First Speech in Parliament

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MS ADDISON: I acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we meet, the Wurundjeri people. I would also like to acknowledge the Wathaurong people, the traditional owners of the land of the Wendouree electorate, and pay my respects to elders past, present and emerging from both peoples.

I stand here before you today, honoured to be elected as the member for Wendouree and I thank the people of Wendouree for putting their faith in me to serve the community. I love Ballarat; it is where I am from. I was born and raised there and my parents still live in the same house where I grew up, in Alfredton. Ballarat is where Mike and I choose to live, to work and to raise our children. Ballarat is a great and growing community—and for good reason. The heritage buildings, the beautiful gardens, the excellent sporting facilities and the increasingly cosmopolitan lifestyle have attracted an influx of new residents to our city. I embrace the vibrancy and diversity that population growth brings.

‘Balla’ and ‘arat’ are actually two separate words in local language, meaning ‘resting place’. Wathaurong clans have lived in the region for more than 25 000 years. The word ‘Wendouree’ also comes from local language. Prior to colonisation, on the edge of Black Swamp, now known as Lake Wendouree, there was a camping ground. It is here, according to local folklore, that the word Wendouree was first heard by Europeans. Notably, it was not in the most welcoming of circumstances, for the term ‘Wendouree’ means ‘go away’. When Scottish squatter William Yuille arrived at Black Swamp and asked a local Wathaurong woman, ‘What is the name of the swamp?’, her reply was clear: ‘Wendaaree’. He didn’t.

In 1851, when Ballarat was first surveyed, the name of Black Swamp was recorded as ‘Wendouree’ and the misunderstood word became the official name of our picturesque lake, the suburb to its north and the electorate I represent. The district of Wendouree covers central Ballarat and the surrounding suburbs: Brown Hill to the east, Alfredton to the west, Mount Rowan to the north and Redan to south. And despite a name change and some redistribution, the seat has effectively been held by Labor since 1999, when the seat of Ballarat West was won by community champion Karen Overington. This was the same year Geoff Howard won Ballarat East and Ballarat’s own Steve Bracks became Premier. In 2010, Sharon Knight was elected as the member for Ballarat West and subsequently the member for the newly named seat of Wendouree in 2014.

I am proud to be the third successive Labor woman to represent our district, following in the footsteps of Karen and Sharon, who were strong advocates for our community. I am also pleased to be able to work with another Labor woman, the member for Buninyong, to deliver for Ballarat.

Altona is another district that can claim three successive Labor women members. It is an electorate close to my heart, as I had the privilege of working for the former member, the late Lynne Kosky, in 1998, when she was shadow Minister for Housing and shadow Minister for Youth Affairs.

These are two policy passions of mine. Access to housing and addressing homelessness in all its complexity are seminal issues for this Parliament, and indeed for our society. As a teacher, I have spent a lot of time with young people over the last decade and I look forward to engaging with them about the issues that matter most to them.

Lynne was a great Labor woman who made an outstanding contribution to Victoria as a minister in the Bracks-Brumby governments. I learnt a lot from Lynne, admired her greatly and think of her often.

I am very proud that I can trace my family connections to Ballarat back to Victoria’s gold rush, an event that transformed the then colony of Victoria. In August 1851, Ballarat became famous around the world, when the first discovery of gold was made. This triggered the gold rush. It saw the establishment of Australia’s first truly multicultural settlement and was later the site of the Eureka rebellion. Miners from all over the world descended on Ballarat, including my great-great-grandfather, Peter O’Driscoll, from County Cork, Ireland. He left Ireland to escape the poverty following the famine and to find his fortune. Whilst there are many stories of heartbreak and disappointment on the central Victorian diggings, Peter did well, amassing 700 pounds before heading home to West Cork to establish a farm, all thanks to his good fortune in Victoria and the famed gold of Ballarat.

Growing up in a large Catholic family in regional Victoria has had a significant impact on my sense of self. My family has had a huge influence on the person I am today and I am so pleased to have my parents, Les and Trudy/Trudie?, and my brothers and sisters here today: Les, Eugene, Louisa, Paul and Christina and their families. Growing up with five siblings, life was hectic. There was the constant juggling of competing demands, and not just of the shared bathroom. Dad ran a busy pharmacy, which was the only one in Ballarat that operated from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m, 365 days a year. Dad worked long hours, including every Friday night and Saturday morning, even going into work on Christmas Day if required. It was done without question because it was what was needed to do to build the business and provide a necessary service to the community. Mum worked as a physiotherapist, treating children and adults with severe disabilities, as well as doing an enormous amount of community work. My mum is generous and kind, compassionate, committed to social justice and helping the disadvantaged and the vulnerable. I could not wish for a greater role model. I wish to thank my family for their love and support, today and always.

I am a proud feminist and I come from a line of strong women. Dad’s grandmother, Anne Jennings, as a widow, ran hotels in Geelong; and my maternal grandmother, Nell Ahern, attended the University of Melbourne in the 1920s and then worked as a teacher.

I grew up believing, as my parents had raised me, that girls and boys were to have the same opportunities. However, the experience outside the home was sometimes different. When I was 10 years old, there was a sign in the local milk bar that said ‘Paperboy wanted’. It made me angry. So I marched in and asked the shop owner, Steve—who still runs the local milk bar—‘Why didn’t you advertise for a paper boy or girl?’, to which he replied that he did not think any girls would be interested. After insisting he was wrong, Steve suggested that I should take the position. When I tried to explain to him that I did not want the job for myself, just the sign changed, he told me that he expected to see me reporting for work the next morning. Not one to shirk from a challenge, I borrowed my brother’s bike—thanks, Paul—and became a papergirl and for the next three years, I delivered the papers six mornings a week. When I let Steve know I was finishing up, he put up a sign in the shop window advertising ‘papergirl wanted’. What this taught me was that whilst it is important speak out, actions speak louder than words in bringing about change. It also taught me a bit about delivering.

