kings Highway intersection included in the budget. Queanbeyan‑Palerang Regional Council will receive $4.3 million from the Regional Emergency Road Repairs Fund. Snowy Monaro will get a $6.791 million share of that fund, which is absolutely vital for a shire with 2,600 kilometres of council roads and roads that have been significantly impacted by recent weather events, and for the council itself. It is one of the many councils in regional New South Wales that has been forced to put substantial rate increases to place to be able to keep up the level of services that people expect. Those things are important. A high-profile promise that I made during the election was for $840,000 to go to the Currawarna aged‑care facility in Bombala. I have spoken before in this place about that facility. I am thrilled that it is in this year's budget, along with a commitment down the track to add 30 more aged-care beds at the Bombala Multipurpose Service.

This is about providing services to the people of Monaro. The number one thing I talked about in the election, and the number one thing I talk about now—and the number one thing that previous speakers from the Opposition do not get—is that it is about more than just having buildings. It is about having the people inside the buildings who provide the services, such as the nurses and the teachers. Our work on improving working conditions will have a real impact on minimum safe staffing levels in our hospitals, and a real impact in Cooma and Queanbeyan and our multipurpose services as well.

I heard over and over again about school students spending so much time in the playgrounds instead of the classrooms. I had complaint after complaint, but during the election campaign there was not one acknowledgement of the problem, even by The Nationals member. There was not one acknowledgement of the problem by the then Minister, but this Government, in its first six months, has taken action that will make a real difference in that area. It was particularly an issue in Queanbeyan where the much more competitive salaries in Canberra were attractive. I am very proud to be the member for Monaro in delivering today's budget.

HOMLESSNESS

 

Mr STEVE WHAN (Monaro) 14/9/23 (16:18)

 

A few weeks ago the body of a man was found on the banks of the Murray River at Wodonga. He was of no fixed abode, another homeless man living rough in a tent in the bush on the Victorian side of the river. No doubt for a few there might be a shrug of the shoulders about a homeless man dying alone in his tent, but every homeless person has a backstory. Many have family who wish they could work out how to do more to help their loved one survive. This homeless man was born in the same month I was. Like me, he went to public schools and got a good education. He was intelligent and a very skilled golfer. He had similar opportunities but quite different outcomes in life. Sometime in his twenties this man had a traumatic experience; he was stabbed in the chest. After that it was clear that some of the mental health issues had become a lot worse. Alcohol played a large part and over time he spent more and more time living rough.

The homeless man whose body was found a few weeks ago was my brother-in-law Scott McLean, more commonly known as Harry. Despite his rough living, Harry was switched on. He was always up on current events in the nation and the world. He paid attention to politics and he quietly kept an eye on what a lot of the family were up to. As the years went on, he clearly became more uncomfortable interacting with people who were not living in his world. He sometimes came to family gatherings but he was less and less comfortable with them. Harry's sisters—my wife, Cherie, and Melody—would go and find him when they visited. They often could not find him at first but they let other people living rough know that they were looking for him and Harry would miraculously turn up.

To a lot of the people living rough like Harry, he was very well known. He was well liked and seemed to spend a lot of time looking after others. There were more than 200 comments on social media after his death, many thanking him for his kindness or help, and they are a testament to the sorts of relationships he had in that community, in the wider Albury community and with people who came across him as he was growing up. At one stage, Harry owned his own home, but he was generous to people in similar situations and eventually he needed to sell it and went back to living rough.

It is really hard to know how much of Harry's life was circumstance and how much was choice. There is no doubt his happy place was near the river. He lived in various spots in the bush along the Murray. He loved fishing and he loved the bush. When he was a kid he became known as Harry after Harry Butler who, to those of us my age, was known for his television show where he would poke around the Australian bush. Harry had a few run-ins with the police and the courts, but as far as I know they were fairly low level and I suspect many were influenced by alcohol. Despite that, Harry was more honest and certainly less interested in material and financial gain than many others are.

