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Tuesday, 18 June 2013
Page: 3254

Senator KIM CARR (Victoria) (17:53): I want to pay tribute to the political career of Senator Trish Crossin. She has served her community, the Senate and her party with distinction. In the 15 years that I have known her in this place, she has been an outstanding senator. The Northern Territory is very different from other jurisdictions, electorally, demographically and geographically. A senator from the Northern Territory plays a very different role and has different sets of responsibilities to those of us from other states. Senator Crossin's duties have taken her to some of the most remote and some of the most disadvantaged communities in this nation, and she has served those people incredibly well. Whether it has been in the Indian Ocean Territories or the remote desert communities of the Northern Territory, she has been there on the job for those people. She has also fulfilled her duties with incredible dedication to the urban areas—to the city of Darwin and to the big towns in the Northern Territory.

Senator Crossin has been a servant of this chamber through her committee work. Former Senator Stott Despoja once described her as a 'workhorse', and I think that was meant to be an extraordinary compliment. I had the opportunity to work with her in the education committee. Through that work, I was able to really appreciate her humour and her humanity. We have seen her work in Indigenous communities and through the Indigenous work of this chamber in reconciliation, which has been a matter of great service to this nation. She was the first woman to represent the Northern Territory in this parliament and she has worked tirelessly for women's rights and for social justice in her time here. She has maintained her commitments to local sporting organisations, the Asthma Foundation, institutes for medical advancement in the Northern Territory and the Northern Territory Working Women's Centre. She does that on the basis of having to go back to Darwin at a level I find quite extraordinary. She has often complained to me about how little time I have spent in the Northern Territory. You do not have to spend a lot of time there to appreciate how difficult it is for senators represent those communities.

Senator Crossin's service to the Labor Party deserves particular recognition, because it is not just the community that she has chosen to serve so well. She has been unflinching, whether it be as local branch secretary at the Buffalo Creek branch or as president of the Territory branch itself. She has been a stalwart there and was a key player in the election of a Labor government in the Northern Territory. When I was at school, the idea of a Northern Territory Labor government was something people dreamt about. She has been extraordinary in her work here in this parliament for the Labor Party, through the status of women committee, for instance. I came to know her on various trips to the Northern Territory, where she sought to explain the politics of the Northern Territory from a Labor point of view, which was in itself an education.

I had the opportunity to listen to a broadcast recently describing Senator Crossin's journey to political representation of the Labor Party in this chamber. I want to share that with the Senate. It was broadcast on the ABC:

After growing up in a self described "working class family" in Melbourne's western suburbs—

They were wrong about that; it was actually in the northern suburbs—

Senator Crossin was lured to the Top End for a teaching position in 1980.

"I'd been teaching for three years and Mark and I decided we'd have a bit of an adventure," she says.

I can imagine how that was described at home! The broadcast went on:

"We applied to the Commonwealth teaching service and got offered a teaching position at … Yirrkala …

I was also a member of the Commonwealth Teaching Service, at the about the same time, but I got posted to Glenroy Tech. I suspect that you got the short end of the stick in that regard! The broadcast went on:

"We had a five-year-old son at that time so we opted to go to Yirrkala and we were only ever going to go for two years and we've never gone back."

At first it was hard for the city girl to adapt to her new environment.

"I had immense cultural shock, I took a very long to adapt. A very, very, long time to adapt. I'd come from the heart of Melbourne, I was a city girl. I arrived in a town that didn't have fresh milk back then, had ABC TV taped and relayed to us 24 hours later.

"I was even told not to bring all my white goods from Melbourne, they'd all be supplied and when I got to my house in Yirrkala there was one of those old washing machines that you had to put the clothes through yourself with a hand wringer. "I had long blond hair and in my first month my hair got stuck in the wringer and Mark had to cut it to release me and I cried and cried and packed my bags and walked to the airport many, many, many times and I had a lot of trouble adapting."

Senator Crossin says—

This is the report from the ABC—

it was the generosity and spirit of the Indigenous people in the community that led her to stay and inspired her to move into politics.

"Just the realisation that there were such enormous inequities out there in terms of ... access to health services and houses," she says.

"And also, I believed there needed to be more women in politics actually."

"There needed to be women in parliament, there needed to be people who could stand up and relate to what working women raising a family experience on a day-to-day basis."

I was one of the two members of the national executive of the Australian Labor Party who opposed Senator Crossin's disendorsement. I did so because I believed that no case had been made for that action to take place. I maintain that view. This was a particularly significant intervention because the process for preselection had actually commenced in the Northern Territory. I do not recall that happening anywhere else in this country—an intervention after a preselection process had actually commenced. While I wish Trish's successor every success—as I do every single endorsed Labor candidate across this Commonwealth—I still maintain, Trish, that you were treated unjustly. Senator Crossin's will be very big shoes to fill.

I also take this opportunity to remind the chamber that Senator Crossin was a national co-convenor of EMILY's List and a very active supporter of more Indigenous women participating in parliaments across this country. She had taken practical steps to see that through. I note that Senator Crossin and I had had other conversations about her replacement, who was to be an Indigenous person. So I was particularly disappointed at the position that EMILY's List took in regard to this preselection. I have never bought the line that EMILY's List does not get involved in preselections. Frankly, I thought they let the whole team down in this matter. To Trish, Mark and your entire family: I wish you well in civilian life and thank you for the service you have rendered.