Honourable Member For Auburn
Mrs PERRY (Auburn) [7.30 p.m.]: It is with a deep sense of pride and respect, Mr Speaker, that I deliver my inaugural address as the seventh member for Auburn. I continue the tradition and legacy established in 1927 when the former Premier of New South Wales, Mr Jack Lang, won for the Australian Labor Party the then newly created seat of Auburn. Two years after he was elected, Jack Lang was facing the 1929 Wall Street crash that altered the history of the world. I had barely two days to find my feet before the world also changed. I extend my sincere sympathies to the families and friends of the victims of the 11 September disasters in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania. I am deeply moved by the loss of Alberto Dominguez, a long-time resident of Lidcombe, and extend my sympathy and the sympathies of the Auburn community to his family.
While I am not here to comment on history, there are not too many electoral districts in this State that have had a Premier as its member. I, for one, am proud to claim Jack Lang as a prominent historical political leader of this great State, the Labor Party and the Auburn community. Following in Jack Lang’s footsteps have come five other members of the Auburn community, namely James Christian Lang, Edgar Dring, Thomas Ryan, Peter Cox and Peter Nagle. Those gentlemen have many great and endearing features—they are sons of Auburn, and throughout their service to this Parliament and State the needs, concerns and issues of Auburn families were priority number one.
Since 1927 the electorate of Auburn has continued to evolve geographically, socially and economically. The electorate now includes Auburn, parts of Bankstown, parts of Bass Hill, Berala, Birrong, Chester Hill, parts of Greenacre, Homebush Bay, Lidcombe, Regents Park, Sefton, Silverwater and parts of Yagoona. Auburn also takes in Newington—the new suburb that has evolved from the Sydney Olympics. Auburn has immense cultural diversity. About 55 different nationalities are represented. When I attended school, the cultural make up of St John’s Catholic Primary School was predominantly European. Now my son Matthew attends the same primary school, where there are children representing at least 40 community groups. There is a tangible spirit of goodwill and wellbeing and those qualities are a feature of what binds the many suburbs into one vibrant community.
It gives me great pride to read the names of my parents into the New South Wales Parliament record. Ralph and Susan Abood chose Auburn as their matrimonial home and have remained to this day living in the same house in Northumberland Road for 38 years. My parents are from the village of Kafarsghab, situated in the north of Lebanon overlooking the Kadisha Valley. They are descendants of the Abood and Farhart families. Members of those families have been migrating to Australia since the early 1880s. My father’s mother, Barbara, was born in Australia and returned to Lebanon as a young child. As a young widow in Lebanon, she raised three children, Ralph, Aunty Mary and Uncle Saad. From her my father learned the values of hard work and family commitment and service which he has passed on to me. In 1948, after being convinced of the great opportunities Australia had to offer, my grandparents, Jabbour and Mazzel Farhart, together with their children, migrated to Australia.
My father was just 16 years old when he left Lebanon with, like so many migrants of the time, little more than the clothes on his back. His destination was Adelaide where he lived with his grandparents. Eventually he made his way to Sydney, where he found work and made the suburb of Auburn his home. My parents worked hard and built a house in Auburn where they raised a family of five—my sisters Jackie, Karen and Jennifer and my brother Gerard. This house was a home of opportunity, strength, encouragement, love, discipline, charity, hospitality and fairness. I am eternally grateful to my parents and family for instilling those time-honoured values. I am filled with admiration for the kindness and humour with which they approached their parenting, and the support which they continue to pour out to my siblings and to me. They are my inspiration, and will always be my role models.
Joining my parents in the gallery tonight are many members of my immediate and extended family. The absence of the family matriarch, my grandmother, Mazzel Farhart, who is too ill to attend, detracts from this special occasion. We are also saddened that the deceased family pioneers, my grandparents Barbara and Aousel Abood, my grandfather, Jabbour Farhart, his brother Fersen and wife, Howa, as well as my uncle Ronnie Farhart and cousin Morris Kanaan are not here to witness this day.
I am proud and honoured to advise the House that I am the first woman of Lebanese origin to be elected to the New South Wales Parliament. The Lebanese communities in New South Wales have made an enormous contribution to our nation. There is hardly a sector or business activity that does not have some representation from Australian-Lebanese communities. As a child and teenager I began to learn about service and community building outside the family from community groups such as the Australian Kafarsghab Lebanese Association and the Oaks Organisation, which are responsible for charitable and community-building projects in both Australia and Lebanon. I have long been an admirer of the achievements of another woman of Lebanese background, Dr Marie Bashir, our first female Governor, whose courageous stance on child abuse opened doors on an issue that many at the time would have preferred to remain closed.
As an Australian I am extremely proud of my Lebanese heritage. The electorate that I am honoured to represent is a splendid example of multiculturalism at work. Auburn has been the first contact point for many different people arriving in Australia from around the world and the legacy of it can be seen in the rich cultural diversity of this community. This diversity we have embraced in our Australian culture brings strength and unity but, as a result of recent world events, the area I represent is presently the target of religious and cultural intolerance, as a very small group is abusing the many places of worship and other sites to promote hatred and division. I join with the Premier and my colleagues in affirming the stand for community calm, tolerance and respect. I applaud the police response and tactics to quell this criminal activity. As a community we must not accept these acts. The most effective weapon the police have is a strong partnership between police and the community.
There is still much work to be done, and I was honoured to deliver an address at the Auburn Council citizenship ceremony recently in which I encouraged both new and "old" citizens of the district to continue to foster co-operation, tolerance and respect in the community. As an Auburn councillor I campaigned vigorously against overdevelopment and I worked for the upgrade of roads and bridges to relieve serious traffic congestion. I was delighted with the recent announcement of the grant of $1.5 million over three years to Auburn Council, which followed more than two years of work by my predecessor, Peter Nagle.
