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Monday, 24 September 2001
Page: 31338


Mr JENKINS (10:47 PM) — Tonight I wish to mourn the passing away three weeks ago today of Arnold `Puggy' Hunter. Puggy was the chair of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation, but I got to know Puggy through his role as an adviser to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Family and Community Affairs inquiry into indigenous health, which culminated in the tabling of the report entitled Health is life. Puggy was a remarkable Australian—a truly great Australian, and a great advocate on behalf of indigenous Australians. But there were many things about Puggy that were of a personal nature in the way in which he was so open and so generous in sharing his life experiences with the committee. I remember that it had a remarkable effect on me because Puggy was only about a year older than I. Puggy told us many things about not only his life but also the life of his family. He first lived in the Northern Territory and then went to live in Broome. I can remember, as we toured around, Puggy in a resigned way saying, `I'm getting tired of attending the funerals of people from my mob of my own age.' As I said, because he was roughly the same age as I, it had a remarkable effect upon me, because, with very rare exception have I had to attend the funeral of somebody my age, somebody who I grew up with, or somebody who I knew through my family.

The other thing that was remarkable about Puggy's ability to share his experiences with us and to be the great advocate he was for his people and for the causes of his people was that his health was not very good, but he never complained; he continued on. Think of somebody who required dialysis treatment but had to travel from home in Broome to Perth to receive it—somebody who was a diabetic from a young age. He represented his people and he was involved in the great Aboriginal controlled health organisations in Broome and the Kimberley. His experiences that he shared with the committee we could not place sufficient value upon, because they helped and were a driving force for our work. I am very pleased that the original chair of the committee when the inquiry started, the honourable member for Mallee, and the honourable member for Grey, who saw the inquiry through, are here in the chamber as I make these remarks. I wish to read some comments from a discussion group that we put together as part of the inquiry. Puggy said:

Yes, I hope my son and my daughter are not sitting here asking the same stupid questions.

The honourable member for Grey, as chair of the committee, said:

No, the questions are not stupid, I can assure you.

Puggy replied:

We seem to think they are because no-one takes any notice of them, and that is really the sad part of it. I always talk about how they tell us that we have hearing problems.

The chair then went on to say:

Others have hearing problems too.

Puggy said:

You white people have the hearing problems because you do not seem to hear us.

For Puggy, as a great advocate for his mob but, most importantly, as a great Australian, we have to dedicate ourselves as members of this place, as members of the Australian parliament, to ensure that Puggy's family do not have to go through any further inquiries and that the work we did as a committee, along with the work that we try to do in a bipartisan way for indigenous Australians, is continued so that Puggy Hunter is remembered and that the outcomes that we achieve are a true testament to the work that he achieved.