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Wednesday, 15 February 2017
Page: 1065


Senator NASH (New South WalesDeputy Leader of The Nationals, Minister for Regional Development, Minister for Local Government and Territories and Minister for Regional Communications) (19:20): by leave—I thank the Senate for its indulgence in giving me this period of time to speak. We have had a change of arrangements in the Senate today, and I do appreciate the Senate's indulgence.

I rise to pay tribute to Harriet Nixon, who was tragically killed just after Christmas in a terrible freak accident. She was only 21 years of age—and right now she would be telling me to get it together, so I promise I will. Harriet was a family friend and also worked for me here in the building as an intern for the last two years. She was a beautiful young lady and such a wonderful young Australian. It was a tragic accident. To have that happen to somebody so young who had their whole life in front of them was just so absolutely tragic.

The outpouring of love and support that Harriet received from the moment of the accident, through the funeral, and since has been an absolute testament to her. When she was in the hospital the Deputy Prime Minister, Barnaby Joyce, came to the hospital so that he could be by her bedside; the Prime Minister rang her parents, Ralph and Fi; Julie Bishop, the foreign minister, rang her parents; and over 1,200 people attended her funeral. I think that was just extraordinary.

The funeral was a beautiful celebration of her tragically short life. A wonderful story was told about Harriet, who had amazing confidence—just simply amazing. I think it was at five years of age that she learnt how to sing the national anthem. I think her mother had been doing the flowers for the Olympics—I will correct that if it is wrong—and Harriet learnt the national anthem, both verses I might say! She went on to sing it at her school and then rang up Macca on a Sunday morning on the ABC and proceeded to sing the national anthem. She proclaimed to him very confidently that she knew the national anthem—both verses—and went on to sing it on the radio. I think it was an extraordinary thing. So must so, on 15 January, after Harriet had passed away, Macca spoke about it on his show. He said:

I always like to talk to youngsters that call the program from time to time.

I don't know what to do is about the young voice and young Australians.

About 14 years ago I had a call from a little seven-year-old girl who had just learnt Advance Australia Fair and she wanted to sing it for Australia; her name was Harriet Nixon.

Some little time after that we were doing some drought relief concerts, one in Melbourne at Dallas Brookshire and one in Sydney at Castle Hill.

I asked Harriet to come along and open the show and sing the national anthem.

You should have been there. You may have been.

It was a marvellous moment, and I remember watching from the side of the stage and at the end of it I saw one bloke leap up and jump to his feet and the whole audience stood and gave little Harriet a standing ovation.

An unforgettable moment, especially for her.

Time moves on. Harriet went to primary school, then high school at Geelong Grammar, and then to ANU, where she was studying Arts/Law while she was working.

I opened the Tele last week and read with disbelief that Harriet Nixon, 21 tender years, had been killed by a falling tree branch while helping to set up a music festival on the New South Wales Central Coast.

I have a picture of the little Harriet on my desk that was taken at our drought concert in 2003.

She has a special place in our hearts and in everybody's hearts. Like everybody she came in contact with, we are bereft.

You might remember late last year I spoke to a padre in Iraq before Christmas and I asked him about the job of padreing (if you like) and he said, 'Ian in the gladdest and the saddest of times words will prove to be inadequate.'

And this is such a time. I cannot find any way to explain this tragedy.

She was such a wonderful young woman.

To her parents Fiona and Ralph, and sister Alicia, our love.

We have all lost a very special young lady.

To have somebody like Macca take the time to acknowledge Harriet's beautiful laugh; it was just incredibly special.

In my office we have Team Nash. We are very fortunate in my office to have Team Nash, because I have the most wonderful people who work with me. It is not your normal office. We are more like a family and I know how much they have all been just shattered by Harriet leaving us. Adam said that she was just so pure. I think Andy really encapsulated it when he said she was a ray of sunshine. I would like to read what Nathan, Les, Adam, James, Steph, Nick, Elizabeth, Brett, Whilemina, Fiona, Ryan, Fi, Andy, Catherine, Josie and Jock have written for Harriet:

For Harriet

A huge smile and a huge heart.

This is how we will remember our beautiful and beloved colleague, Harriet.

Harriet was a rare person.

She had charisma in spades.

She had a unique ability to make you feel like you were the only person in the room. She always had time to talk, and would listen with vigour.

