Five (of many) decent Australians…

The first two came my way at Diggers yesterday. Terry the retired wharf labourer is a regular. He’s about my age so like me he lived through the Korean and Vietnam War periods and more, seeing things from a wharfie’s perspective. It was delightful then to be able yesterday to introduce Terry to the Major-General.

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Major General Brian (Hori) Howard served in the Australian Regular Army from 1959 until 1990. Amongst his many military appointments he commanded a battalion and an infantry brigade, was Director General of Operations and Plans for the Australian Army, instructed at the British Army Staff College, and served in several overseas countries including Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Japan, and Uganda. He saw operational service in South Vietnam for which he was awarded the Military Cross. He successfully completed the Canadian Armed Forces Command and Staff College and the Australian Joint Services Staff College. Major General Howard’s last military posting was as Director General of the then Natural Disasters Organisation, (now Emergency Management Australia), Australia’s national counter disaster organization. For this service he was awarded an Order of Australia.

In 1990 Major General Howard was appointed by the Minister as Director General of the NSW State Emergency Service(SES), the organisation responsible for dealing with floods, storms, land and inland water searches, and the majority of road accident rescue outside major cities. He was responsible for setting up a modern emergency management and rescue system for the State…

source (pdf)

Terry and the Major General got on rather famously…

The other day my post concerned two of the weirdest and most rancid maiden speeches you are ever likely to encounter. But we did hear quite a number that were rather different, as Alex McKinnon noted:

It’s a perverse dynamic; people who tear down and divide get rewarded with airtime and column inches, while people who do the difficult, tiring work of building something up get ignored. But while major news outlets publish and broadcast Hanson’s speech, some very different speeches from newly-elected pollies have flown relatively under the radar. It’s worth taking the time to watch and listen to the words of these new politicians who in their humility, bravery, and willingness to be vulnerable, reveal a dignity and cause for hope that people like Hanson do their best to extinguish.

First, “young fogey” Julian Leeser, Liberal Party MHR for Berowra in Sydney, a wonderful personal account of his father’s suicide and its impact.

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…I felt a great emptiness ripping at my stomach. I went to the garage and saw the car was missing.

We called the Police and later they came round to tell us that they’d found my father’s body at the bottom of The Gap at Watsons Bay…

…the day he died the music died with him, and it was years before I could listen to his music again without tearing up.

Over the past twenty years I have gone back over the week leading up to my father’s death too many times – and I keep thinking back to the signs he was giving us…

Suicide, they used to say, is a victimless crime, but they never count the loved ones left behind.

In the past 20 years we have changed our approach to suicide, depression and mental health.

And while there has rightly been a focus on the mental health of adolescents and young people, we must remember that people suffering at other stages in their lives are equally important.

And sadly the number of older people taking their own lives is increasing – my own father was fifty five.

In these past 20 years, we have spent millions on mental health and suicide prevention. Every government has tried – but despite all the good will, it is a fight we are losing.

In my own electorate we have had more than 100 people take their own lives in the last eight years. And across Australia eight people die by suicide every day….

Second. Indigenous Labor Senator from the Northern Territory, Malarndirri McCarthy.

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Yuwu bajinda nya-wirdi kulu kirna-balirra yinda nyawirdi nyuwu-ja barrawu, bajirru yiurru wiji marnajingulaji ngathangka, bajirru yirru li-wirdiwalangu ji-awarawu li-Ngunawal Ngambri barra jina barra awara yirrunga, bajrru li-ngaha li-malarngu marnaji anka nya-ngathanya bii, li-ngatha kulhakulha, li-ngatha li-nganji karnirru-balirra.

Yes, let us begin. You are there, senior one—Mr President. We have no word for ‘President’ in Yanyuwa, so I refer to you as ‘senior one’. And I thank you for this place, and for all you others also here with me, and you, the traditional owners, the Ngunawal and Ngambri, for this country. This is your country…

My kujika has allowed me to see both worlds—that of the Western world view and that of the Yanyuwa/Garrawa world view. I am at home in both. I am neither one, without the other. But what of those who cannot balance the two and what of those who do not have the same?…

I think of the women in my life struggling still just to survive—I call them my mothers, sisters, my friends—who endured tremendous acts of violence against them, with broken limbs, busted faces, amputations and sexual assaults. I stand here with you. My aunt who lost her job that she had had for 10 years without warning simply because she spoke out about the lack of housing for her families, I stand here with you. To the descendants of the stolen generation still seeking closure, I stand with you. To the people with disabilities forever striving for better access to the most basic things in life, I am with you.

