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Monday, 21 May 2012
Page: 4862

Mr FITZGIBBON (HunterChief Government Whip) (22:25): George Neilly was born in 1917 in Kurri. He was educated at Maitland Boys High and became a coalminer at the age of 17. He rose through the trade union ranks to become secretary of the northern district of the miners union between 1954 and 1959. George was elected by indirect election, as we knew it in those days, to the New South Wales Legislative Council in 1954 and, on the retirement of John Crook, was elected to the Legislative Assembly in 1959, a position he held until his retirement in 1978. Three years later, the well-known Kurri identity RJ Brown retired, having held the seat for some three years, and my good friend Stan Neilly was elected member for Cessnock, a position he held until 1999—although I note with a three-year lay-off following the disastrous 1988 election when Labor in New South Wales was swept from power largely due to a proposal on gun laws. But, thankfully, Stan fought his way back into the seat three years later. The names Stan and George Neilly are synonymous with Cessnock and the broader Hunter Region and, of course, with the Labor movement. But tonight I rise not to speak so much of them but of Lola Neilly, George Neilly's wife and Stan Neilly's mother.

Lola Neilly, very sadly, died on Saturday morning. She was 94 years of age. Lola Neilly, nee Wood, was an amazing woman. She was very much the matriarch of the Neilly family—the power behind the throne, if you like. In the old days, when there was no electorate office or electorate staff, Lola ran George's constituency from the shed in the backyard of their Abermain home. She was as much a politician as George, as much a politician as Stan—and maybe tougher than both of them. She was George's rock, Stan's rock and a rock to daughter Noelene, who herself proved to be an accomplished offspring.

Lola was a politician's wife, a politician's mother, a function partner for both George and Stan and a supporter and worker for a whole range of local community groups. In short, Lola Neilly was a local legend. She was someone I knew well when I was a young party activist and learnt from in many ways in those early years. She made an enormous contribution to both the party and the labour movement and to her local community. She will be sadly missed, but not forgotten.

The Neillys generally have been an outstanding family. Their contribution to the community and to politics more broadly throughout the region has been immeasurable. It is a great privilege for me to have known her, to in a sense have worked with her, although by the time I became active in the party she was a more passive activist but still someone you consulted if, for example, as a young person you were thinking about running for the local council or any other position within the party. I say, with the greatest respect, she was a person to be feared. You did not make a move unless you were confident you had Mrs Neilly's approval. They do not make them like Mrs Neilly anymore, I suspect. Again, it was a privilege to know her. Her passing is a great loss to all of us. It is my great privilege tonight to pay tribute to her contribution and to the contribution of her family.

House adjourned at 22:30