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Wednesday, 17 November 2004
Page: 21


Mrs MARKUS (10:19 AM) —Mr Speaker, I move:

That the address be agreed to.

I am honoured to be able to move the motion for the address-in-reply to the Governor-General's speech on behalf of the parliament and the government. Mr Speaker, as I begin my first speech in parliament, I warmly congratulate you on your election to the important position of Speaker in this House and ask that God give you the wisdom and strength that it will require.

I am deeply humbled and honoured to have been chosen by the people of Greenway to be their representative in this place. It was an exacting campaign and a close result, and I give my absolute commitment to continue to work, with passion and zeal, just as diligently for those who did not vote for me on this occasion as for those who did.

The electorate of Greenway was named to honour the famed Australian architect Francis Greenway. It was represented from its creation in 1984 by Russ Gorman and since 1996 by my predecessor, Frank Mossfield. Frank is a genuine and decent man who was well-liked by the community. People had only kind words to say about Frank, and I wish him well in his retirement. Greenway is an amazingly diverse electorate. Many residents, particularly in the long-established urban areas like Blacktown, Seven Hills, Lalor Park, Toongabbie and Marayong, have lived there all their lives. They know, love and deeply respect the many traditions and networks that have been forged throughout their community over decades. In the north of the electorate some of the area remains semi-rural, and residents of Schofields, Marsden Park and Vineyard are fiercely proud of their land and their livelihood. My home suburb of Riverstone is still called the `first country town out of Sydney' by a number of older residents.

The electorate has seen an explosion in population and development as literally thousands of people, many of them young families, have moved into suburbs like Quakers Hill, Glenwood, Stanhope Gardens and Kellyville Ridge. With this explosion come massive challenges to provide the service delivery and infrastructure which are critically needed in the area. Added to all of this are the many varied and wonderful ethnic communities which are such a vital part of Greenway. For example, there are over 40 nationalities represented in the suburb of Dean Park alone. More than 30 per cent of the people living in my electorate were born overseas, and without their valuable achievements and perspectives Greenway would be greatly diminished. I am truly blessed to be able to count many of these people as my friends and supporters, particularly in the Filipino, Sikh, Maltese, Sudanese, Greek, Turkish and Egyptian communities.

The people of Greenway are industrious and focused. They know that the expansion of our area provides great challenges, but through diligence and determination they will rise to meet those challenges. Recently, in the suburb of Kings Langley, state government regulations forced a child-care centre to drastically cut the numbers of places it could offer school aged students. This would have left many students of Vardys Road Public School without before and after school care less than a month later. So the principal of the school, Bob Hahn, and the president of the P&C, Peggy Taiarol, decided to take the issue into their own hands and set up an out of school hours care centre at the school. What would take many schools months to do, they achieved in a few short weeks. A new centre was established, staffed and funded without a break in the children's care. This sums up the people of Greenway—resourceful, diligent and committed.

Many commentators have described the people in the area I represent as `aspirational' and I agree, but not perhaps in the way they intended. The residents and families in Greenway aspire to make their own way—to be able to own their own homes, to run their businesses, to educate their children, to be safe in their communities, to be able to get home at a reasonable hour to spend time with their families and to enjoy the quality of life they have worked so hard to achieve. I am resolved to helping them accomplish just that. But hand in hand with the aspirations necessarily come challenges, and in Greenway there are many challenges which require immediate attention. In areas like Riverstone and Lalor Park there are substantial concerns about crime and community safety. New ideas and strategies need to be implemented to combat these concerns. Tim Priest, the Chair of the Western Sydney advisory group of the National Community Crime Prevention Program, has already visited Greenway. I am committed to connecting with him and all members of the community in the quest to minimise crime in the area.

There are also challenges for the emerging ethnic communities who have sought refuge from war torn nations here in Australia. Many members of these communities have been deeply traumatised by their experiences. Services and facilities need to be provided to ease their transition into our society. Another great challenge is for young people in Greenway to find a pathway to employment. For many youths, particularly those with limited familiarity with English, this can be an almost impossible mountain to climb. But young people are the lifeblood and future of our country, so it is a challenge that we all share.

The people of Greenway and I are committed to the next generation and setting them up for success. Our efforts today need to incorporate generational thinking and planning. That is why the Demons Sports Club in Seven Hills has hired professional coaches and has developed plans to upgrade the playing grounds and facilities—so that the soccer and rugby league stars of the future can have the best possible chance to achieve their full potential. That is why the P&C of Metella Road Public School, under the leadership of Dave Clarke, has raised thousands of dollars to buy an airconditioning system for the students in their school. However, the power supply is inadequate to run them and the state government refuses to pay for an upgrade.

