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Tuesday, 30 November 2021
Page: 96


Mr MARLES (CorioDeputy Leader of the Opposition) (16:24): Given the past two years, the thought of an upcoming COVID normal summer is a refreshing prospect. Let's hope that Omicron allows that. From bushfires that raged through the country during the black summer of 2020 to the spread of COVID-19, as a nation we have faced extraordinary challenges over the last two years. This year, 2021, was meant to be defined by our recovery from the devastation of 2020. However, with an initial slow vaccine rollout, 2021 has been instead another year which, for the most part, was played out as we sat behind virtual screens. As I reflect on the past year through all the challenges, I have witnessed extraordinary acts from individuals and businesses in our community. It is a remarkable collective achievement that we now have more than 90 per cent of the state of Victoria fully vaccinated. This would not have been possible without our healthcare workers, particularly at Barwon Health, so, to them, I say thank you. Because of everyone's efforts, we can truly get back on to the task of building back from COVID, as we look to 2022.

I really thought that in my lifetime the most significant event I would live through would be the 11 September attacks that we commemorated a couple of months ago—the 20th anniversary. I feel now that the pandemic really has eclipsed this. It has completely reshaped the way we live our lives. It has also provided us with the single biggest moment to reimagine our country since the Second World War. The question is whether we will take this opportunity and put our country on a path to greater prosperity. We need to start by reimagining our localities and somebody who did this in Geelong with vision was Frank Costa. Our town will dearly miss Frank and his passion for Geelong.

This year, we lost Geelong's leading citizen. His stature was built on the strength of his values. He gathered good people around the table and drove solutions to better our region. With collective passion and drive to bring Geelong back to life after the pandemic, we can take lessons from Frank's values of leaving no-one behind and look to our next wave of opportunities. One example of those is Care Essentials, a manufacturer of medical supplies in North Geelong. This year they received an Austrade Australian export award. Prior to the pandemic, Care Essentials manufactured patient-warming blankets. When the demand for PPE grew, they commenced making face masks. Their quick pivot and capability was innovative and created new jobs for our region. We can do more of this.

The prospect of 2022 in the context of the past two years is really exciting. I think everyone in Victoria feels that. So with optimism for the future, I would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone in Geelong a safe and happy festive season.