My First Speech

15 December 2016

Check against delivery


Thank you Madam Speaker, I would like to start by acknowledging we meet on the land of the Ngunnawal people and I would like to pay my respects to their elders both past and present.


It is an immense honour to be elected and I would like to thank the people of Yerrabi for placing their confidence in me.  I look forward to working with you over the next four years to represent our wonderful corner of the ACT.


Madam Speaker, if you had have asked me when I was younger if I saw myself as a politician, I would have said no. 


Because of this I never planned my life around becoming a politician.


I grew up in Giralang playing cricket with my neighbours in our cul-de-sac and going to Brownies at the Giralang Primary School hall.  My first job was at the Sizzler in Belconnen and it marked the start of a 10 year career in hospitality and tourism.  It’s an industry I loved being a part of but it was also where I first learned we still have a way to go in making sure all workers are treated fairly.  As a mature age student and much to my parents delight I completed university.  Along with my cousins I became part of the first generation in my father’s family to be university educated.  After completing a Masters I began a career as an urban planner.  I recently bought my first home in Franklin and after a lifetime of being a dog person I took the plunge 2 years ago and adopted my first ever cat, Portia Pie, from the RSPCA.


When I was growing up what was a little bit different for me was that my family fostered more than 200 children.  We wanted to help kids who needed it most and this was my family’s way of doing that.  I learned we can do a lot to help each other, but sometimes we can’t solve all the problems ourselves.  Luckily we had social services there to help us when we needed it most.  It showed me the help and support government can give, goes a long way to making a real difference. 


Due to my upbringing and my experience in the workforce, being an active member of the Labor Party and the Labour Movement more broadly has always been where I feel at home. 

Our party and our movement bring people together to stand up for each other and make our community a fairer, more inclusive place to live.


But apart from a brief stint in Young Labor during my uni years I had never formally joined the political arm of the labour movement.  That was until 2013, when following a change of federal government, the policy area I worked in was dismantled overnight.  I figured the only way I could keep making a difference in an area I really cared about was to get involved where the agenda is set.  That’s when I joined Labor.


All I wanted to do when I joined Labor was get involved.  It turned out, for me this meant joining with to lead a campaign within the ACT Labor Party calling for an end to the ACT Government investing in fossil fuel companies.  In the lead up to our branch conference and with a motion in hand, I spoke to as many Labor members as I could, explaining our goal, the importance of divestment and how what we were asking for, was achievable and beneficial.  The ACT Government heard our call and has now divested from companies that generated 60 gigatons of fossil fuels.  After this success, friends and colleagues suggested I run for Legislative Assembly.

Having never imagined myself as a politician I took some time to really think about whether this was for me.  At the same time I was telling just about anyone in the Labor Party who would listen we really need candidates who are connected to both the Belconnen and Gungahlin parts of Yerrabi.  One day it was pointed out to me perhaps the person who grew up in the Belco suburbs and now lived in Gungahlin and seemed very keen on making sure all the electorate was represented might be a good option.  I took the hint and while there is never only one reason for running for me there is one thing that in the end persuaded me throw my hat in the ring.  That thing was the chance to work with and represent my family and my friends, the people I went to school with, the colleagues I’ve had the pleasure of working with and the wonderful people who like me call the Belco, Old Gungahlin and New Gungahlin parts of Yerrabi home. 


I am very excited to now have the opportunity to represent Yerrabi and the wonderful people who live there.


Madam Speaker when I was 12 years old my dad took me to look at some houses on a street in this place called Palmerston.  I was very confused about why we were going to look at houses because mum had made it very clear she was never moving out of Giralang.  But Dad explained to me these were the first houses for a whole new suburb and eventually a whole new region and he just wanted to go check them out.  Those first houses were all on one street, surrounded by farming paddocks and really not much else.  But soon enough more streets and more houses joined that first street.  Before long Palmerston was built as well as Nicholls, Ngunnawal and Amaroo.  The town centre was established and more suburbs planned and developed. 

Having watched Gungahlin grow from a single street to a home for many it is perhaps no surprise that as an adult I was drawn to a career in urban planning. 


And that is what I was doing before entering the assembly; I was working as an urban planner in the federal public service.  My professional focus has predominantly been on strategic development but through my planning networks I have come to gain insight and appreciation for the many varied facets of the planning task.


A little while ago a fellow planner and friend of mine recounted a conversation she’d had while working in a local council.  A resident had called wanting to know why the council insisted on setting back her development schedule.  My friend was rather confused because there was no requirement on the development application to alter the timing of the development.  After a few minutes of going around in circles it became apparent the set back requirement being discussed referred to the structure being suitably set back from the property boundary.  My friend explained this did not equate to a requirement to set back the building schedule. 


