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Monday, 9 December 2013
Page: 2093

Ms GAMBARO (Brisbane) (16:54): I humbly rise to offer my condolences to the people of South Africa on the death of former South African President Nelson Mandela. The world has lost a bastion of humanity with the passing of Nelson Mandela. He leaves behind a nation in mourning. They have lost the man who personified the heart and soul of South Africa—a beacon of humanity, forgiveness and national pride.

The people of the world have also lost one of their greatest. Nelson Mandela created a benchmark for the entire world in how to bring about peaceful conflict resolution. Watching Mandela and FW de Klerk standing side by side to receive the Nobel Peace Prize is one of the great moments in history. It was a scene many thought was not possible. However, as Mr Mandela himself said, 'It always seems impossible until its done.'

A division having been called in the House of Representatives—

Sitting suspended from 16:5 6 to 17:13

Ms GAMBARO: Nelson Mandela leaves behind a legacy that is not that of a saint and he would not want to be remembered that way. He went to prison in 1962 as an angry radical revolutionary. When he emerged from prison nearly 30 years later, in 1990, at 72 years of age and with the whole world watching, nobody really knew what to expect. If he was bitter he was not showing it. He seemed happy and at peace. This is a man who had a third of his life stolen from him. This is a man who had been spat on in the street and refused service in stores for the colour of his skin.

Yet, when he emerged from prison, he emerged as a man of peace and forgiveness. It was this journey that gave Nelson Mandela the authority to stand in front of his people as their leader and inspire them to free themselves from anger and to forgive their oppressors. He once told former US President Bill Clinton, 'You simply cannot be free without forgiveness.' He himself could not truly be a free man if he held on to his anger. Furthermore, South Africa as nation would never be able to move ahead as a peaceful democracy without its citizens forgiving the sins of the past.

This is how Nelson Mandela became the heart and soul of a multiracial, modern, democratic South Africa. And this is how, in 1994, just four years after he was released from prison, he became the South African President with a 62 per cent majority. Who can forget those long, snaking lines as millions queued in the sun for hours to vote in South Africa's first multiracial elections?

While Mr Mandela only served one term as President of South Africa, it was during this time that he laid a road map for a modern South Africa. In his inaugural speech he said:

We have, at last, achieved our political emancipation. We pledge ourselves to liberate all our people from the continuing bondage of poverty, deprivation, suffering, gender and other discrimination.

We enter into a covenant that we shall build the society in which all South Africans, both black and white, will be able to walk tall, without any fear in their hearts, assured of their inalienable right to human dignity - a rainbow nation at peace with itself and the world.

He did not just speak these words; he lived them.

In a well-chosen gesture of forgiveness, Nelson Mandela appeared wearing South African colours at the Rugby World Cup Final in Johannesburg to congratulate the victorious home team, bringing the overwhelmingly white crowd of 63,000 to its feet chanting his name. Nelson Mandela used rugby to bring a nation together. He needed to find something that all South Africans could share so they could see there was something in which such a bitterly divided and rawly hurt nation could come together.

As a fellow rugby-loving nation, Australia will never forget that moment in 1995 when Mandela appeared wearing a Springbok rugby jersey with the number 6 on his back. The No. 6 jersey was that of South African captain on the day, Francois Pienaar, an Afrikaaner with whom he had become close friends. Pienaar said it was an amazing feeling when Mandela walked into the Springbok dressing room wearing his number to wish them good luck. To this day, television footage of that spectacle brings a tear to the eye of the toughest Australian rugby fan and rugby fans all around the world.

Nelson Mandela knew exactly what he was doing that day. It was a bold and risky decision, but he knew that it sent an important message to his people. As Mr Mandela was subsequently to say in a speech about that day:

Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does.

Even after his retirement, Mr Mandela continued to work against social injustice, poverty and oppression. In fact, he was working so hard in his retirement he famously had to retire from his retirement.

He became an outspoken advocate against HIV/AIDS, speaking out about the loss of his son in 2005, Makgatho Mandela who had died of an AIDS-related illness at the age of 54. This was a significant moment in Nelson's Mandela's fight against HIV/AIDS. At the time Mr Mandela said:

Let us give publicity to HIV/AIDS and not hide it, because the only way to make it appear like a normal illness like TB, like cancer, is always to come out and to say somebody has died because of HIV/AIDS—and people will stop regarding it as something extraordinary.

Despite his achievements, one can never forget that Mandela was in his heart a family man who adored his children and sacrificed so much. He was a father, a grandfather and a great-grandfather. One cannot imagine the enormous pain his family must have endured throughout those years. Family spokesperson Temba Matanzima said in a recent statement about Mr Mandela's death that the pillar of their family was gone, just as he was during the 27 painful years of his imprisonment.

Nelson Mandela's family has lost their pillar, the South African nation has lost their father and the world has lost a great man. Nelson Mandela will forever be in the hearts and minds of the world and will forever be an inspiration to those who are fighting against oppression, poverty and racism. As I said at the outset, the world has lost a bastion of humanity with the passing of Nelson Mandela. It is our responsibility now to continue his legacy.