How can we help people like Harry? What can we do to help families know the best way to support a person like that? One time Harry was asked by the courts to attend drug and alcohol rehabilitation services, but there were no places available so he could not go. He was offered public housing and he stayed there for a while, but he found that he was sharing a block of units with people who had possibly more problems than he had—mental health and other problems—and he found that was not helping him move forward with his life. He wanted to be out in the community more. Sometimes he would reappear back at his parents' place, but unfortunately at the time he died he could not come back into New South Wales because there was a warrant out for his arrest. The family spent a long time looking for him. Harry's sister Melody was particularly concerned for over a year. She has asked me to thank Detective Mike Smith from the Albury police who worked tirelessly trying to help locate Scott, or Harry. We also thank extended family and friends and the wider community for their assistance in looking.

Harry's case highlights frustrating problems with some of the cross-border issues. He was on the Victorian side of the border; the New South Wales police could not go there. When his body was identified, Harry's mother was not told it had been identified because the Victorian police did not have a contact phone number and they had not informed the New South Wales police. Yes, Harry was a homeless man but he was also loved by his two sisters, Melody and Cherie, and his mum, Leonie. As I said, Melody had been searching for many months. He was a lovable larrikin, and he will be remembered as that. My electorate also has a lot of homeless people, and so I also want to know what more we can do to help people like Harry stay connected with their families and stay alive.

BIRDSNEST CLOTHING

 

Mr STEVE WHAN (Monaro) 24/8/23 (15:42)

 

Today I acknowledge the great achievement of birdsnest clothing in Cooma, which has been named the Online Retailer of the Year in this year's Online Retail Industry Awards.

Birdsnest is a well-established business in Cooma that was founded by Jane Cay. It has grown over many years in our community and now employs approximately 150 Cooma-based employees, which is a really significant number of employees for our community.

Birdsnest is one of the biggest employers in town. It has consistently stayed at the top of the game when it comes to online retailing. I am told by those who buy its clothes that it is a very attractive place for people who buy clothing for women—which probably explains why I am not generally one of their customers. I absolutely congratulate birdsnest on winning this award.

DISABLED WINTERSPORT AUSTRALIA

 

Mr STEVE WHAN (Monaro) 24/8/23 (16:38)

 

Two weeks ago I had the great honour of spending a day with Disabled Wintersport Australia [DWA] in Jindabyne, and then at Thredbo and Perisher. I was invited by one of Disabled Wintersport Australia's board members, former Victorian MP Danielle Green, who has been a great friend of the ski industry and the disabled skiing scene from her time in Parliament but also as a keen skier herself. Disabled Wintersport Australia does amazing work in opening up the joys of the mountains and the snow sports for people with a range of disabilities. It was inspiring to meet some of the people involved and to see the range of work that Disabled Wintersport Australia is doing, but also to get a better understanding of the need in the mountains for some of the facilities that can help to make them more accessible to families and participants.

I heard some inspiring stories while I was there about people who, with the help of DWA, have been able to come back to or discover the freedom of skiing, and who are able to enjoy holidays in the mountains and activity with their family and friends again. Many of those who started with DWA have gone on to participate in elite Paralympic sports as well. As I said, DWA board member Danielle Green was my host for the day, and I was also accompanied by Richard Scheurer, who works for DWA. Shannon Dallas was one of the first people we met at Jindabyne; he showed me the workshop and the storage area for the alpine skiing gear, including the sit skis and other pieces of equipment that are made available. Shannon himself started his disabled skiing career with DWA following a broken back. He went on to compete in Paralympics, world championships and a range of elite sporting events before coming back to assist people who are learning to ski and skiing with DWA. His involvement with DWA since his accident has taken him to elite levels of sport and back to helping other people to discover the joys of alpine skiing.

At Perisher we skied for a while with a man who introduced himself as Shane, who I later discovered was Professor Shane Clifton. He was skiing on a sit ski and outpaced me down the slopes on every run. He was enjoying skiing with two of his brothers and three generations of his family—a situation which, without DWA's assistance, would have been inaccessible to him. He was clearly enjoying the freedom of being on the slopes again. I met two young skiers, Joe Fry and Jimmy Jan, who had been skiing at a Snow Australia Para Futures event, where potential elite athletes ski with existing elite athletes who have been to the Paralympics and other elite events. They were clearly buzzing from that event as they were finishing their day on the slopes and getting back on the ski tube.

