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Thursday, 1 December 2005
Page: 121

Mrs ELLIOT (9:54 AM) —I rise today to speak on behalf of a part of my electorate—the Byron shire. Byron has unfairly received a bit of bad press recently. There has been discussion in the national media about violence on our streets and, incredibly, about the types of subjects offered to students at the local high school. I know that anyone who lives in Byron and almost every one of the 1.7 million visitors we welcome every year will want to join me today in voicing our outrage at this attack on our unique and beautiful part of the world. Of course, there are many challenges in having so many visitors to our region every year: there is a huge strain on infrastructure and there are challenges for the local police, who do a very good job under often difficult circumstances. As a former police officer, I would definitely like to commend the local police in that area for the great job they do.

The Byron shire is one of a kind. There are real reasons why people from all around the country and all around the world flock there. First off, it is beautiful, from the dusty blue views of the Border Ranges, shepherded by the sacred Mt Wollumbin, down to the folds of cool subtropical valleys, out across vast heath lands hemmed by pristine beaches and a vast glassy ocean. It is nothing short of stunning. But perhaps more importantly our area is made unique by the people who call the Byron shire home.

There is an incredible social and cultural diversity in this area. To see this, you only have to look at the range of talent teeming out of every studio, gallery, school, cafe, hall, street and house. There are artists, musicians, performers, writers, craftspeople and film-makers. We have a very strong sense of social justice and social awareness. We stand out for not just tolerance but indeed a celebration of difference, respect and love of the environment. We care about what happens in our backyard, across the country and around the world—politically, economically, culturally and environmentally. You only need to read our high-quality local papers, Byron Echo and Byron Shire News, to glean that this is no parochial backwater. It hosts a talented bunch of people who care about what is happening around them.

Last week I hosted a high-level environment hearing with the Labor caucus committee, and they were very impressed by the depth, range and commitment shown by our local environmental groups. In fact, Byron Shire Council has just won a peak national award for its strategy for respecting, preserving and enhancing our local biodiversity.

Community outcry and effort in response to international injustices and tragedies like whaling, the war in Iraq and the tsunami are nothing short of impressive. Our schools and youth organisations are bursting with hardworking, open-minded, creative young people who are often mature beyond their years. Our local schools, teachers and youth workers should be congratulated for using progressive, creative local solutions to support and engage our young people in education, training, sport and the arts. The list goes on. We host the highly prestigious Byron Bay Writers Festival and a range of musical festivals like Splendour in the Grass and the blues festival. This truly is a unique and beautiful part of Australia. I am very proud to represent the people of Byron and to stand here today and speak about the great qualities of Byron shire.