This is why it is so important that, for the first time in Victoria’s history, half the cabinet is women. This government is leading by example, and in doing so, breaking down barriers and shattering stereotypes. Labor’s high levels of women’s representation has not occurred by accident, but as a result of many people, including former Premier Joan Kirner, over many years. It is leadership like this that brings about fundamental social change and is one of the many reasons I am proud to be a member of the Labor Party.

I joined the Labor Party when I was a student at Monash University, because my values and ideals aligned with the Labor Party and the broader labour movement. I believed then, as I do now, that Labor is the party of reform, of fairness and equity, of social justice and working people and that only Labor governments can make society fairer, kinder and better.

The union movement plays a very important role in enshrining fairness, not just in workplaces but across society. Unionists have campaigned and won conditions that many people take for granted, including reasonable hours of work, annual leave, equal pay, superannuation and workplace safety, as well as being at the forefront of many social movements.

I had the great honour of working as a union organiser, representing steelworkers at BHP’s Port Kembla steelworks in Wollongong and at the Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union (AMWU), advocating for workers rights in the printing and packaging industries. When your job is to represent workers in high-risk industries like steel and packaging then ensuring workplaces are safe and preventing workers from being injured or killed on the job is the top priority.

Workplace health and safety is a very serious issue and, like many partners, I worry about my husband’s safety when he is at the factory. Workplace safety is also an issue very close to home for many people in Ballarat following the tragic workplace deaths of Charlie Howkins and Jack Brownlee in Delacombe in March 2018. Recently I have had the opportunity to spend time with Charlie’s wife, Lana Cormie, and Jack’s parents, Janine and Dave Brownlee. I have seen firsthand the devastating impact these workplace deaths have had on Charlie’s and Jack’s families.

Charlie Howkins was aged just 34 and was the father of two young children, Sophie and George, when he was killed in a trench collapse. Jack Brownlee was only 21 years old when he did not come home from work. Jack was still living at home with mum and dad and his brother, Mitch, and his whole life was still ahead of him. No-one should ever die at work—ever.

I am proud that this government will create a new criminal offence of workplace manslaughter to ensure Victorians are safe at work. This law will ensure that putting people’s lives at risk in a workplace will not be tolerated, and when an employer’s negligence causes death there will be serious consequences, not a mere fine. It is important legislation that I am proud to support.

Prior to my election to this place, I had the pleasure of spending my days teaching students about history, as well as learning from them. It was a job I loved, and I will miss my interactions with the staff and students in the classroom, on the sporting field and in the performing arts.

I know every child can learn and progress, but it is not always easy. I want to ensure that students are engaged in their learning and supported in a world-class education system. I want our schools to instil confidence and pride in students as we prepare them for a world that is less certain and faster changing than the one I grew up in. That is why I am so proud that Victoria is the Education State. From three-year-old kinder to free TAFE, we are transforming lives and creating endless possibilities using the incredible power of education.

I am excited about the future and all that it will bring. The government’s commitment to the people of Wendouree is exceptional. The investment in Ballarat, including the rebuild of the Ballarat Base Hospital, the rail line upgrade, the Ballarat GovHub and the train station redevelopment, is critical for the growth of our community. These projects are transforming Ballarat, creating new jobs, growing our local economy and building a better Ballarat. There is no place I would rather be.

Many people have helped me on the way to this place, and I am so grateful to them. I sincerely thank Mark Karlovic, Craig Fletcher, Andrew Boatman, Emma Harding, Craig Wilson and Anthony Naus, local branch members, unionists and volunteers. I offer a very special thank you to our family friends: the Fields, the McGreevys, the O’Hallorans, the Taylors and the Youngs.

Thank you to those I have shared this political path with over the last 25 years: those at Monash, the National Union of Students, Young Labor, Organising Works, the Australian Workers Union (AWU) Port Kembla, the AMWU, the branch meetings, the Ballarat Trades Hall Council and Pathways to Politics. I would not be here without your support, encouragement, friendship and mentoring.

I would particularly like to thank David Imber, Meredith Irish, Brian O’Connor, Stephen Dawson, Andrew Giles, Hutch Hussein, Trent Kear, Chris McDermott, and the member for Burwood. I would also like to thank Graham Roberts, Andrew Whiley, Steve Walsh, Maurice Addison, Lynne Ritchie, Alan Griffin, Lee Tarlamis, Matt Hilakari, Carol Schwarz and Andrea Carson. I also remember my friend Andrew Knox today, an AWU organiser who died in the September 11 attacks.

To Catherine King, Jaala Pulford, the Minister for Roads in the other place and Geoff Howard, thank you for your support, friendship and welcome advice. I wish to thank the Premier, the Attorney-General, the Leader of the House, the Minister for Mental Health, the Minister for Women, the Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change and the Cabinet Secretary for their personal support, as well as Kos Samaras and the team at Labor headquarters.

To Christina Dickinson—who is in a class of her own—thank you for everything. And to Mike, Johanna and Sophia, I could not have done this without you and I love you very much.