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Tuesday, 5 February 2013
Page: 120


Ms BIRD (CunninghamParliamentary Secretary for Higher Education and Skills) (22:24): It is my sad duty to say that over past weeks the Illawarra has lost three outstanding community leaders. It is with great pride that I outline to the House their achievements over their lifetimes, and I do so on behalf of everyone in the Illawarra.

Giulia Bonacina was a wonderful lady. She passed away at 92, having led a very full life. She was a tireless worker for the Wollongong community. Both Giulia and her husband Efram, who is also deceased, devoted much of their lives to helping the migrant community in Wollongong. They were migrants themselves; the couple and their three children arrived in Australia in 1961 and settled in Wollongong when Efram got a job at the BHP steelworks. They went on to establish a very important organisation, the Italian social welfare group known locally as ItSoWel, and served on its board for many years. That group continues to this day to be a very active and important community organisation in our region, fostering many important activities and providing support to a lot of people, particularly the ageing Italian community in my region. It is a great tribute to Giulia and Efram that that organisation was so well established that it persists and indeed grows with each generation.

Mrs Bonacina also helped to establish the University of Wollongong's Friends of the University and became a fellow of the university in 1990. She remained an active member of the university, regularly participating in university graduation ceremonies—I often saw her at graduations and university events—and she was a keen supporter of medical research being undertaken at the university.

In her life Mrs Bonacina received many awards, including the Silver Jubilee Medal in 1977 and the British Empire Medal in 1980, and in 1987 she was honoured by the Italian government. She was a torchbearer for the 2000 Olympics, and in March last year she received the United Nations Older Person Award for Wollongong. She was a remarkable woman who engaged with her community selflessly. She was bright, energetic and interesting and she greeted you with a smile on every occasion. I will certainly miss that, as many of us in the community will. My condolences go to her family: Marzia Bonacina Zochil, Urio Bonacina, Kimo Bonacina, Dante Bonacina, who is sadly deceased, and her 11 grandchildren, 14 great-grandchildren and two great-great-granddaughters

We also lost Mr David Hamilton. David is a former Shellharbour mayor and a close friend, and he passed away at the age of 67 after battling leukaemia for several months. Friends and colleagues remembered him as a staunch Labor man and passionate trade unionist. Dave was born in Scotland and spent several years living in the Illawarra before permanently migrating in 1980. He worked as a machine operator at the Port Kembla steelworks for 20 years and this sparked his interest in unionism. He quickly became a passionate local union official, later taking on a state secretarial role.

In the early nineties Dave tried his hand at local government, and he was elected to Shellharbour City Council in 1991. He spent nearly 10 years on the council, serving as deputy mayor from 1996 to 1999, before being elected as mayor in 2004. I had the pleasure of working with Dave when I also served on Shellharbour council. It is a real tribute to what a genuine person Dave was that representatives of the staff who worked in the mayor's office during his time at the helm asked to make their own tribute to him at his funeral. When staff do that it is a reflection of the quality of the person. One of his daughters described her father as 'simply the best. Any time we needed or wanted anything, he was there.' Many, many people in the community would echo that sentiment.

Many of us will miss Dave's energy, commitment and sense of humour. I extend my condolences to Moira, to Dave's children and grandchildren and to his extended family.

Finally, I acknowledge Professor John Steinke, who is also lost to the Illawarra community. He was a retired economist and academic, and his loss was a cause for much sorrow. He made his mark on the educational, economic and social fabric of the community. When he arrived in Wollongong, he devoted his life to the University of Wollongong. He clocked up many achievements during his time at the university, but two major ones stand out. He played a major role in the amalgamation between Wollongong's teachers institution and the university and he was instrumental in attracting the first overseas student to the university. Indeed, he played an important role in the initial push for international students to come to the university. He served the wider community through his work with regional development committees, which he served for 15 years, and undertook many voluntary research projects. He was a generous, intelligent and motivating man who will be sadly missed by all of us, especially his children, Aden, Eve and Nicole. (Time expired)

House adjourned at 2 2 :30