And then there is my young cousin-sister who struggled with her identity as a lesbian in a strong traditional Aboriginal culture. Her outward spirit was full of fun and laughter, yet inside she was suffocating from the inability to find balance in her cultural world view and that of the expectations of the broader Australian society around her. So one night she left this world, just gave up, at the age of 23.

To the sista girls and brutha boys who struggle with their sexual identity, I say to you: stay strong, I stand here with you. To the people of the Northern Territory and the Christmas and Cocos (Keeling) Islands, I stand here with you.

Bauji Barra. Thank you.

Finally, MHR Labor for Cowan (Western Australia) Anne Aly.

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…Today I stand here not just as the first graduate from the university named in her honour to be elected to the federal parliament but as the first of Egyptian-Arabic heritage, along with my colleague the member for Wills, Mr Peter Khalil, and the first Muslim woman. I mention the latter points not to claim any special accolades but because they mark a significant moment in the history of this nation, especially right now and especially given the circumstances of my election…

My parents arrived from Egypt at the Bonegilla migrant camp in Albury Wodonga in 1969, later settling in the outer suburbs of Sydney. Despite having qualified as a textiles engineer, my father, like many migrants, ended up taking a job for which he was overqualified, though no less grateful. He became a bus driver, and together my parents built a life for themselves and their three children. I started my schooling at a Catholic school and I ended it at an Anglican school, having attended several public schools in between. Those years shaped my view of Australia and my place within it. Coming from a practising Muslim household, I would read from the Bible and sing hymns at morning chapel service while fasting for the holy month of Ramadan and celebrating the holy days of Eid. When I asked my mother what I should do during chapel service when we read the Lord’s Prayer, she responded that I should also bow my head in prayer and remember that we all worship the same God. Most importantly, I learnt that the values that make us Australians are measured not by the colour of our skin or by our religion or where we were born but by our dedication to the fundamental principles of equality and fairness…

I have worked with former violent extremists, I have become an advocate and a patron for victims of terrorism, I have advised the families who have lost sons and daughters to violence and hatred, and I have mentored young people who have sadly fallen prey to such dangerous ideologies. I have seen the worst of humanity, and I have often despaired, but I have also seen its best through the eyes of people like Phil Britten, Louisa Hope, Jarrod Morton-Hoffman, Gill Hicks and Michael Gallagher—all of whom have survived terrorist attacks; and through the work of organisations like Together for Humanity; the Bali Peace Park Association; and Youth Futures WA, which provides essential services to young homeless people in Cowan; and, of course, the inspiring young people who have worked with my own organisation, People against Violent Extremism—or PaVE…

Personally, I have mentored young people who have, sadly, fallen vulnerable to radicalisation, and I have helped families divert them from a destructive path. The ripple effect that reaching out and changing just one life can have on entire communities cannot be underestimated. I was most moved by the words of one young man who, in a quiet moment of contemplation, whispered to me, ‘If it wasn’t for you, I’d be dead or in jail.’ I am pleased to say that that young man is now successfully enrolled in a university degree, is a leader in his community and is looking forward to a bright future.

The fight against terrorism is a fight for reason, and we cannot afford to let it be hijacked by populism or by party politics. This is not the sort of issue where pointing out the gaps in our policy response should attract accusations of being soft on terrorism or insinuations of appeasement or, even worse, supporting terrorism. We have to get this right, because the currency here is people’s lives. That is why I will continue to argue for a reasoned, balanced and, above all, smart response to the threat of terrorism.

Our response to terrorism needs to be intelligent and proportionate…

Here then we have had five Australians who so far as I can see in their diversity bear little resemblance to the paranoid rantings of The Revenant of Oz. May such prevail.

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