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Wednesday, 17 August 2011
Page: 8500


Mr TEHAN (Wannon) (18:07): I rise today to add my voice to everything that has been said before on Nancy Wake. I will not detail that remarkable life, because I think it has been detailed already and probably will be done so after me in great deal and probably more eloquently. I really would just like to make three points about Nancy's life. The first is how inspirational she is to young Australians through the fact that aged 16, in the1930s, she was prepared, with £200, to set sail to go to America and then Europe and start her life. To have such courage at such a young age and to have such vision to want to see the world at that time is, I think, an inspiration to all young Australians. As a 19-year-old, I headed off for my European adventure to work on a family farm. I know how much that took, as a single male in the eighties, going to countries where the languages were foreign. So for a single female, aged 16, to head first to the United States and then for Europe, shows courage and foresight beyond her age. I hope my daughters and all young Australian females and males look at her absolute courage in saying at age 16 that she was going off to see the world.

The second point that I would like to make is: what a true heroine she was. That she was on the Gestapo's 'most wanted' list, with a price of five million francs on her head shows how remarkable her war courage was. At a time when the Gestapo and their tactics were known to all—and it would have been known to Nancy what would have happened to her if she was caught—to continue the fight against the Nazis in the way that she did shows that the word 'heroine' truly fits this remarkable Australian. The third point I would like to mention is about why she acted as she did. We have already heard the quote, but I would like to give it again because I think it clearly indicates the type of woman that she was. It was made when she was offered a decoration. She said:

The last time there was a suggestion of that I told the government they could stick their medals where the monkey stuck his nuts. The thing is, if they gave me a medal now, it wouldn't be given with love, so I don't want anything from them.

That goes to the heart of why she did what she did. It was not because she sought fame; it was not because she sought recognition; she just had a strong belief that what she was doing was the right thing to do. Once again, especially for young Australians, she is an absolute inspiration in this regard. At this time when social media dominates the agenda of our youth, Nancy Wake stands as someone who can show us a way through this. It was not about seeking publicity or grandeur; for her it was all about believing in the cause and acting for that cause. As I have indicated, the bravery with which she acted was remarkable.

Also inspirational was the way she was prepared to put her hand up for the Liberal Party and take on Doc Evatt. She could potentially have found much easier options, but they were not for Nancy; she wanted to take on Doc. When she ran for the seat of Kingsford Smith, once again this was not an easy option but an incredibly difficult one. The swings that she achieved each time she stood are an indication of what the people thought of her. There is no doubt that at that time a woman running for political office would have had a fair few people voting against her just on the basis of her gender. The fact that she was able to achieve swings in those seats is remarkable in itself.

I conclude by saying: vale Nancy Wake—she was a true heroine.