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Thursday, 9 February 2017
Page: 612

Mr HUSIC (Chifley) (12:39): I rise today to pay tribute to a great local hero. On 23 January our community lost long-serving Blacktown city councillor Leo Kelly OAM. Like so many in our community, I respected Leo because he was honest, direct, up-front and always willing to stand up for the locals—or, in the words of his son, John, 'He stood up for anyone and stood up to anyone who stood in the way of what he believed in.'

Leo served on Blacktown City Council for 10 consecutive terms, including as mayor three times. For his work and dedication during this time, and for his tireless service to the community, Leo was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia in 2003—an event he was so humble about that he did not even tell his family. He was involved in many community organisations and played an instrumental role in establishing the Blacktown Arts Centre and the Western Sydney university back in the 1980s.

After a private battle with throat cancer, at age 74, we sadly said our goodbyes to Leo at a special funeral service held at Bowman Hall in Blacktown the other week. Hundreds—hundreds!—gathered to pay tribute to a true local champion. Former councillor Michael Corbin, I have to say, gave one of the best eulogies I have ever had the honour of hearing. In his inimitable way, he stated, 'Leo was nobody's man; Blacktown was his only master.'

I just want to extend, as many people in our area do, our deepest and sincerest condolences to Leo's wife, Janet, to his children, John and Melissa, and to his grandchildren, Owen and James. It is a very difficult time for them, as it is for our city. Leo's service will never be forgotten, the standard that he set will never be forgotten, his approach to his job will not be forgotten and he will be truly missed by our community.

I also want to reflect on the passing of another Australian hero, in his own way, Mr Nicholas Bonello OAM. Nicholas was the father of Monica McGrade, who is part of the hardworking team at Rooty Hill High School in the electorate of Chifley. I am happy to record in the Australian parliament the achievements of Monica's father, Nicholas. Besides being a wonderful example of the generosity and hard work that so many migrants deliver after making Australia their new home, he was an energetic member of the Australian Maltese community, a community that has also made a terrific contribution to the growth and development of Western Sydney.

Nicholas Bonello was born in Balzan, Malta, on 7 February 1926. In January 1941, he became an apprentice boilermaker and then migrated to our country in 1954 to follow the Australian dream with his wife, Desdemona, and children, Carmen, Anthony and Monica. He quickly got to work making his mark on Australia and our relationship with his former home.

Mr Bonello served as a court interpreter for a number of years and, through his love of football, was a referee from 1955 to 1964. He was also the co-founder of a very important publication in the Maltese community, The Maltese Herald. The Maltese Herald printed its first edition in 1961, and for over 50 years the newspaper has highlighted community issues specific to the Maltese community and strengthened relations between Australia and Malta.

Nicholas Bonello was chairman of the ANZAC Memorial Committee Malta, and he initiated the memorial at the Argotti botanical gardens in Floriana, Malta, to honour World War I Anzacs buried in Malta. He also served on the first Maltese Community Council of New South Wales, and he returned to Malta in 1973 and 1974 and founded the Maltese-Australian Association. He served in many positions, including president, until ill health forced him to step down in 2014. He was high commissioner for Malta to Australia in 1986-87, and in 2009 he was awarded the Order of Australia Medal for his service to Australia-Malta bilateral relations, particularly as the president of the Maltese-Australian Association.

As I reflected in my remarks earlier, I greatly admire the Australian Maltese community's contribution to our country, especially within the great region of Western Sydney. I have seen this personally, having grown up with many friends from a Maltese background. So to them and people like Nicholas Bonello I just want to say thank you and salute you for your tremendous efforts. Monica McGrade, I know that you and your family are experiencing profound loss, but your father's legacy will not go unnoticed, and we are forever grateful for his dedication and hard work.