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Thursday, 20 August 2009
Page: 8570

Mr BROADBENT (9:30 AM) —Last week I spoke a little bit about remote living in Australia, the remoteness of the nation and how people deal with their isolation, but I did not go on to say that Ailsa and Chris Richter, at the Wilsons Promontory lighthouse, live in a place that can only be reached by foot. They keep the Wilsons Promontory lighthouse in the most beautiful condition. I spoke last week about the 150th anniversary, the trauma it was to try and get yourself in there and the way that this family had lived.

The Richters have had an association with lighthouses for some 35 years. During recent celebrations, Ailsa held the audience enthralled with tales of the difficulties of living and working as lighthouse keepers. Having groceries delivered by helicopter or ship requires very careful packing to make sure that your groceries arrive in one piece. They have to withstand high winds, rough seas, storms and landings by helicopter or ship, which are rather bumpy. She described the anguish of watching a sick child in the middle of the night when the winds are gale force and you know a helicopter cannot come in for your child, hoping that the doctor can diagnose the problem over a very shaky phone and then hoping that there are enough supplies in the medical kit to get you through the next day.

They had no television and no mobile phones. This is a very peaceful place, but it is a busy lifestyle, as Chris explained. They wash each building after each major storm; that is how pristine this beautiful place is. Maintaining the light requires constant work and attention to detail. Mr and Mrs Richter raised and educated three children, Amanda, Tara and Nerissa, at the light station and spoke fondly of their strong family bonds. They played a major part within their community as well.

I had a personal involvement as well, because my uncle Keith was the first mate on Her Majesty’s lighthouse ship Cape York, and as an 11-year-old I was taken from place to place on that ship. It covered the whole east coast of Tasmania in the days when they serviced those lighthouses.

Today, our lighthouses are automatic. They are basically solar powered. They still do the job to keep our shipping lanes safe, and the work that these people do right across the nation has been fantastic. I pay tribute to all of the lighthouse keepers who gathered there for the 150th anniversary. We know that parliamentarians appreciate that they live in remote and difficult conditions.