I was delighted when the federal government announced that $700 million will be available to government school P&Cs and principals around the country to address exactly this sort of problem. I am eagerly awaiting the passage of that legislation. The protection and encouragement of our children is one of the most important responsibilities of a society. With that in mind, I would like to particularly honour my own father and mother, John and Jean Tyrell. My father was a man of integrity and faith. In him I was blessed to have had a wonderful role model for 16 years. He instilled in me a belief that, as a young woman, I was equal to any task to which I applied myself. Growing up at Gladesville in the electorate of Bennelong, the year I became the daughter of a widow was the same year our Prime Minister, John Howard, was first elected. My mother continues to live in the home where my sister and I grew up. I would like to acknowledge their presence in the gallery here today.

My mother is a woman of resilience and faith. Being the eldest of 14 children, she has spent most of her 84 years giving of herself to others. She has always made her own decisions; she is fiercely independent. Before my father died, he and his brothers were stonemasons in the family business. We were blessed and wanted for nothing. After he died, my mother had to find a way to support two daughters through high school and university. From that moment to this, I have worked to pay my own way, to secure a future for myself, my children and the people in my world. I met my husband, Jim, at a church youth group. Over the years that we have been together, his support, generosity and love have been an integral part of my life. He is a rare and beautiful man, who is prepared to walk this new path by my side. He is someone to whom I will always be deeply thankful.

Jim and I have been blessed to have two beautiful children, Joshua and Hannah. My children are two of the greatest gifts I have been given in my life. They are both precious, valuable and unique individuals with wonderful futures ahead of them. To be fortunate enough to be surrounded by a loving family only reinforces for me the notion that the family unit is the foundation stone of our society. As an entity it must be valued, encouraged and supported in every way possible. I am proud to be a member of a government which recognises that the strongest thread running through the social fabric of this nation is the family.

My husband, Jim, was born in Papua New Guinea, an extraordinary place of beauty and rugged individuality. I love the people of that nation. I see a potential in them that is largely untapped—men and women filled with dreams and desires. To live with people within another culture where I can add value, to be accepted, has added a richness to my life and to my children's lives that I cannot quantify and for which I am truly grateful. I love spending time in Papua New Guinea. I am very pleased to see Australia's continued strong connection and support for that nation. I also wish to acknowledge Jim's family for their love, support and prayers.

After attending a Marist Sisters convent at Woolwich, I enrolled at the University of New South Wales to complete a bachelor of arts degree in social work. My sole purpose—if you like, calling—in life has always been, and continues to be, to serve the community, to make a difference in the lives of people, for people are the nation's greatest asset.

I have spent my entire working life working in Western Sydney advocating and fighting for people. Until recently I served as the manager of the Emerge Family Counselling and Enterprise Centre at Blacktown. The centre provides a broad range of front-line community services, including helping people to overcome drug and alcohol addiction, providing emergency financial relief for people in crisis, counselling individuals with depression, as well as helping people to find jobs, secure housing and set up their own businesses. Prior to that, I supervised social workers in 14 regional offices across Western Sydney for the federal government and worked with Centrelink, Blacktown TAFE and charitable organisations such as Wesley Mission.

My experience has been diverse: working with people in crisis, supporting and counselling families and teaching welfare students about social policy. I have learnt much from my life and work. I have learnt that focusing on solutions rather than problems brings change. I understand that individuals, families and communities often have the answers and solutions. I know that working in collaboration and partnership with people, not dictating to them, is the way challenges can best be overcome or change can be achieved. But a prerequisite is that people must actually want things to be different. For example, confronting unhealthy behaviour, such as violence in the home and the abuse of a child, is about providing people with the opportunity to take personal responsibility, to break old patterns of behaviour and to learn new ways of relating. The three fundamentals of overcoming any problem are identifying an opportunity, making a choice and taking responsibility.

As a professional in the field, I have seen people trapped in circumstances and a way of life that they feel powerless to change. Given the right opportunities, any individual or group can change behaviour or overcome challenges. Every individual in this nation is valuable and has the potential to give and receive love, to achieve their dreams and desires, to reach their potential and to contribute to a future for themselves, their family and this nation.

I have always loved working with the most challenging situations and families, because I believe there is always a way through. I believe in searching for that path, however difficult it is to find, and not being halted by obstacles placed in the way. Time and time again I have seen people choose to take one step at a time to change. I have seen young men struggling with drug addiction break free when given value and a relationship with someone who will believe in them and challenge them to make better decisions. The difference between the young man who steps into a better life and receives help and the young man who walks away is a decision, a choice, a preparedness to pay the price for change. However, it is important to qualify that the appropriate services must be available to help the individual make those changes. The rational choice of the individual, coupled with the appropriate resources available, can create a bright future.