She was highly intelligent, wise and accomplished beyond their years. But she was also very humble.

She was organised—

She was certainly organised!

driven, and capable, and she was incredibly caring and kind.

She was elegant and gorgeous, yet she was also modest.

Her boundless optimism and energy was contagious. Anyone who met her could not help but be in awe of this amazing person. She was an inspiration to everyone around her.

There was nothing that you couldn't like or adore about Harriet.

And despite her many commitments with work, study, university, sport and charity, she always made time to help others. She was a devoted daughter, sister, friend, girlfriend, and colleague.

Harriet, it was a pleasure working with you and knowing you. We will forever cherish our memories of you—our walks up Red Hill; dancing in campaign T-shirts in Lismore; tennis matches after work; your lists of the best cafes and restaurants in Canberra; lessons in constitutional law AND microeconomics; planning amazing holidays; and teaching you Turkish.

We were so excited to see the woman you would grow into.

We are so grateful for having had you in our lives and are incredibly proud to be able to say 'I knew Harriet'. You have left a lifelong, lasting impression on us and we are so much better for knowing you.

We will never be able to hold you, or hear you, or speak to you Harriet, but we will never forget you.

I know that other staff who are not in the office at this point in time, but were at the time of Harriet—both the Matts, Stafford and Harris; Sarah; Alison; Jake; Sam and Emma—I know how much you all cared, as well.

The Young Nats were amazing. Harriet took to the Young Nats like a duck to water. I sponsored her for her first Young Nats conference and she was so appreciative. I would like to read from Jess Price Purnell, who is the Young Nats state president in New South Wales:

The first time Harriet walked into the 2015 Young Nats Conference in Corowa, we were all blown away by her presence. Only was she gorgeous on the outside but on the inside too.

While Harriet's time with the Young Nats was cut far too short, in the two years she was a part of the organisation, she made a huge impact.

Whether it was debating fiercely on the conference floor or dancing the chicken dance after eating too many deserts at our conference dinner, everyone knew when Harriet was in a room.

It was an absolute pleasure to have Harriet on the executive of the Young Nationals as the New South Wales Southern Regional Coordinator and I know every You Nat member will cherish the moments spent with her.

Harriet's friends and family were the most important thing in the world to her. They all adored her and she adored them. And, as has been said, there was so much to adore about Harriet.

My nieces, Sam and George—Sam is here tonight—were incredibly close to Harriet. I want to read a few words from Sam:

Harriet was the most talented and brilliant young woman. She was mature beyond her years and always showed responsibility. Harriet was respectful and kind to people.

I often asked Harriet for advice, as she was wise and so grounded. She would listen and then in her very proper voice—

She did sound quite posh—

give her thoughtful words of advice. You would not find a more honest and trusted person to talk with.

Harriet embodied everything that was good about this world and as we remember her smile we will be grateful of the time we shared with her. Harriet filled our lives with happiness, and valued above all her family.

We all thought deep in our hearts that Harriet herself would one day get the opportunity to make many addresses in parliament as she was so talented and committed to making a difference.

And Sam, about that, I think you are absolutely right.

Here tonight are Ralph and Fi, Harriet's beautiful parents, Sinny, her beautiful boyfriend, Sinny's mum, Zee, and all the others here in the chamber tonight. I want to acknowledge my colleagues the member for Riverina, Michael McCormack, and the member for Calare, Andrew Gee. This is a moment for an extraordinary young Australian. She was so special. She had her incredible life before her, but what I think is amazing is that she packed into 21 years more than most people do in their lifetime. She was extraordinary. One minute she could be trekking up a mountain in trekking gear and the next minute be dressed up for a dinner looking like Audrey Hepburn—I am not kidding; she really did look like Audrey Hepburn.

To finish, Harriet had this amazing ability to instil in people incredible hope for the future of the nation. She embodied everything that was good with optimism and hope. She made the most of every day. Her charity work was incredible. Everything she did, she did to the nth degree. It may only have been a very, very short life, but it was a life that was so well lived, and she gave so much to those around her. Macca said, 'How do you make sense of something like this?' I think there is probably only one answer. Be you religious or not, I think the only answer is that God needed another angel, so he took Harriet.

To Ralph and Fi and Alicia, from David, Will, Henry and me and my beautiful team Nash, our loves goes to you and our strength goes to you, and beautiful Harriet will always, always be in our hearts.