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Monday, 21 October 2002
Page: 5562

Senator LUNDY (10:12 PM) —In the wake of the truly horrific events in Bali last week, I would like to take this opportunity to reflect on the human spirit that has emerged from this tragedy. Watching and reading the news over the past week has been an emotional and confronting experience for all of us, but especially for those who have lost family and friends in the terrorist bombings. There is, however, something that has shone forth as I read and watched the media reports from Bali. It is the efforts made by Australian sporting teams and individual sportswomen and sportsmen to find, support and assist their team mates and their families. I have often referred to sport as the social glue that binds communities together. That is why so many sports teams go to Bali at the end of the season. They go there because, over the course of a season or seasons, lifelong friendships are formed and team harmony is cemented when you train, play and relax together.

In Australia, sport is not just an activity or an entertainment. It is embedded in our psyche as well as in our society, economy, politics, sense of identity, culture and history. Australia is known as a nation that takes its sport very seriously; but, as we have seen over the past week, sport imparts many other qualities than just competitiveness. There are many things sport teaches. First of all, sport makes you fit and capable of quite extraordinary physical activities and feats. Sport is also about the confidence to take decisive action. Football in particular is all about reacting quickly, both physically and mentally, to changing situations in adversarial environments. Many football teams utilise all types of training methods, such as army type drills and survival exercises, to build and sharpen athletes' reactions and to teach them how to cope under different types of stress and pressure.

These physically demanding team activities teach athletes about working with others to achieve results. They teach them about trust and relying on their mates to help when they are in trouble. Never have the lessons learnt through sport or the strong ties generated through team activities become so apparent than in Bali in the days following the bombings. The sad reality is that many of those who died or were injured were sportswomen and sportsmen or were people associated with sporting teams or players.

I take this opportunity to pay particular tribute to the members of the following sports teams: the Coogee Beach Dolphins junior rugby league club, the Kingsley Football Club, the Sturt Football Club, the Forbes Platypii rugby union club, the Southport Sharks football club, South Sydney Juniors Rugby League Club, the Melbourne Football Club and the Kangaroos Football Club. These teams have lost friends and team-mates. They lost mates whom they played, worked and partied with. Many of these young athletes were from smaller towns such as Forbes, where the local footy team is part of the lifeblood of the community. I do not think it is a cliche to talk about mateship and standing by your mates in times of adversity. When I talk about mateship, it is not in a masculine sense. In sporting teams, mateship is about camaraderie and sticking together through hardship. It applies equally to both genders. Australian sport is built on these principles. We have used sporting icons and imagery to depict human qualities we admire, and we have achieved so many extraordinary things for a country with such a small population. We have seen the toughness and compassion of the collective Australian character when disasters have occurred. We saw it after the Newcastle earthquake, for example, and now, almost every year it seems, Australians stand shoulder to shoulder as they face the never-ending threat of bushfires.

Throughout our history, Australians in general, but our sporting teams and sportspeople in particular, have defied the odds and emerged triumphant when logic, form or experience would suggest otherwise. This is how legends are created, be it our Olympic performances or the unparalleled success of our netball, women's hockey, swimming, cricket and football teams. Up until now, we have mostly used sporting images and sporting parlance to measure and gauge our identity and foster a sense of national pride and achievement. I think it appropriate that we also honour and acknowledge the sportswomen and their families and friends who died or were injured as a result of what happened in Bali.

But I believe that the lessons learnt through sport also helped many Australians in Bali and saved the lives of many more. The fact is that being fit, well trained and physically capable no doubt helped save lives. There are many stories about heroes emerging from Bali. There are many stories of people risking their own lives to save others. We have all seen on TV the extraordinary tales of people, who would probably regard themselves as ordinary Australians, going back into the inferno to rescue their friends or loved ones. For me, one of the most moving images of the Bali tragedy was the way those sporting teams that had lost fellow members came together in Perth and lit candles as one to give hope to the grieving and to try and comfort the families of those who lost loved ones.

If there is something we can take away from the horrors of Bali, it is that the families and friends of those still unaccounted for can take some comfort in knowing that the friends and team-mates have done everything humanly possible to save lives and help the injured and suffering. These words are but tokens in the midst of a nightmare that is too much to bear. I extend my deepest sympathies to all who are suffering, including the Balinese affected directly by this tragedy. I am pleased that this parliament will be conducting a memorial service this coming Thursday and I acknowledge the response of Canberra's citizens who have shown their compassion at a time of great need. For our part, as parliamentarians our responsibility is to work towards peace.

Senate adjourned at 10.18 p.m.