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Thursday, 29 November 2018
Page: 12088


Mr SNOWDON (Lingiari) (10:06): I pay my respects to Tommy Lawler, a dedicated family man, Territory firefighter, local footy legend and, although I can't attest to this, a terrible fisherman. Sadly, Tommy lost his long battle with cancer on 27 October this year. He was born on 3 December 1957. I knew Tommy well. He was a wonderful human being. He was tough as teak, but he was honest, loyal, a wonderful family man and, as others have described him, a straight-up bloke. He leaves behind a legacy to be proud of. He was a devoted family man to his wonderful wife, Eva Lawler MLA, who is a minister in the Northern Territory government; his two children, Kirby and Lindsay; and his two young grandchildren. He was someone you wanted to be around. He was a larrikin. As I said, he was loyal and honest, and generous to a fault. He was also a bit of a practical joker and could tell, as a lot of Territorians do, a bloody good yarn. Tom and his family lived in my electorate in both Coolalinga and Alice Springs for over 30 years, and he was very well connected to the community.

He was, as you would expect, a Labor Party member and a member of our Northern Rural Branch. He has always been there to help out. During the last federal election campaign, in 2016, he did many thousands of kilometres with our branch president, Anthony Venes, campaigning and looking after our local polling booths. Tommy was also a life member of United Voice, which is a testament to the fight he fought for Territory firefighters for a cancer compensation scheme. Tom was diagnosed with leukaemia in 2006 at the age of 47, which was a bit surprising to the doctors, who said that this type of leukaemia was normally for a much older person. As we know, firefighting is tough, and firefighters in general are two, three and sometimes five times more likely to get cancer as a result of their work. In their line of work they come across all sorts of toxins. Even though they wear protective clothing, inhalation and absorption through the skin quite often cannot be stopped.

Tommy's application for compensation was first rejected due to Territory laws at the time, which placed the burden of proof onto firefighters. It was Tommy's continued fight, with help of mates such as Jock McLeod, that saw the legislation finally get through and compensation payable. Presumptive legislation has now been introduced into the Northern Territory. Firefighters, including volunteers, now get the respect they deserve. The legislation has been made retrospective to 2011. That's a boon as a result of his sacrifice and the work that he has done. Tommy played football for the Darwin Buffaloes. He was a great football man and a great person. Vale Tommy Lawler. Old Buffaloes never die.