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Tuesday, 11 October 2016
Page: 1531


Senator SMITH (Western AustraliaDeputy Government Whip in the Senate) (19:20): Those of us who are fortunate enough to have involvement with, and represent, regional communities in this place understand that there is something very special about them. Of course, each local community has particular defining characteristics be they in the city or in regional areas. But regional communities face particular challenges that often flow from the tyranny of distance—and this is doubly the case in Western Australia, which encompasses such a vast physical distance.

In order to thrive, our regional communities need strong, dedicated and energetic local leaders who will go above and beyond the call of duty, consistently putting the needs of their community first. Tonight, I rise to pay tribute to one such leader, Mrs Annette Knight AM of Albany, Western Australia, who sadly passed away in late August this year. The word 'stalwart' is much used in our public life, but if anyone ever earned the right to be referred to as a stalwart in relation their own local community it was Annette Knight. She was also an embodiment of the tried and tested rule that if you want to get something done you ask a busy person. Annette developed a special bond with the people of Albany and surrounding regions during a distinguished 27-year career as a broadcaster with ABC regional radio. She was, in fact, the first female ABC newsreader in regional Western Australia.

As Australians living in regional centres will understand, the local radio station plays a vital role as a community hub and source of news and information. And those who read the news and host programmes on these stations have a very important and powerful way of becoming part of the family for many in regional communities. The fond rapport that Annette Knight established with local people during her time in radio, coupled with her dedication to improving economic and cultural opportunities in the Albany region, meant that service in local government was a logical place for her to apply her talents.

Ultimately, Annette served three terms as Mayor of Albany, from 1988 until her retirement from that role in 1998. Her time as mayor is still fondly recalled by many residents and council employees alike as a time of both significant change and excitement in the City of Albany.

In fact, it was during her time as mayor in 1996 that Annette Knight was made a Member of the Order of Australia for her services to local government and to her local community. Much later, in 2012, she received the highest honour the City of Albany could bestow when she was made a Freeman of the City—one of only three people ever to receive this accolade. She was also recognised as a WA Citizen of the Year in 1997, when she was awarded the Governor's Award for Regional Development. This award recognises the recipient's outstanding contribution to the growth, development and prosperity of regional Western Australia.

Of course, Annette's contribution was not limited to her own region. She was in fact a delegate to the constitutional convention held here in Canberra in 1998, at which she reflected eloquently on the important role the Governor-General plays, saying that the term Governor-General itself 'reflects the position of guardian of the Constitution and of people's rights'.

Annette Knight was made a commissioner of the WA tourism commission in 1995 and was appointed as deputy chairperson of the commission's board in 1998. In 2001 she was awarded the Centenary Medal—awarded on the centenary of the Federation of Australia—for her service to the community of Albany and in March of this year was inducted into the WA Women's Hall of Fame. Speaking about that latter honour this year, Annette was typically practical, saying: 'If you wanted to do something, it didn't matter whether you were a male or female, you just got on with the job and did it. We all worked together because we all had a common cause … if they want to do something, well get in there and darn well do it.'

Annette Knight recognised very early on that Albany's ongoing success and contribution to WA would depend heavily on being able to provide quality educational opportunities locally. Thus, she worked tirelessly with other local families to establish the Great Sothern Grammar school and was also instrumental in the setting up of the University of Western Australia's Albany Centre.

My sincere condolences go to Annette's husband, the Hon. Tom Knight, and her family and friends. (Time expired)