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Tuesday, 7 October 2003
Page: 20618

Mr CREAN (Leader of the Opposition) (2:07 PM) —Mr Speaker, on indulgence, I join with the Prime Minister in this tribute to Slim Dusty, a great artist and a great Australian. I was with the Prime Minister at the celebration of Slim's life—otherwise known as the funeral service. It was a wonderful occasion, really, despite the sad circumstances. It was a celebration of his life. He was an icon, a person of great commitment to his family and a mate.

We talk of Slim's music, but Joy, his wife of so many years, was really the strength and pillar of this partnership—and this was referred to by the family. Joy herself came from a very talented family, The McKean Sisters, who continued to perform in their own right. Of course their family, Anne and David, are wonderful talents in their own right. It is a family that is wonderfully talented and wonderfully close. It was terrific to hear both Anne and David speak with emotion and passion. Anne spoke of the irreverence which Slim had, and she did a wonderful rendition of Travellin' Still, Always Will. David said, at a very poignant moment, that he had lost a mate and there was a space that could not be filled. Both talked of their love for him and their bond. They shared him with Australia, but he was still theirs.

On the question of mateship, this, in a sense, was what was so endearing about Slim: he was everyone's mate. It was not just his singing that developed this camaraderie with the Australian people but also his commitment to country, to family, to community, to conservation and of course to reconciliation. Peter Garrett, who also spoke at the funeral service, read out a message from Mandawuy Yunupingu, lead singer of Yothu Yindi, in which he said:

You were the first pioneer of reconciliation between black and white Australia. The message in your songs brings harmony and balance between people and the land.

Slim and his music brought many people together, not just black and white but also city and country and young and old. He even performed with The Wiggles, singing that great song I Love To Have A Beer With Duncan but this time changing the words to `I love to have a beer with Dorothy'. He had all the kids singing along. The Prime Minister has referred to his other great song, the big hit A Pub With No Beer. I never thought I would see the day when that song was played in a church, but not only was it played in that church but we were led in its chorus by the Reverend Phillip Jensen, the Dean of St Andrew's Cathedral. There were no words—we all knew it; we just sang along. I am sure, Mr Speaker, that if standing orders allowed it we could all break out into song here, but I know that they do not and I know how strictly you observe them.

That song was not just about drinking; in essence it was about mateship, it was about friendship and it was about looking after each other. This was the endearing quality of Slim: he told the Australian story so long and he told it so well. It was a wonderful service. Whilst those songs were sung and played in the church service, it concluded with the title song of his 100th album. I was fortunate to be in Tamworth with Slim when that 100th album was launched—100 in 106—Looking Forward, Looking Back. That is how we will remember Slim: we will look forward to the legacy that he leaves, we will look back to the great life that he led and the many people that he touched. Our condolences go to the family—to Joy, Anne and David—and to the extended family, all of whom were there. It was a celebration of a great life. He will be sadly missed, and I join with the Prime Minister in offering our condolences.