I bring the wealth of experience that I have to serve both this parliament and the people of Greenway. I am passionate about the concept of ensuring that the approach to change in communities is about facilitating and empowering the people, businesses, community organisations and leaders of that community to develop local, relevant, creative and out-of-the-box solutions and approaches to the issues they face—solutions that focus on how they want their communities to look in the future. My commitment is to connect the groups and organisations in my electorate to the relevant bodies and government departments that can assist them to achieve their aspirations. My goal is a forward-thinking community, full of vibrant organisations and individuals who are identifying creative, community based plans and solutions to the challenges we face.

This has been an extraordinary journey for me over the past year, but it is not one I could have travelled alone. To the hardworking members of the Liberal Party, many of whom have been working for this result for decades: I would not be here without the determined efforts of you all. Thank you particularly to my local campaign chairman, Neil Lockhart, and his wife, Trish; conference president Councillor Allan Green; Councillor Len Robinson; Scott Baker; Shane Maher; and especially Geoff and Pat Bisby—two people who sum up what the Liberal Party is about. I also want to sincerely thank Gerard Benedet and the Young Liberals for their assistance and support.

My campaign could not have happened without scores of new members and supporters who came out of the woodwork and who are too many to name individually. But I particularly want to acknowledge the work and leadership of Matt Zschech, Mark Spencer and Matt Breedon—three men whose enthusiasm, integrity and commitment were immeasurably important to my campaign. I also thank the large number of parliamentarians who showed their active faith in and support for me by coming to Greenway over the past few months: Julie Bishop, Joe Hockey, Rod Kemp, Brendan Nelson, Larry Anthony, Kay Patterson, Tony Abbott, Helen Coonan, Jim Lloyd, Christopher Pyne, Jackie Kelly, Bill Heffernan, Marise Payne, Kerry Bartlett, Pat Farmer, Bronwyn Bishop, John Tierney and especially my friend, Senator-elect Connie Fierravanti-Wells, and Alan Cadman and the Mitchell Conference who provided me with invaluable assistance and advice. I am also grateful to members of the New South Wales parliament who actively showed their support for my candidacy. However, I am most grateful for the leadership, commitment and support of the person I have the honour of calling my leader, a man of great integrity: Prime Minister John Howard.

From the moment I was preselected, I made a decision to run my campaign office from day one like an MP's office—to fight for people and advocate on their behalf, to listen to their concerns and to work hard to achieve outcomes. That vision would not have been achievable without a dedicated and talented team who assisted me every day, including Rebel Neary, Mark Lewis, Shaun Ratcliff and Councillor Greg Dezman. History would not have been made without this approach and these people. Lastly, I must thank the head office of the Liberal Party, ably led by President Chris McDiven and the party's state executive. I particularly want to acknowledge Scott Morrison, the State Director of the New South Wales Liberal Party, whose counsel, support, advice and commitment were absolutely critical to the outcome; Reg Chamberlain and his team, who provided exceptional logistical support; and my campaign manager, Ben Franklin, whose tireless, intelligent and self-sacrificing contribution to history I will forever appreciate. I am sorry that I cannot mention by name everyone who gave me such amazing assistance and support. To everyone involved in every aspect of my campaign, I simply say thank you, I appreciate you and I will never forget what you have done.

The purpose of my life has always been guided by my Christian faith, which is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. From my earliest years, I can fondly recall the priests and nuns who nurtured that faith. Over the last 21 years, I have been blessed to sit under the teaching and leadership of Pastors Brian and Bobbie Houston. Their passion and love for God and for people are unmatched. They have taught me to live life `large', to live for a larger cause. We were not placed on this planet to serve self-interest but to serve the interests of others. We are indeed blessed to be a blessing.

I am here to serve the people of Greenway, the government of the day and this great nation. My commitment is to work to support and empower each community group and organisation to help them achieve their aspirations. I am also committed to supporting every individual in Greenway, no matter what challenges or struggles they face. There is untapped potential in the lives of those who experience poverty in Greenway and in Australia. While governments and local members cannot make choices for people, we can provide opportunities through policies and programs to tap into and develop the potential of each individual.

As a government, our responsibility is to create an environment where the potential of all Australians is realised and to build the capacity of our citizens to become financially independent and resourceful community participants. That wealth in potential requires exploration and development. Wealth is ideas, productivity, discipline, enterprise, inspiration, talent, commitment, entrepreneurialism and creativity. Australia has much wealth to offer the world.

Land that lies idle is unproductive, yet the correct preparation and effort provides it with the potential to produce a product that can be marketed and sold and bring a return on investment. Similarly, given the opportunity to develop, people can begin to lead productive lives. An investment in the lives of people with little has the potential to produce much. As the member for Greenway, I am absolutely committed to making an investment in individuals, an investment in organisations and an investment in the community for many years to come.


The SPEAKER —Order! Before I call the honourable member for Stirling, I remind the House that this is his first speech and ask that the House extend to him the usual courtesies.