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Tuesday, 4 November 2003
Page: 22005

Mr FARMER (9:14 PM) —I rise tonight to remind the House and many Australians of a great man who just recently passed away, a man who was an absolute inspiration in my own life and an inspiration to many Australians—and indeed to many people, young and old, throughout the world. His name was Cliff Young. He died at his home on Sunday night, at the age of 81.

Cliff Young, at the age of 61, inspired a nation by taking on what was considered back in those days to be the toughest footrace on earth, a race that took him from Sydney—in fact, from the suburb of Parramatta—down the Hume Highway for almost 1,000 kilometres to finish in Doncaster in Victoria. Cliff Young not only finished that race but went on to win that race. He won that race against the best in this country and some of the best in the world. He did that through his sheer tenacity, his will and his determination to simply put one foot in front of the other and never, ever give up on his goal and never, ever give up on his dream of finishing, as I said, the toughest footrace on earth.

Along the way, there was a young apprentice motor mechanic who stood outside a garage at Granville and watched this man run past. That young apprentice motor mechanic was me, and I will never, ever forget that day. I saw all these elite runners race on down the road. I was inspired by who they were and what they were all about, but they looked like elite athletes and, because they were elite athletes, I was quick—as many other people were—to dismiss them by saying, `They are great, but I could never be like that.' Cliff Young, on the other hand, had another appeal, another aura, about him. He was a man of 61 who looked very frail and did not run like a gazelle or like some of the Olympic athletes that we see these days. Instead, Cliffy shuffled on down from Sydney to Melbourne. I could not help but look at this man and think to myself: `If he can do that, then surely I can. Surely I can do something with my own life.' It was not only me; Cliff Young was an inspiration to many other people.

Cliff Young had a philosophy that, while ever he drew breath, he was going to do something with his life. He just went out and he did what he could do—and that was to run. In doing so, as I mentioned earlier, he inspired a nation. Cliffy trained from when he was very young, running in the foothills of Colac and on the dairy properties around there. Cliffy was a potato farmer. It is well documented that Cliff Young trained in a pair of gumboots, racing around on a property down in Colac, chasing the cattle and herding them up by running after them rather than using the more conventional means of a motorbike or cattle dogs. That was typical of Cliffy's style. He incorporated everything into his training. If he wanted to do the shopping, he simply ran up the road to the shops and got what he needed, even if the shops were 20 or 30 kilometres away.

He was remarkable man, he was a friend and he was an inspiration to every Australian who chose to look at him and say, `If he can do something like that with his life, maybe I can do something with my life.' Many of us these days put people like Ian Thorpe up on a pedestal. We say they are great and incredible because they set world records and win gold medals in events such as the Olympics, but we often dismiss them because they are elite athletes, as I mentioned earlier. Cliff Young was an ordinary, average, typical Australian. He was a battler. He was a fair dinkum Aussie. He was all that the Australian spirit epitomises but, more importantly than anything to me, he was my friend.

I would like to say to this House that everything that I am to this point and everything that I will be in the future is a simple example of what that very simple, ordinary, average Australian stood for. He was a great man and he should be remembered, just as Sir Donald Bradman was and just as Slim Dusty was, as a great Australian. It is with great sadness that this country has lost another one of its icons.