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Tuesday, 14 August 2012
Page: 8492


Ms GILLARD (LalorPrime Minister) (14:14): In front of members of the Hughes family, we honour and acknowledge the death of Robert Hughes. I was contacted by the member for Wentworth shortly after the death of Robert Hughes and he asked that the parliament have an appropriate opportunity to honour his life's work. It was a particularly poignant request, coming from someone with a family connection through his wife, Lucy. So we gather today to honour a very full and very remarkable life.

Robert Hughes's writings are so familiar to Australians, so significant and so influential that the titles of his books have become part of our everyday language. That cannot be said for many authors but it is certainly very true of him. Few people who ever lived can have been so completely cosmopolitan and completely Australian as Robert Hughes. In The Fatal Shore he described our nation as surrounded by the 'wide, wrinkled, glimmering sheet of our imprisoning sea,' a marvellous and poignant sentiment from one of our greatest expatriate Australians, who lived so much of his life overseas.

In Homer we read that 'the death of heroes is marked by funeral games, contests of skill in honour of a great person and their loss'. We have seen the same sort of spirit in the eulogies offered by many in honour of Robert Hughes—from Peter Carey to Peter Craven. This great prose stylist has been honoured by many great sentences in the days since his death. His was a public life but, of course, his death is an occasion of private grief. On behalf of the Australian parliament and the people of Australia, we should today say this loudly and unambiguously: we honour a great Australian. Our thoughts are with his family and friends here and everywhere. We have certainly lost one of Australia's great sons.