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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 4 Hansard (9 April) . . Page.. 797 ..

MR WOOD (continuing):

Members may also be heartened to know that, in addition to the veritable piles of native "weeds" brought to the funeral by the huge number of mourners, Neil's coffin was beautifully adorned by some more of his football flowers.

The contribution that Neil Roberts made to the arts in the ACT and in Australia was truly significant and will be greatly missed. I am sure, Mr Speaker, that all members will join with me in expressing our sympathy to Barbara; to Neil's parents, Mert and Val; his sister, Gayle; and brother, Michael; and their families.

MR SMYTH: Mr Speaker, on behalf of the Liberal Party I rise to speak in honour of Neil Roberts, who was a great Canberran. Mr Wood has given a very good summary of Neil's achievements and what he has done, but I think there are a couple of things that need to be mentioned first and foremost about what he put back into his community.

It is very important to note that Neil saw his role as one of helping to educate up-and-coming artists not just here in Canberra but elsewhere. For instance, in 1991 he was an artist in residence in Manila and he introduced the Filipino people to, among other things, the curative properties of tea tree oil. While he was there he spread the word about his art and his form of art. He also worked here in the Canberra School of Art to make sure that young up-and-coming artists were inspired, educated and challenged, and in that he has perhaps left us with an even greater legacy.

Mr Wood spoke about the property on Uriarra Road. A friend of mine built the property next door at about the same time Neil was building, so there was a lot of renovation going on in Queanbeyan at that time. When my friend Drew married, Neil painted a mural on the back wall of his house and it was there for a long time until he moved and he took it with him.

But what about the nature of the man? He was flamboyant, he was joyous, he was out there challenging people to be different, he was out there living his life to the full, and at the same time he could simply relax and walk his dog, and just be ordinary and be normal. I think the thing that people rejoice so much in Neil is that he was just there-he was always just there. In fact, just the week before he died he was at the contemporary art space at Manuka.

Wherever something was on concerning the arts in the ACT, Neil Roberts was there. And it wasn't just his art, it was all art. It was Neil supporting a community, supporting his fellow artists and helping to raise the profile of the arts. I think that is what we may miss the most. This man was such a dynamo, he was such a driving force, he was so supportive, he was so innovative and he was out there challenging people to make sure they leave the world a better place.

I think my final comment would be best summarised by what his brother, Michael, said of him, "He lived life the way it ought to be lived, with integrity for himself and his art, and with a wonderful sense of humour." I think we should remember Neil Roberts and his humour for a long, long time to come because we would be lesser people if we forgot someone like Neil. I commend the motion to the house.

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