This is important because DWA and its operations across the alpine resorts in Victoria and New South Wales are opening up the possibility of participation in this fantastic sport to many people who have had serious injuries, and who would otherwise not get the opportunity to discover the freedom of being out on the slopes. To do that, DWA needs facilities, including storage areas and areas for people to go back to at the resorts. Alpine resort areas also need to have more disabled and accessible accommodation so that families travelling with the participants can actually enjoy their holidays in the snow. That is one of the great limitations DWA is facing at the moment. I know a lot of work is being done in that area, including upgrading the facilities that are available in places like Jindabyne.

Finally, I acknowledge Ron Finneren, who was the founder of DWA. I met Ron a number of times when I was last the member for Monaro, and he happened to be there on the evening I came back from my day out with DWA. Ron has made the incredible contribution of founding the organisation, which has now grown to operate at all alpine resorts in Australia—even Finsko's lodge at Jindabyne is named after him! It was a great pleasure to spend time with DWA, and I congratulate the team on their work.

AUNTY DR MATILDA HOUSE-WILLIAMS

 

Mr STEVE WHAN (Monaro) 3/8/23 (16:05)

 

I honour and congratulate Aunty Dr Matilda House-Williams, a proud Ngambri Elder who lives in Queanbeyan. She has been an institution in Queanbeyan for many decades. She recently won the National NAIDOC Female Elder award category, a very well-deserved award for somebody who has been active in helping her community and our community since the 1960s.

Aunty Dr Matilda House‑Williams grew up in Yass but moved to Canberra in 1963 and took an active role in the community from then on. She was involved in things like the 1967 referendum, campaigning for a yes vote. Not surprisingly, she is now again campaigning for a yes vote later this year.

She worked as an Aboriginal liaison officer in the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and was involved in founding the Aboriginal Legal Service and the Aboriginal Health Service. She also founded the Ngambri Land Council in Queanbeyan and did many other important things for our community.

REGIONAL AND RURAL AGED-CARE FACILITIES

 

Mr STEVE WHAN (Monaro) 3/8/23 (18:05)

 

Everyone who represents regional New South Wales would know that aged­ care in regional communities particularly is under a lot of pressure. Many aged-care residents find that facilities that are several decades old do not meet current expectations. Since the royal commission, we have seen some well-intentioned reforms that have meant that the viability of some centres is now under threat, which is causing a lot of concern in regional communities and requires some significant thought about how we can provide viable facilities in regional communities and meet the essential standards put in place by the Federal Government. The State is not directly involved in aged care, but tonight I talk about a number of facilities in southern Monaro.

Currawarna was a nursing home in Bombala for many years. The provider closed it down a couple of years ago, meaning all the residents had to go, some as far as 300 kilometres away from their families, to get care, which the community was not willing to accept. It formed a committee to try to reopen Currawarna as an assisted living facility, not as a high-care facility but one that would have used the Federal Government's home grants to fund the place and keep it operating. The committee is looking to open a 33-bed assisted living facility, and in the last election I was able to commit this Government to providing $840,000 towards the $1 million the community was trying to raise.

I am pleased to say that the community raised more than its target. I assure the community that the $840,000 the Government promised will be coming. I have promised it for this financial year, and I hope that it will arrive in this calendar year. It is important because it will provide a bridge between people who can no longer live at home but who do not need that high-care facility. It will go hand in hand with another commitment the Government made in Bombala: $15 million towards the expansion of the Bombala hospital's aged-care high‑dependency facilities for about 30 beds, which will mean the community is quite well served for aged care in the longer term.

In other parts of the area, there is the challenge of council-managed facilities. Snowy Monaro Regional Council runs two facilities: Yallambee Lodge and Snowy River Hostel. They have faced a very difficult decision about whether they should continue to be involved in something they certainly do not see as their core business. They have made some difficult decisions. In the longer term, both those facilities will close or at least pass out of council ownership. One will combine with the Sir William Hudson nursing home, which is being run by a group called Respect. Hopefully, that will get an upgrade to meet the modern standards. For instance, at the moment, most of the rooms have shared bathrooms and those sorts of things. It needs a much more modern facility for dementia patients, which will be a difficult task. I understand they are called memory support facilities now. That is a big project. Some funding was provided to Yallambee, which will be rolled over.

