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Wednesday, 17 August 2011
Page: 8497


Mr EWEN JONES (Herbert) (17:54): Other people will do a lot more justice when it comes to Nancy Wake's life, and I hope that we all read about her entirely. I like the fact that she left New Zealand at two years of age to come to Australia—if she had only moved to Queensland she could have been a real legend.

The thing that always strikes me when it comes to Nancy Wake's life is her bravery. To leave home at 16 and travel to Europe—who does that? No one does that. She inherited £200 and studied journalism in London and then became involved in the French Resistance. There are a couple of things I would like to say. First of all, she ran three times for parliament. Her war record will stand out for all time and she is truly one of the greatest people ever to draw breath. She ran for Parliament three times and in some ways you would think that for someone like Nancy Wake it is probably a good thing she did not get in. It takes a special person to put up with a lot of the stuff in here and people like Nancy Wake are very much at the cutting-edge. We all have our troubles at question time but can you imagine a speaker trying to put Nancy Wake in her place? It does not happen lightly. Someone like Nancy Wake has to be revered. Someone like Nancy Wake is not a person to sit there and listen. Someone like Nancy Wake is out there doing stuff, and out there leading.

I am old enough that when I was a kid I watched Vic Morrow in combat and played war games and read war comics. I know what it is like to play these games. You think to yourself what it would be like to be in a war. I am one of the lucky generation who were too young to go to Vietnam, and I have not been away to war. You think to yourself about bravery and what it takes to be brave. You think of what it must have been like in France in 1940 when the Germans came in. You think of what it must have been like to have your husband taken away from you, tortured and killed. You think of what it must have been like to be a mere slip of a girl—and she was a tiny girl—going around France working for the Resistance and showing true bravery in the face of overwhelming odds and at any time knowing that her life could be snuffed out.

I speak to my children about what it takes to be a grown-up. I speak to my nine-year-old son about what it is to be a man. I know it is paraphrasing to say 'Men do this, because you have to be straight-up when you're a ma,' but I talk to my daughters about what it is to be responsible. I talk to people at schools. So much more is expected of children now in year 12 than when we were in year 12. I often say to the kids when we are at a function that I would not have been there—I would have been out the back with a couple of mates having a cigarette. Kids today are so much more together than we ever were. I say to every child, to every girl, look for people like Nancy Wake to show you what is possible. There was this tiny little young girl, in 1940, running around France doing stuff that men were afraid to do, that everyone was afraid to do. She was a very special lady.

I told my son the Nancy Wake story and he said to use the Chuck Norris joke: that she was probably ready to die a few years earlier but death was too afraid to come to her; that she slept with the light on because darkness was afraid of Nancy Wake. Those sorts of things are what we should be saying about Nancy Wake. Her record will stand for itself. At last we recognised her, in 2004. To be honest, I had not been aware of her before 2004, so she was a well-kept secret. Vale, Nancy Wake. At last she gets her long-earned rest.