Page 24 - Week 01 - Tuesday, 7 December 2004

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MS PORTER: Thank you, Mr Speaker and my Assembly colleagues, for this opportunity to deliver my inaugural speech today. I too would acknowledge the Ngunnawal people on whose land we stand and I would recognise their continuing culture. I deliver my inaugural speech today with a sense of pride—not in my own achievement in making history as the person whose election gave the ACT its first Labor majority government, but pride in my government and in the Chief Minister, Mr Stanhope, who led us to this historic victory on the back of fair and just policies, on forward-looking and long-term plans for this territory and on a vision for Canberra—a vision for Canberra that builds on this government’s fine record of achievement.

I was moved to stand for election based on my own sense of social justice and my belief in the power of people working together to achieve positive outcomes for the community. I saw being part of a Labor government as an opportunity to express those values and beliefs. As a child I grew up in a small working class family, in Purley, Surrey, England—a mixed working class and upper class area just outside of London. We lived in a semidetached house, one of eight in the grounds of the waterworks, where my father was a shift worker. My mother cleaned the homes for the more affluent to bring in a little more disposable cash.

Whilst not wealthy, we were a very happy family. My parents were both very active members of the Labour Party, as were their friends. I often joke about being born with a Labour ticket in my hand! My father, at one stage, stood on a Labour ticket for a safe Tory borough; not surprisingly, he was unsuccessful! I distinctly remember assisting my father with his campaign at the time—so I must say that my Labour career started very early.

In 1954 my father, having made a decision that our family should emigrate to Australia to give his girls a greater opportunity to better themselves, took us across the world as migrants. We arrived in Australia as “Mr Pannell and three others”, according to the official records. The “three” were my three-year-old sister; I, at 12 years of age; and my mother. I think we have gone a long way since then in recognising women. We settled in Wollongong. I attended the Wollongong high school and then graduated from Wollongong General Hospital firstly in general nursing and later in midwifery. My sister, some nine years later, followed me to Wollongong high and went onto a profession of teaching and music.

I left Britain as a person already with strong social values, passed on to me by my parents and grandparents. I had served in the British Red Cross as a volunteer from a very young age. To seek out opportunities for service was second nature. Many would not know that I have spent 12 years in remote areas of Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory as a bush nurse. In this environment I brought up my three children, the eldest a son with a disability. When he turned 12, a decision was made to move south to be closer to medical and other services, and thus we came to Canberra.

Life in the top end without roads, without all-weather airstrips, without all the basic services that we all take for granted, was exciting, challenging and fulfilling. However, without even regular GP visits to the settlements, let alone access to specialist advice, it was necessary for us to uproot ourselves. My life in the territory, though, taught me many things. It taught me that people working together, using their individual skills and

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