A number of constituents have contacted me with concerns about the council's decision. I sympathise particularly with those who are worried about the Snowy River Hostel in Berridale being closed. There is obviously a limit to what the State Government can do about that, so I am trying to work positively with the council. I support the council's decision in that process because it is important to make sure we have a viable facility that is capable of providing the modern care and standards that we want to see—the number of minutes of nursing contact per day that patients require. That seems to be the only way to guarantee the viability of that facility in Cooma. There are ongoing meetings about the Snowy River Hostel, and I encourage those constituents to talk to the people at Currawarna in Bombala about the actions that they took, to see whether that is a viable option for Berridale as well. But the situation in aged care in regional New South Wales is very challenging. People need to keep an open mind and, unfortunately, to be willing to see change at times, but hopefully change that leads to better quality facilities and care.

SELWYN SNOW RESORT

 

Mr STEVE WHAN (Monaro) 27/6/23 (20:01)

 

As many people know, Monaro is the home to the ski industry in New South Wales. I am pleased that right now Thredbo, Perisher and Charlotte Pass are attracting people to our region and to skiing. This year I welcome a renewed addition to the ski fields, which is the reopening of Mount Selwyn. Selwyn Snow Resort was burnt out in the Black Summer bushfires in January 2020. It was a devastating blow for the owners of the resort as well as the many people who enjoyed going there. Selwyn is a resort very well suited to skiers, particularly at beginner levels, and it now has the biggest toboggan area of a New South Wales ski field. It is where my children and I first learnt to ski. It is a very valuable resort for the region, and it has been a long three years to see it reopened. The owners Selwyn Snow Resorts Pty Ltd and the Blyton Group of companies have made a big investment in new facilities, new infrastructure—including some new snow making machines—and a new sewerage plant and works.

The ski industry is an important part of the Monaro electorate. The Selwyn resort is located not far away from where skiing started in Australia, at Kiandra goldfields in the 1860. Three Norwegians who went to Kiandra to mine built skis, which they then called snowshoes, out of local wood and taught the locals how to ski. That was where, very interestingly, the world's oldest ski club was founded. It is an important area. Kiandra does not have any residents anymore, but fortunately we have skiing in many other locations. Skiing developed from Kiandra and went through to Kosciuszko with the Kosciuszko Hotel, which is now where Sponars is, as people would see on the drive to Perisher. One hundred years ago or more people in the area got up to the ski fields through often heavy snow, because it apparently snowed a lot more then than it does right now.

Mr Jihad Dib: Climate change.

Mr STEVE WHAN: It is climate change. They were able to ski and enjoy the snow at Sponars, which you would very rarely find now with skiable snow. The resorts that we have are a huge boost to the income our community gets from tourism and investment in our region. The big resorts like Perisher, Thredbo and Charlotte Pass are all welcoming many visitors. It is great to have the Selwyn resort back in action. It has been a long three years. One reason it is so important is that it is towards the north of the Kosciuszko park. It is close to the western border of the Monaro electorate and important for towns like Adaminaby, which at the moment is doing pretty well. Accommodation is tight because of the Snowy 2.0 project, but its long-term economic driver, particularly in winter, is Selwyn. It has been a difficult time for some of the businesses in the area, when they have been closed for the past three years. It is very welcome that they are reopening again.

Another thing in Adaminaby that is attractive to people is trout fishing in Lake Eucumbene and the rivers in the area. For those who are historically minded, Adaminaby was the town that was moved over the Great Dividing Range when the Snowy scheme was first built. It was on the banks of the river.

Mr Jihad Dib: It has the big fish.

Mr STEVE WHAN: I acknowledge the Minister's input. It has the Big Trout, which is about to be renovated and given some tender loving care by being repainted and made attractive again for the tourists who stop by. It also has the Snowy Scheme Museum, which is a terrific place for people to visit to see some of the machinery that was used in the original Snowy scheme, see the way people lived and learn a bit about the workforce there as well. Adaminaby is a great little town to visit, as are the other fabulous tourist centres like Jindabyne and the Snowy Mountains where you can ski in the winter and mountain bike in the summer—both of which I enjoy. Those are some of the reasons why it is great to be the member for Monaro. The important thing that I acknowledge today is the reopening of Selwyn. I congratulate Kevin Blyton and his companies on having the faith to invest the $30 million that was needed to rebuild from the ashes of the Black Summer bushfires. I congratulate them and all the staff who will be working there and welcome them back to the tourism scene in the Snowy Mountains.