With my council colleagues I fought for improved services at Auburn Hospital. Funding for a massive $21 million upgrade has been granted to Auburn Hospital, which will result in immensely improved health services and confidence in the local community. These are the concerns of the people of Auburn, and these are issues on which I was proud and confident to base my campaign. They are matters on which the Carr Government has taken a stand in the broader State arena and I am grateful for the opportunity to continue to work on these issues with my colleagues in the Carr Labor Government.
The Carr Government has taken initiatives to address design, planning and urban development, which are critical issues in Auburn and throughout Sydney’s west, as the demographic centre of Sydney moves further away from the central business district. New developments must not merely be residential or commercial accommodation but must integrate with and contribute to the communities in which they are situated. Improved contemporary urban design must be based on environmental sustainability. It must provide a livable environment, enhance community atmosphere and be adaptable to changing needs over time. It must be affordable and appropriate to the needs of individuals, families and the community as a whole, and the planning for such development must not be driven by desire for short-term monetary gain.
These concerns are being addressed by the Carr Government through programs such as the Urban Improvement and Living Centres program, the Design Quality program and the Sustainability Advisory Council. I look forward to serving the people of the Auburn electorate and western Sydney by continuing to address such issues so that functional, sustainable and comfortable communities can be one legacy we leave for our children and grandchildren. [Extension of time agreed to.]
The challenge is also to balance appropriate, sustainable urban development with demands for employment. It became evident to me early in my campaign that employment issues rated highly on my constituents’ agenda, and that they expected such issues also to rate highly on mine. Tonight I advise the House that I will seek out business opportunity and investment that will provide increased long-term employment for the Auburn electorate.
A commitment to social justice has been a driving force in both my personal life and my career to date. It was fostered by the educational influences of the Sisters of Charity and the Marist Brothers. This driving force influenced me in 1990 to join the Legal Aid Commission, which attempts to improve access to the legal system for the socially and economically marginalised members of our society. The dedication and work of these professionals is truly amazing. It was a great privilege to work with those community advocates.
Social justice was one of the contributing factors that led me to join the Australian Labor Party in 1986 as a member of the Auburn branch, after a short involvement with Young Labor. At this point, Mr Acting-Speaker, I beg your indulgence, as I must publicly thank those who have supported and encouraged me along the path that has led me to this House tonight. Amongst them are the members of the nine branches. Time will not permit me tonight to name all who offered special support. I have already offered them my thanks and I will continue to acknowledge their contributions. My council colleagues Chris Cassidy, Robert Murray and Patrick Curtin have offered support and guidance throughout the preselection and by-election and have continued to be a source of good counsel. Thank you to their wives, Jeanette, Judy and Barbara, who also worked tirelessly during the campaign.
I am grateful for the faith the party has demonstrated in me, particularly Eric Roozendaal and Mark Arbib. To my good friends Leo Mcleay and Steve Hutchins, who allowed me to draw on the benefit of their experience, I thank you for your support. I am deeply indebted to Karl Bitar, who directed my campaign. His skill, knowledge and temperament were key components of the campaign. It was a privilege to work with him.
Supporting Karl was a sensational team—Robert Furolo, Sharon Badjcek, Danielle Bevins, Shelly Magro, Damian Kassagbi, George Houssos and last, but not least, Tim Gleason and of course Simon Carroll, who gave up their weekends and free time. The dedication of these individuals has also earned my immense gratitude. To the many members of this parliamentary Labor caucus who gave of their time, resources and energy, I offer my sincere thanks. I am indeed privileged to work with such a dedicated and generous group of people. I cannot wait to return the favour.
A special group of young people freely gave of their time and energy to support my campaign at a grassroots level. The spirit of co-operation and friendship provided me with great motivation during the hectic days of the campaign. If this is any indication, the future of the Labor Party is well and truly in good hands. Young Labor, individually and collectively, you are wonderful. My sincere thanks go to the Premier and the Cabinet for their guidance, assistance and efforts throughout the campaign. I particularly wish to thank Carl Scully, Morris Iemma and Eddie Obeid, whom I simply could not have done without. To Paul Whelan, Richard Face, Richard Amery, John Aquilina, Sandra Nori, Kim Yeadon, Faye Lo Po', John Watkins and Harry Woods, I also say thank you.
I have already stated my pride in those pioneers of my family in Australia who have been a source of inspiration to me. Before I conclude it would be remiss of me not to acknowledge publicly the deep wellspring of support my family has embodied in the past months, and indeed throughout my life. To my sister and brother-in-law, Jackie and Danny Daniel, and their children, my sisters, Karen and Jennifer Abood, and my brother, Gerard Abood, I will always be grateful for your immense love, energy and goodwill.
To my parents, who supported me in my education, my career and my ambitions, I owe a debt that I cannot repay. The loving sacrifices and selflessness you have embodied throughout my life have been both a precious gift and an inspiration. While my family and friends led the charge in Auburn, my husband's family in Queensland maintained daily campaign updates. I thank them for all their encouragement. My closest supporters and most dedicated campaign workers, my sons, Matthew and James, and my husband, Michael, share this achievement. They have been my stronghold, my encouragement and my hope.
Tonight is the realisation of the dream of a young girl who, at the age of 11, preferred picture posters on her bedroom wall of Prime Minister Gough Whitlam to pop and movie stars. Gough was my pin-up boy. I am a proud member of the Gough generation. A great honour has been bestowed on me by the Auburn electors. I thank the Auburn electorate for this privilege. Together with my parliamentary colleagues it is our duty and challenge to make this great State of New South Wales, our home, a fairer, stronger, safer, more tolerant and better place to live. I look forward to that challenge. Thank you.