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Wednesday, 10 August 2005
Page: 93

Senator KEMP (Minister for the Arts and Sport) (3:50 PM) —In conjunction with Senator Lundy—and I understand that Senator Fielding, the Australian Democrats and the Australian Greens also wish to be associated with this motion—I move:

   That the Senate—

(a)   conveys its deepest sympathies to the family and friends of Amy Gillett, Australian cyclist, who died tragically in a road accident in Germany while training with the Australian Road Cycling Team on 18 July 2005;

(b)   records its very best wishes for a full recovery to Amy’s team mates who were also involved in the accident, Louise Yaxley, Alexis Rhodes, Kate Nichols, Lorian Graham and Katie Brown; and

(c)   records its thanks to the Australian Ambassador to Germany and staff, the Australian Sports Commission, the Australian Institute of Sport and Cycling Australia for their support provided to family and friends of the cyclists involved in the accident and to the surviving cyclists.

I seek leave to make a short statement.

Leave granted.

Senator KEMP —All Australians were shocked and saddened to hear of the tragic death of Australian road cyclist Amy Gillett and the injuries to five of her colleagues in a terrible accident in Germany on 18 July. The cyclists were members of the Australian women’s road cycling team and they were on a training ride near the town of Zeulenroda in southern Germany when a car went out of control and collided with the riders. As senators are aware, one of Australia’s most talented young athletes, Amy Gillett, formerly Amy Safe, died at the scene of the accident, and five others—Louise Yaxley, Alexis Rhodes, Lorian Graham, Katie Brown and Kate Nichols—received injuries ranging from severe to relatively minor.

Amy was a role model for many of the younger cyclists who rode with her. Before turning to cycling, she was a champion rower who represented Australia in that sport at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, and she had high hopes of winning a medal for Australia at the upcoming Commonwealth Games. I would like to offer the government’s condolences to Amy’s husband, Simon Gillett; her parents, Denis and Mary Safe; her sister, Georgina; and other family members and friends. Her loss is a loss for Australian sport and indeed all Australians.

I can report, however, that the five injured cyclists are making steady recoveries. Three of them, Katie Brown, Kate Nichols and Lorian Graham, are now back in Australia and continuing their recovery. The two others, Louise Yaxley and Alexis Rhodes, are still under the excellent care of the doctors at the University Clinic in Jena, where their progress is being monitored and assisted by Ruth Anderson, the residential counsellor at the AIS, who flew immediately to Germany to assist with the rehabilitation.

Within an hour of the accident, the Australian Embassy in Berlin, led by Ambassador Pamela Fayle and Senior Consular Officer David Poulter, were on their way to the scene. Within a few hours, the Australian Sports Commission and the AIS had two senior staff—psychologist, Rose Stanomirovic, who was holidaying in Europe, and cycling head coach, Shayne Bannan, who is based in Italy—on the way to Germany. They were followed by the Director of the AIS, Professor Peter Fricker—one of the world’s leading sports physicians—the Chairman of the Sports Commission, Mr Peter Bartels, and the AIS residential counsellor, Ruth Anderson.

I would particularly like to thank Peter Bartels for his efforts in helping to coordinate the support on the ground. I would also like to record my thanks to cycling coach Warren McDonald, the team’s technical manager, Greg Borrer, and Cycling Australia for their support. To all these people, as well as the staff at the ASC and the AIS, led by Mark Peters, I offer my congratulations for their quick, effective and sympathetic response to one of the greatest tragedies to strike an Australian sporting team competing overseas.

The response of the Australian public has been overwhelming, with thousands of messages of condolence and support sent to cyclists and their families through the channels of the ASC and Cycling Australia. I would also like to extend the thanks of the Senate and the Australian government to the German authorities for their help and invaluable support. I thank the medical and nursing staff at the hospitals that first received our cyclists after the accident and, in particular, the excellent physicians and other staff at the University Clinic in Jena.

I wish all the cyclists a speedy recovery and again thank team Australia for the timely and effective support that swung into action when the tragedy occurred.