HOME IN QUEANBEYAN

Mr STEVE WHAN (Monaro) 20.6.23 (19:37):

When I came back on the political scene a few months ago, I was thrilled to see that HOME in Queanbeyan was not just surviving but thriving. HOME in Queanbeyan is an initiative driven by Father Peter Day and Anne Pratt, as well as an amazing committee of staff and volunteers.

It aims to provide people who are homeless in our community not a refuge or asylum, but a home. Father Day described it as something along the lines of a retirement village where people's independence is respected. There is also a caring 24‑hour presence and there are nice apartments too. HOME in Queanbeyan opened in 2010.

It received government funding when it was first built, but since then has survived on community contributions without ongoing government funding. It is a fantastic initiative that should be taken up in many other places, and I hope it will. I congratulate those people who are keeping it going.

TONY WOOD - OAM

 

Mr STEVE WHAN (Monaro) 20/6/23 (21:16)

 

Tonight I pay tribute to Queanbeyan resident Tony Wood. He is perhaps better known as Victor the Viking, the mascot of the Canberra Raiders for the past 40 years. Forty years is an amazing length of time to be doing a job like running around in the Victor the Viking suit at Raiders games. Tony is also involved in a number of very important community things that I will come back to. After the next Raiders home game there will be a celebration, at the top pub in Queanbeyan, of Tony's fortieth anniversary and ongoing tenure as Victor the Viking. Unfortunately I am likely to miss that celebration, so I wanted to honour him in this Chamber.

Tony was a Raiders fan from the earliest days of 1982. In 1983, after a discussion with some of his mates as they bussed back from one of the Sydney games, he decided that there needed to be a mascot, having seen the Wests mascot. He and his mates started talking about names and finally came up with Victor the Viking. In a recent story by Holly Winchester inQ! News, Tony recalled walking into the office of Les McIntyre, who was the boss of the Raiders. He said it was like Kerry Packer's office, dark and smoky. McIntyre said he could give him two tickets to the weekend's game. Tony was pretty excited about that. He had walked in there with a papier‑mâché Viking hat ready to go. Incidentally, the colour of the couch in Les McIntyre's office was allegedly the inspiration for the lime green the Raiders wear.

Victor's career went on from there. He has turned out in games from 1983 right through to 2023, in all sorts of weather conditions and all sorts of locations. He has had an amazing career, being able to watch a number of the Raiders' grand final victories. He has entered the hearts of all Raiders fans around Australia, particularly those in his local community in Queanbeyan. Tony is not just Victor the Viking; he is Tony Wood, OAM. He was recognised for both his work as Victor and for his work in the community. He works in our local nursing home at BaptistCare George Forbes House, where he has worked for some time. He is also on the Respite Care for QBN committee and fundraises for the Yvonne Cuscheri House project, which looks to provide respite care for carers of people with serious illnesses. He has also been involved in the cancer support group.

Tony is deeply involved in our community, and the community welcomes him. A lot of people who see him walking around town probably do not recognise him without the Victor the Viking hat on, but he is certainly a figure that many people know around town and that Raiders fans have grown to love over the years. I recently saw Tony at Magic Round in Brisbane, where he kindly shouted me a beer. That was probably the wrong way around. I think those of us who Tony has entertained over the years with his antics as Victor the Viking and with his exhortations to make us louder at the times when the team needs us would agree that we owe Tony a number of beers. I am sure some people will have the honour of buying him a beer at the top pub in a couple of weeks' time.

As a Raiders fan who was also there in the early days in 1983—not quite as early as Victor and Tony—I have a distinct memory of the Raiders' first win, which was against Parramatta at Seiffert Oval. I join the rest of the diehard Raiders fans in thanking Tony for his 40 years of work as Victor the Viking, and I wish him many more. I look forward to seeing him on the ground, jumping around and getting us all to cheer louder at the next Raiders home game and at many after.

NATIONAL PARKS AND WILDLIFE SERVICES AND COOMA AGED CARE

 

Mr STEVE WHAN (Monaro) 1/6/23 (18:53)

 

Tonight I express my support for two groups of workers in the Monaro electorate that, over the past couple of weeks, have been given reason to feel under threat and to feel less safe in their workplaces than they ought to. In doing so, I acknowledge that in any area of policy, particularly controversial areas of policy, people have the right to have a different view and to express that different view. With any area of service, they have the right to express dissatisfaction with that service. But they do not have a right to turn that into personal attacks or actions that lead workers—people who are just doing their jobs—to feel threatened in doing their jobs.

