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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 01 Hansard (Wednesday, 2 December 2020 2020) . . Page.. 88 ..

A few weeks ago the Assembly staff addressed me, “Ms Castley, may we order some new crockery for your office?” No-one has ever spoken to me in that way. Working in office admin in Kingston many years ago, I remember my boss sighing as she said, “Oh, Leanne, can you sound less Charnwood and more Kingston?” The perks and privileges for politicians, the deferential treatment—it throws me. Few people receive their own free car space and, with the politicians’ car park being right next to the public one, I am conscious of that privilege—evidenced every day as I see ordinary workers lining up to pay for their parking tickets. Having said that, I have enormous respect for our parliamentary democracy; so I humbly come into this place with my head held high, vowing to “smash it” for the people in my electorate of Yerrabi.

As I have said, I am a proud chick from Charny. Think 1980s V8 Commodores, beat-up Datsuns, footy shorts, mullets, flannelette shirts and hanging out at the Charny shops in desert boots and black jeans. School was Flynn Primary and Charnwood High. But school did not interest me. I just wanted to get out and earn money, get on with life. Sewing and cooking were my fortes. I was Suzy Homemaker and my year 10 sewing project was my hot pink taffeta dress for my year 10 formal.

My first job was when I was 14, in a sewing shop, but the lady was always cranky and she never paid me; so I knocked on the door of Charnwood Dental Surgery to apply for a dental assistant position. Graham Shaw interviewed me on the spot and I got the job. I have worked on and off for Graham for years and, with the two ex-husbands, I often joke that he has been the most stable man in my life.

Canberra has been good to my family, and we needed it to be. I was five when dad left mum. The three of us—mum, Lorraine; my older brother, Barton; and I—moved to the ACT from Sydney. Mum’s sister, Auntie Lou, was here and mum’s parents had a sheep and cattle farm at Bookham, beyond Yass. My fondest childhood memories are weekends and school holidays at the farm, mustering sheep at shearing time, riding dirt bikes with my cousins, turning off the highway onto the long dirt road, and sitting on my grandparents’’ knee and steering the car all the way up to the farm house. And so began my love of big engines and motors.

Mum, Barton and I were a team, and mum did what she needed to survive. At times we were completely broke. Barton and I knew that money was tight and felt the weight of that. Mum was a nurse. She worked four days on and four days off, and I will never forget the day she came home with her first pay cheque, just waving it out the car window as she drove in the driveway. “Get in the car,” she yelled, “we’re going to Pizza Hut for dinner.” So we headed straight to Kippax, only to be kicked out of the restaurant because Barton did not have shoes on. We got takeaway instead.

Mum is a fighter, and so am I. So are the people in my electorate of Yerrabi; so we are a great fit. I am proud to say that I have always worked. I once worked as an office cleaner, with shifts starting at 5 am and 9.30 pm. I strongly believe that people who can work should work, particularly young people. Work is not punishment, nor about control or power. Work is good. It gives dignity and promotes wellbeing. Having said that, life is tough, and I understand that there are times when people cannot work, for family and health reasons; and those people need care and support.

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