Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Tuesday, 28 May 2002
Page: 2524

Mrs GASH (10:38 PM) —Tonight I speak about a man and his book. White Butterflies is a story of one man's journey and a story that had to be told. No doubt many in the House have seen the reviews and perhaps actually read the book. Few will fail to be impressed with its underlying philosophy. But it is not my purpose to promote the book as such, rather to pay tribute to its author, Colin McPhedran, who is my friend.

There is a point in most people's lives when a glimmer of hope or an opportunity is presented. If you don't take it, you spend the latter part of your life wondering, `What if?' Often at the same time there is a stranger who can act as a catalyst for change. At the time my opportunity presented itself, I was working in pubs and clubs and driving taxis to support my children after my divorce. There was an ad in the local paper for a tourism officer and I just knew it was the job for me. I desperately wanted that job but had no relevant experience or proof to back up my conviction.

The bloke at the garage where I filled up my taxi listened to my dilemma and said he would help if he could. That bloke was Colin McPhedran. He encouraged me to have faith in myself and assisted with the writing of that job application. He helped me to see that in fact I did have a lot to offer the position, precisely because of my experience. All we had to do was look at it in a different way. In fact, that is Colin's real talent: he has the ability to help me see things in a different light. He can deliver the most blunt assessment of my ideas so gently that it takes a while to realise just what he has done. Little did I know he was to become my boss. During my career in tourism and even now he is my teacher.

I learnt many valuable lessons from his personal philosophy, and I try to apply it in everyday life to myself and to my work. This philosophy has helped me throughout most of my life, for I have known Colin McPhedran and his family for over 50 years. In fact, I taught his daughters to play basketball. He was there for me and my two children after my divorce, which was quite a traumatic time in my life. His quiet and steadying hand helped ease the passage for me as I learned to move on. In a way, he could be described as my best friend and mentor and also my teacher. He is someone I can talk to or consult knowing that my thoughts will not be repeated. The solutions or suggestions that he offers are often ones that would not immediately come to mind. Colin offers a different point of view, often lending a guiding hand but never seeking to impose his own will.

He admired his mother very much, and that comes through in his book. I think that bond lends itself to his faith in the ability of women. His mother was very prominent in his life, but this unconditional love, security and shelter were taken from him at a very early age. He was flung onto his own two feet, standing alone and brought into a world of adults while still a child. These circumstances, while tragic, have also been character building as the child struggled first to survive and then to get on with his life. We can learn and profit from these experiences he shares of us in White Butterflies.

I think that in that garage, pumping fuel, he saw in me an opportunity to demonstrate his belief in women's abilities. Years later he convinced me to stand for local government and again for the position I now occupy. In a way, my life is intertwined with his. I have enormous respect for his advice. I feel that Colin has been here before. He has a certain foresight and insight that I have not seen in anyone else. It is no surprise that his deeply held personal philosophies are based in Buddhism, a style of life that preaches harmony and peace inside and out. He sees Australia as a fortunate and affluent country that should do more for the poorer countries of the world. And, while his political sympathies may differ from mine, I do respect his views about our obligations to our fellow beings. We share this world with others and no one person is greater than his neighbour.

White Butterflies is a story within a story. To gain value from the book, you need to look behind the words. There is a message there but you have to be receptive to it. You have to look at it from a different perspective. And maybe it has to be your time for the opportunity to arise. For in a way it is a textbook on life written by a man I admire more than any other. His mother taught him to look upon people in the same way you would look upon someone who was your friend. That is a message from which we can all profit. Now that his story has been told, we must learn to love him with detachment and so make his return to Burma as fulfilling as possible. For he has much to give there too, and the times are achanging. Colin McPhedran, you are a man not only amongst men but for women you are always there. I am very proud of you.