Whenever I recount this story I get one of two responses.  My fellow planners all start an in depth and passionate discussion on setbacks being different to setbacks.  Everyone else scratches their heads and says they don’t get it.


I appreciate for a large number of people this story sums up their experience of the planning system and urban planning. 


But urban planning is more than just the rules we need to comply with if we want to build stuff.  Planning is the blue print for how we are going to achieve the best city we possibly can.  And achieving the best city we can is vital, because our cities are the places that shelter us and provide us with employment, education and healthcare.  They are where we meet with each other and come together as a community. 


Our city is our home. 


For this reason people need to have the opportunity to interact with the plans that shape our home long before they turn into circular conversations on setbacks. 


And because when we bring people into the conversation early in the piece, take on board a wide range of views and find the points where we can agree and then work through any differences, we provide the conditions to make our city the best it can be for all the people who call it home.


As well as being our home our city is also our habitat and it needs to sustain us.  This means we need to build our city in a way that makes space for all our community and so that we all feel welcome and nurtured.


While we may construct our habitat, our built environment and the natural environment surrounding it are not mutually exclusive.  We and the cities we live in are still part of the wider planet and we cannot ignore the reality that the way we build our habitat, and the lifestyles we make for ourselves, can have a detrimental effect on our surrounding nature.  It is important we are constantly mindful of and diligent in minimising the impact of our built environment on our natural environment.  After all, it is nature that provides us with food, water and clean air to keep us going.


In short; we need to look after our environment so our environment can look after us. 


As Canberrans we are lucky to live in a city surrounded by nature reserves, grasslands and wildlife; as the bush capital we are unique.  But, as a growing city we cannot take for granted things will always be an easy fit.  As we continue to mature we need to be more and more mindful of balancing our built and natural environments so that our nature is healthy and our city is the best it can be.


Finally, as many of us in this place would know, campaigns don’t happen without the blood, sweat and occasional tears of many people. 

I would like to thank my campaign team who were there every day of every week for months on end brainstorming, fundraising, letterboxing, phone calling and door knocking.  To Sarah, Ella, Nick, Anselm, Wade and Michael, the little campaign that thinks it can, did, and that is in no small part to each of you.  I thank you for the time, support and sacrifices you made to support me and the Labor cause. 


I would also like to thank all my wonderful friends and comrades who helped in any and many ways during the campaign. 


Thank you to my comrades at the CPSU, the TWU, the CFMEU and UV.


Thank you to Matt, Megan and everyone at Labor Party Office.


To my parents, brothers, sister, nephews and niece thank you for being my rock.  I couldn’t ask for a more wonderful or supportive family.  


To Julie thank you for all your guidance and advice.


I also want to take a moment to pay my respects to two men who have been by my side providing unconditional love, advice and occasionally a stern but fair talking to since the day I was I born – My Pop and My Grampy. 


My Pop was the only son of Irish immigrants who came to Australia for a better life.  Pop had hoped to be a doctor or a lawyer, something that would give him the opportunity to help people and really make a difference.  But during the Great Depression when aged only thirteen he had to leave school to return to the family farm.  He stayed at the farm for the rest of his life, never finishing school or getting the university education he had longed for.  But he still contributed to his community as a member of the rural fire service, the agricultural show society and the Agricultural Bureau.  Pop once told me that even though his life didn’t go the way he might have imagined he was still able to give back to his community and along with my Nan raise a loving and caring family; and that he said was the most important thing.


My Grampy was the only son of two loving parents who during his youth fell in love with the girl across the road.  Despite the many, many, many warnings my Grammy received about that larrikin from across the street she still agreed to wait until he returned from the war to marry him.  After a short stint in Tumut the family settled in Canberra where they happily went about their lives.  Then when my mum was just a young teenager my Grammy was involved in a car accident that left her bedridden for the remainder of her life.  My Grampy stoically stood by his Shirl, helping with her caring needs and running around after their five young children.  When he retired he would go on road trips across Australia coming back with thousands of photos to show to Grammy so that she could also to see the country they both loved.  It was a dedication and love that extended to his children, his grandchildren and his great-children.


My Pop passed away in April and My Grampy passed away in September.  To say the elation of being elected was tempered by the absence of two of my biggest supporters is an understatement.


But as I approach the next four years, even though they can’t be here with me, I take with me the example of my Grandfathers; work hard, value people and leave the world a better place than you inherited it.


Thank you.