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Monday, 3 March 2014
Page: 1419


Mr LAURIE FERGUSON (Werriwa) (21:05): Tomorrow at the Holy Trinity Church in Minto in my electorate there will be a joyous recognition of a wonderful Australian. I speak of Brisbane-born Sister Kerry Macdermott who, for 30 years, has lived in the community of Werriwa, formerly in Minto and more recently in Macquarie Fields, both of which are fairly deprived areas. She actually saw Minto change very considerably with housing department redevelopment. In that time, Sister Macdermott has particularly emphasised a role with Indigenous Australians. She worked at a settlement near Uluru for a number of years, and still each year raises money to send back Christmas presents to the children in that locality. She also worked at Redfern with the legendary Mum Shirl and Father Ted Kennedy.

Her activities in the Werriwa electorate have included a central role in the establishment of the Winga Myamly Reconciliation Group. Each year she is the driving force in the memorial service for the Appin massacre of 1816, which of course is getting very close to its 200-year anniversary, when at least 14 Indigenous Australians were either shot or driven over cliffs—that is, at least, the number of bodies found; obviously, the numbers over the precipice would have added to that number. She is also a regular attendant at the Sorry Day service at Minto. She makes sure that a local Aboriginal art and craft market occurs. Typical of her interest in that policy area and in helping Indigenous Australians was the fact that she travelled with local Indigenous community residents down here to hear the historic apology by former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

She has lived in the community as a member of the Catholic order of Our Lady's Nurses for the Poor, more commonly known as the 'Brown Sisters'. She lived for 30 of the 50-year celebration she will be having tomorrow with fellow sister Patricia Murphy. Typical of the realities they faced in this deprived community was the first evening they arrived, in December 1984. Two bedraggled St Vincent de Paul workers came to them with a woman in her 30s who had nowhere to live that night. That first night, putting her up in their house, was the beginning of a reality of very strong commitment and connection to the community. There are many tales of people who were at the end of their tether. There was, for instance, a single parent with two children who, with the sisters' help, are in now a situation where one child has started to own their own maintenance business and the other is just about to complete secondary schooling with a school based traineeship. This would not have occurred without the fact that the sisters lived in the area and that they contributed so much to the community.

Sister Kerry is also an accomplished poet. She is especially pleased that her work has been published in the Koori Mail on a number of occasions. This is a woman who is endlessly active. She has very pronounced organisational skills. The cooperation of both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people in these events is extremely encouraging. My area has a very prominent Indigenous health centre. It typifies a fairly high Indigenous population. As I say, it is people like her who really make you believe in humanity. She is little acknowledged—she is never going to get the Order of Australia—but is out there every day of the week working for Indigenous and poorer Australians. She has played a good role in regard to the questions of the housing redevelopment that is occurring throughout the electorate, most recently at Claymore. On moving to this electorate, I found that it was very traditional with my predecessor, Mr Chris Hayes, that she dropped into the office with a cake every month or so.

I am pleased to say that on this important day tomorrow, while I cannot be there, two of my staff, Linda Perrett and Vicki Meadows, who are very close to her, will be in attendance. I salute her effort. It is what Australia is made of. She has played a tremendous role for the 30 years she has been in our area, and before that, with Indigenous Australians.