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Thursday, 25 July 2019
Page: 1093

Dr FREELANDER (Macarthur) (10:31): 24 July 1979 was a truly devastating day for the Macarthur community and for the surrounding communities of the Illawarra and the Hume electorate. On this day, 14 individuals lost their lives in an underground explosion that took place at the Appin coalmine. Fourteen lives were taken in this disaster, 38 children were left fatherless, families were left to mourn and a community was severely shaken.

Yesterday's anniversary was commemorated locally with a service at the Appin Mine Memorial Garden. Unfortunately, with the parliament sitting, I was unable to attend. However, by all accounts the service was a very moving one, and it was attended by hundreds of local residents. I wish to take the opportunity to thank the event organisers for inviting me and to thank the Macarthur community for their resolve to commemorate the disaster and for their determination to pay homage to those whose lives were affected by this tragedy and, indeed, those who lost their lives.

I recall the day and the impact it had upon my community vividly, as do my wife and her family. While the blast of the explosion was reportedly felt over a kilometre away, this disaster has reverberated through my community for the past four decades. Over 100 volunteers assisted in recovery efforts at the time, demonstrating some of the best attributes of people from the Macarthur and Illawarra communities.

A division having been called in the House of Representatives—

Sitting suspended from 10:32 to 10:44

Dr FREELANDER: In continuing my speech, today we pause to remember the following men, all of whom died far too young, and acknowledge their sacrifice: Alwyn Brewin, 37; Francis James Garrity, 37; Ian Victor Giffard, 36; Geoffrey Ernest Johnson, 35; Jurgen Lauterbach, 30; Alexander Hardie Lawson, 34; James Oidcorn, 58; Peter Andrew Peck, 35; Robert Edward Rawcliffe, 45; Roy Rawlings, 31; Karl Staats, 49; John Leslie Stonham, 45; Roy Williams, 26; and Gary John Woods aged 30. May they rest in peace.

We've come a long way since 1979. However, it's worth noting that the individuals who work in coalmines and in other dangerous industries are reliant upon unions to protect them in the workplace and to ensure their safety. We must never compromise on safety standards in the workplace, and we must remain mindful of the vital role that the union movement has played and will continue to play in this field. We know that the Appin mine disaster had a long-lasting effect, not only on the Macarthur community but also on the wider Australian community. People who work in dangerous industries need to be protected. The union movement has stood up for these people over many, many years and will continue to do so. The Appin mine disaster was a tragedy for the wider community, as well as for those involved. May they rest in peace.