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Thursday, 26 November 2015
Page: 13933

Mr BYRNE (Holt) (16:40): As we come to the end of the year, I wanted to talk about the great decency and character of the people that I am privileged to represent in my constituency of Holt. We celebrate that to some extent in the next two months through two ceremonies and other events. The two that I am directly involved in are the 2015 Holt Community Spirit and Leadership Awards, which are presented to school-age children that make a contribution to their community, and the 2016 Holt Australia Day Awards.

You read a lot that is negative in the newspapers, on electronic media and social media. It does not take too much effort to see what is wrong with our community. But often it is our obligation to try to balance that out a bit, and we do that. I know that you, Mr Speaker, will be doing the same thing at the events that you attend leading up to Christmas.

We are very much looking forward to the Holt Australia Day Awards—I have a staff member here as well—because it is a great event, where awards are presented to individuals from many different backgrounds and walks of life, each of whom make a substantial contribution and each of whom, in their own way, make the community a better place. Over the past 11 years since I have been presenting this award, over 320 people and organisations from all walks of life have received awards. This year will be our 12th year. There are a number of people that I could talk about, but I particularly think of three that I want to touch on briefly, especially given the approaching season.

Pastors Graham and Julie Shand, who have been senior pastors for over 25 years, have been responsible for three churches. They currently serve as senior pastors at the Casey Life Church in Hampton Park. Each year both Graham and Julie help to organise a number of local community events such as carols by candlelight in Hampton Park. These carols are held at the Cairns Road Reserve in Hampton Park each year, and literally thousands of people—3,000 or 4,000—enjoy a wonderful night of music and entertainment, along with the spirit and the message of the true meaning of Christmas. Senior pastors Graham and Julie are passionate about reaching out to the community, and under their leadership the church welcomes everyone with open arms.

Another recipient, particularly coming into the bushfire season—which, tragically, we are seeing start very early—is a good man called Tim Howell, who joined the SES 15 years ago in the Nunawading unit before moving to the Narre Warren unity six years ago, where after one year he was appointed controller, a position he continued to hold for 2½ years. Tim has faced personal challenges but in this time has made a massive contribution to the Narre Warren SES. In 2012 Tim was awarded the National Emergency Medal for his role as an SES volunteer in the Black Saturday bushfires in Kinglake and for local fires that we experienced in Narre Warren. In addition to volunteering with the SES, Tim works for VicRoads as part of the emergency response team, helping those in need on our roads. That gives a small flavour of the people who will be receiving awards.

Australia is a great country. The Prime Minister touched on this very eloquently today when he spoke about the greatness of the Australian character always coming to the fore under duress—be it bushfires, floods or other catastrophes. There is something unique and great about the Australian spirit, where we come together and battle the consequences of these tragedies and disasters collectively, and we do it with great spirit and great resilience.

To some extent we like to recognise that aspect of our Australian character in the Holt Australia Day Awards. I know that we will have wonderful people with wonderful stories, each of them a small part of that great rich skein of life that makes up the Australian character, and we are very much looking forward to celebrating that on Australia Day.

We are proposing, as part of amplifying the good news—what it means to be Australian and the excellent character of our community—to do something called Spotlight on Holt. There are many different facets of my electorate that make it unique. We will be highlighting that every couple of weeks in a little video spot that we are putting on Facebook and Twitter. It is a great community. It is a community that reflects the unique nature and the unique character of Australia. I am honoured to represent it and look forward to demonstrating more of that character in Spotlight on Holt.