I talk first about an incident that occurred last Friday in Jindabyne, when a person who was campaigning against the culling of brumbies deposited a brumby's head in the foyer of the National Parks and Wildlife Service in Jindabyne. That action is absolutely disgusting. It is universally seen as being threatening to the people in that building, and it cannot be condoned by any person, regardless of their views on the brumby cull that is currently underway. I recognise that it evokes passionate emotions in many people. There are many people who love the brumbies and do not want to see them culled. I am not one of those people; I say that up-front. But regardless of one's views, there is no reason to make the people who work at the National Parks and Wildlife Service feel threatened in the work they are doing. They are going to their job and doing what is asked of them. The people who set the policy are not the people who are in that building doing that job. As their local member, I say to those workers that they have my 100 per cent support in the work they do. They deserve to feel safe. They are a valued part of the community. I know the vast majority of the people in the community appreciate the work they do to preserve our wonderful Kosciuszko National Park.

I also speak about the aged-care workers in Cooma whom we have heard much about in the past couple of weeks due to the tragic incident there involving Clare Nowland. Again, people have a right to ask questions about services and standards of aged care, but they do not have a right to do make it personal. Our aged‑care workers do a wonderful job. They often do it in trying circumstances, and they often do it needing more resources. We all know that. They need our support in doing that job. They care deeply for the people who are in their care. Once again, we have heard reports in the past few weeks that people working in the sector have not felt as safe as they should in going about their work. I thank them for doing a difficult job and for doing it to the best of their ability with the resources they have available. As their local member, I support them 100 per cent.

I say to the people who think they should go outside those boundaries that, if I know who they are, I will not be talking to them. I am happy to listen to people who are willing to present alternative views in a sensible way, in a constructive way and in a way that does not seek to demonise those who do not agree with them.

TRIBUTE TO CLARE NOWLAND

 

Mr STEVE WHAN (Monaro) 1/6/23 (16:45)

 

I pay tribute to the life of Clare Nowland and again express my sympathy to her family, her friends and the people who cared for her. The tragic circumstances of Clare's death are being investigated and lessons are being learned, but for now I want to echo Clare's local priest, Father Mark Croker, who said:

… despite the tragic circumstances surrounding her death, it was how she lived her faith and her incredible life of service that should be remembered.

Mrs Nowland has eight children and more than 60 grandchildren and great‑grandchildren. They will miss their beloved mother, grandmother and great-grandmother, but they have many wonderful memories and every right to be proud of the person Mrs Nowland was. She raised her eight children in Cooma and spent more than five decades volunteering for St Vincent de Paul, helping to establish its Cooma store. She volunteered at the Sir William Hudson Memorial Centre and celebrated her eightieth and eighty-fifth birthdays by skydiving. She was a remarkable woman. Father Mark also said:

No way would you ever pick up that she was anything but a beautiful soul with deep faith—that's the lady who everyone knew.

Vale, Clare Nowland.

QUEANBENYAN RECONCILITATION WALK

 

Mr STEVE WHAN (Monaro) 30/5/23 (00:05)

 

I am very proud of my community in Queanbeyan. Hundreds of people, including students from every school, turned out on this chilly morning today to participate in Queanbeyan's Reconciliation Walk for 2023.

Queanbeyan has been doing its Reconciliation Walk since 2000, with the famous walk across the Harbour Bridge. There has been some progress made when choosing the important issues to march for, though it has been slow progress. It took seven years to get an apology and 23 years to get a referendum on constitutional recognition and a voice.

We have made slow progress to address powerlessness and give respect to our First Nations peoples, but we have taken steps. I am proud that in Queanbeyan on this date almost every year since 2000—depending on a pandemic and very cold weather—people from all cultures have walked side by side with First Nations people to show that they support reconciliation, respect and form.

It is great to be part of a community that shows that so regularly.

QUEANBEYAN HOSPITAL

 

Mr STEVE WHAN (Monaro) 23/5/23 (20:23): I raise a very pleasant item tonight. I received an email recently from Alexia and Shane Ivimey from Queanbeyan, who wanted to express their appreciation of the efforts made when they had their baby at Queanbeyan Hospital. They emailed me not only to talk about the outstanding care they received but also to highlight the need for continued investment in our hospitals to make sure that other people receive the care that they did. Their email to me stated:

 

On 10th April 2023, our son Wallace entered this world at Queanbeyan Hospital. The joy and excitement of becoming parents were accompanied by a certain level of anxiety, which was quickly alleviated by the outstanding care provided by the doctors and midwives at the hospital. Their dedication, compassion, and expertise were truly remarkable.

