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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 1 Hansard (13 December) . . Page.. 284 ..

Release of Mr Peter Bunch and Ms Diana Thomas

MR PRATT (6.27): I wish to put on the record my great relief and gratitude-and the Assembly might like to review this as well-at the release and safe return to Australia of Peter Bunch and Diana Thomas, the two Australians held captive in Kabul, who are remarkable and extremely brave people. As do many aid workers representing this country around the world, they put themselves in harm's way.

Having met these people a couple of days ago, I was very impressed with their strength of character, clarity of thought and, more importantly, their desire to try to go back into Afghanistan to continue that good work. As a nation, I hope we can support them, and hopefully provide assistance to that sorry country and, therefore, to the development of civil society. However, Bunch and Thomas require a salute.


Death of Mr David Branson


(Minister for Urban Services and Minister for the Arts) (6.29), in reply: I am closing the debate, but first of all, on behalf of this side of the house, thanks to all those who support us and keep us all going. Best wishes to everybody over the Christmas season.

I wish to finish on a more sombre note, because David Branson was a person to remember. He was well known in Canberra as a leading theatre director, actor and musician. His passing will leave a huge gap in the local arts community, and I offer condolences to both his family and his many arts colleagues.

David was born in Melbourne, but spent most of his life in Canberra. In the late eighties and early nineties he was co-founder and artistic director of Splinters Theatre of Spectacle, one of the most innovative groups in Canberra's quite illustrious history of arts practice. As its name suggests, Splinters focused on spectacular events that involved huge casts, exceptional locations and lots of fire and pyrotechnics. With provocative titles such as Gumboot Full of Blood and Cathedral of Flesh, and stunning locations, Splinters and David Branson were never far from the media spotlight.

His more conventional theatre work, as both director and actor, was primarily with CIA, Culturally Innovative Arts, of which he was also artistic director. CIA was renowned for its focus on new Australian playwrights, including later award winners such as Daniel Keene and Christos Tsiolkas. This original work also allowed David to return to his other spiritual home, La Mama Theatre, in Melbourne.

David was also an accomplished musician, and could often be found at Tilley's Cafe, playing his violin with local bands such as the Gadflys. He had recently joined the new music theatre group, Mickelangelo and the Black Sea Gentlemen.

Much of David's work in recent years has been in the field of opera, particularly with local company, Stopera. Just two weeks ago, I attended a very enjoyable Stopera production of Viva Verdi, which was directed by David.

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