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Wednesday, 3 April 2019
Page: 14705


Mr ENTSCH (Leichhardt) (19:44): I rise tonight to pay my respects to a dear friend who sadly passed away recently. Neville Jamil Newman was born on 18 May 1945 at the Royal Brisbane Hospital. Prior to Neville's birth, his parents were part of the compulsory evacuation south to Cairns, Townsville and Brisbane during World War II on the SS Ormiston. For a short time, Neville and his family lived in the inner-city Brisbane suburb of Kelvin Grove before they moved back to Thursday Island in 1948. There Neville and his siblings grew up in what was then known as Malay Town, now known as Victoria Parade, where he attended the Thursday Island state school and the island's Catholic school.

As a teen, Neville enjoyed hunting and fishing with his mates and boxing, a love he shared with his late father, Val Newman. Neville was enlisted into national service in 1965 and was ready to be deployed to Vietnam but unfortunately fell severely ill and had to be hospitalised, meaning that he couldn't travel with the troops. When Neville left the Army, he and his best mate, Joey Yamashita, were quite a hit at Thursday Island's Grand Hotel, where their two-piece band performed every Friday night. The duo were well known across the region for their performances.

It was at the Grand Hotel where Neville met his first wife, Mesela Blanket. The couple eventually married in 1968 before leaving Thursday Island in 1970 to move with their family to Bamaga. However, it was not all smooth sailing. In the early 1970s, Neville and his mate John Adidi took a dinghy out to sea where they were involved in a very serious boating accident. Both men were lost at sea more for about 33 hours. They were eventually rescued and transferred to Cairns Hospital in a critical condition. Both recovered, fortunately, and remained lifelong friends.

Neville was widely known for his cooking, particularly his 'secret' Asian and sambal dishes. He ensured that all his kids learnt how to cook from an early age, a passion many of them still share today. In 1987, Neville met his second wife, Lency Stephen, who eventually moved to Bamaga to live with him. In fact, I had the absolute privilege of being invited to and attending their wedding at Bamaga. In 2006, the couple moved to Cairns due to Lency's health condition. Lency had diabetes. They had to go to Cairns to get her treatment. It was in Cairns that Neville became a very passionate dialysis advocate. Neville saw firsthand the effects living away from home had on people being forced to travel to and live in the big smoke for treatment. He worked tirelessly, banging on my door almost every second day, to reopen the Bamaga renal unit. Through his advocacy and tireless work, a dialysis treatment service was re-established at Bamaga, where it still exists today.

After a decade of living in Cairns, Neville returned home to Bamaga to be closer to his family and to live out his years. Neville was an absolute man of honour. He was a very humble man. He had a radiant smile, and he certainly was a dear friend. Over the many times that we caught up, he felt that one of his greatest achievements was the fact that he was one of the first Torres Strait Islanders to be called up for national service. He took a great amount of pride in the fact that he actually served his country. He always had with him a very large photograph of himself and a friend of his where they were waiting to be taken off to national service. He had all his kit with him and everything ready. He was a very, very young Neville Newman at that stage but one who was full of anticipation and very excited that he was going off to do something very, very special.

Neville left us, sadly, on 30 January this year. I had the absolute privilege of travelling to Bamaga to be there with his family and to share and celebrate a life that was exceptionally well lived. Neville is survived by his 10 children, 47 grandchildren and 33 great-grandchildren. So, while he will be forever very sadly missed, I can assure you: he will never ever be forgotten. I say: rest in peace, mate.