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Wednesday, 17 September 2003
Page: 20375


Mr BALDWIN (7:34 PM) —The Hawks Nest/Tea Gardens area is perhaps best known for the fact that our Prime Minister spent some 20 years having his annual holidays at a place that can only be described as Earth's version of heaven. On the weekend, I had the pleasure of attending the Myall River Festival in Tea Gardens, where a number of events were organised for the day, including the Riverside Art Walk, the Kayak Festival, the opening of the Community Technology Centre, duck races, games and market stalls.

Many local artists were involved in the day, and it was tremendous to see so many people contributing to their local community in this way. Local artists were asked to develop work showing the history and environment of the local area, for exhibition along the art walk, which was installed along the waterfront and other public areas. It was terrific to see the artistic pieces set up along the waterfront so that people of all ages could walk past or sit alongside the works, and visitors to the area could have a first-hand glimpse of this beautiful part of New South Wales.

We are fortunate to have a renowned poet, Heather Prentice, as a local. Her many awards include the Homestead Prize, received during the Bicentenary of Australia for her poem Scenic Highland Way. Heather also wrote a moving poem after the death of Weary Dunlop, entitled A Man From Sheep Wash Creek. It was sent to Ian McNamara, to be read out on Australia All Over. Heather was shocked at the numbers of letters and accolades received from all over Australia. We are fortunate that, as part of the exhibition, Heather Prentice wrote a very moving poem about the Myall Lake area, which I find inspirational and such a vivid description of the area that I want to read it to the parliament. It is entitled Voices of the Myall, and it reads:

There's a stirring in the air I feel

As the shadows disappear

And the dawning throws its glory

On the silhouetted piers,

Then a golden glow embraces me

And all that it surrounds

As morning claims the Myall

With its vocalising sounds.

And the voices come in ripples—

Silver wavelets in the breeze.

In the sighing of the mangroves

And the melaleuca trees.

In the rhythmic slap of dipping oars

The whirlpools in their wake,

And the black swans as they dabble

In the mirrored Myall Lake.

But more clamorous the voices

In the stillness of the morn

Comes the kookaburra's laughter

And the magpies with the dawn.

The stridency of wattle birds.

The constant currawong,

And the little Willie wagtails

Telling all where they belong.

And now this piece of paradise

Is where, I too, belong,

With its lapping of the waters

And the freedom of its songs.

It's here I've found tranquillity

I'm rolling with the flow,

And the voices of the Myall

Will never let me go.

Heather Prentice's poem is now enshrined in a plaque on the walk for all to read and absorb. Congratulations, Heather, on another beautiful piece of work. I also say congratulations to Rob and Lee Anderson for their fine efforts in organising activities during the festival.

I mentioned earlier that I was also able to attend the opening the Tea Gardens Community Technology Centre, which provides computer access and training to local residents. It is a tremendous initiative that received $150,000 from the federal government as part of Networking the Nation. I congratulate the team behind the Tea Gardens Community Technology Centre on their initiative in getting this service up and running. The team includes the president, Terry Munright; the manager of the centre, Trevor Cook; publicity officer, Dennis Ballard; and, most importantly, the whole raft of volunteers who contribute to making sure the centre is a success. A special mention should also be made of the Port Stephens lodge, where the local freemasons have provided a shopfront for the community technology centre rent free for a period of two years to make sure the project gets under way without the burden of heavy debt.

It is now late September and we are heading into the tourist season for the east coast of Australia and that means thousands of visitors into the Tea Gardens and Hawks Nest area. I am glad to see that the Howard government has invested money on local roads—roads into and out of Hawks Nest and Tea Gardens—to make sure that they are as safe as they can be. In particular it has given $220,000 in black spot funding for the Myall Way Road, a road that links the Pacific Highway with Tea Gardens and Hawks Nest and is vitally important to the economy and for the livelihood of many businesses, not to mention to the safety of people who travel on it.

Finally, I invite all members to visit the Myall Lakes to absorb the beauty and tranquillity that this area affords. Once visited, you will understand why our Prime Minister spent 20 years of annual holidays visiting the Hawks Nest and Tea Gardens area.