They went on to say:

From the moment we arrived at the hospital, we were greeted with warmth and reassurance. The staff members, both doctors and midwives, were attentive and considerate, ensuring that we were well-informed and comfortable throughout the entire birth experience. They patiently stepped us through each step, providing guidance and support during labour, explaining the process of a C‑section, and offering assistance with breastfeeding.

The commitment of the medical professionals extended beyond the confines of the hospital walls. The on‑phone support we received during the labour was invaluable. The midwives and doctors were readily available to answer our questions, calm our concerns, and provide guidance during those intense hours leading up to the delivery. Their presence and expertise were comforting, reassuring us that we were in capable hands.

They highlighted in their email the "outstanding care" they received and "the need for continued investment in regional infrastructure, particularly in the field of health care". They specifically mentioned Dr Amy Daly, their GP, and their midwife at Queanbeyan Hospital, Alexandra Reynolds, who they said "deserves special recognition for her unwavering dedication and advocacy during the delivery". They said, "Alexandra went above and beyond to ensure that our voices were heard, our concerns addressed, and our birth plan respected", along with a number of other comments.

I think all members would agree it is a wonderful thing when people email us to congratulate other people who work so hard in the community. I have heard that view about the work that the Queanbeyan maternity unit does many times. I acknowledge that we do have personal friends who work there, but I have also heard a number of glowing references over the years, including the fact that one of the midwives, Jenny Flaherty, was nominated for NSW Health Midwife of the Year in 2022. The success of the maternity unit at Queanbeyan Hospital is reflected by the fact that, with 598 births, 2022 was its busiest year since the hospital opened when I was previously the member for Monaro. Queanbeyan maternity service has a well‑established antenatal and postnatal midwifery continuity of care service, the first in our region of New South Wales, in partnership with GP obstetricians.

It is dedicated to providing the best possible care and outcomes for women in our community and it is involved in things like the Australian Preterm Birth Prevention Alliance, which aims to reduce the incidence of preterm and early term births across the country and improve outcomes for babies and families; and a quality improvement project on reducing the incidence of severe perineal trauma. It has a smoking cessation project in conjunction with the preterm birth alliance, aiming to reduce the number of women smoking in pregnancy, and it has also recommenced antenatal classes in June 2023 post-COVID.

In patient surveys for the unit, 92 per cent rated its care as very good, 90 per cent felt involved in their care, 88 per cent felt listened to, and 85 per cent felt informed about their care. Those really are sensational outcomes for the maternity unit at the Queanbeyan Hospital. I know that, like Alexia and Shane, who sent me that email, many other people report similar great results. I wanted to highlight the comments that Alexia and Shane made and congratulate them on their journey and the birth of their child. But most importantly I congratulate and thank all the people who work in the maternity unit at Queanbeyan Hospital.

QUEANBEYAN RODEO

 

Mr STEVE WHAN (Monaro) 23/5/23 (19:05)

 

Last week I had the pleasure of attending the presentation evening for the Queanbeyan Rodeo. The rodeo is a massive community fundraising event that this year drew a crowd that almost did not fit into Queanbeyan Showground.

The hugely successful event meant the rodeo was able to give out more than $52,000 in sponsorship to community organisations in the Queanbeyan region. I acknowledge chair Mark Mills and his amazing committee, including Norman and Christine McMahon from the event's biggest sponsor, Patches Asphalt; Kerry Cox; George Harriden; Sabina Pantos; Christine Corkhill; Christine McPherson; Susan Gray; Gary Gray; Jamie McPherson; Xani Archibald; Sophie Desira; Craig Cartwright; and Kathleen Mills. The massive event has been running for 21 years and would not happen without the incredible dedication of the organising team. Its website states:

The aim of the Queanbeyan Rodeo is not only to run one of the best Rodeos in the region, but to offer the people of Queanbeyan and the surrounding region a fun filled day of thrills and spills while raising money to donate to worthy local charities.

They certainly deliver in spades. Congratulations.