Page 1683 - Week 06 - Tuesday, 3 May 2005

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I say, “who Al Grassby is” because multiculturalism in this country lives on, and it lives on because Al Grassby gave birth to it. In fact he is truly the father of Australian multiculturalism and he and Ellnor have changed the face of Australia forever.

MR STEFANIAK (Ginninderra): I think I first heard about Al Grassby when I was driving a truck in the Riverina between Miranda and Wagga one cold winter’s night back in 1971 during a break at university. I was going around picking up experiments from various country airfields with some bloke doing a PhD—I was about 19 at the time.

There was this very catchy jingle that came on the radio. I will not sing it, but it went along the lines of, “Down in the Riverina, down in the Riverina, well it’s Grassby country, you hear that everywhere, down in the Riverina.” As members have said, Al was a member of state parliament and later a federal member in what is a very conservative electorate.

To achieve something like a 26 per cent swing when Al went federally speaks volumes for the man. I cannot think of too many politicians, if any, who have had a song in which they featured prominently in such a positive way. I think that speaks volumes, to start with, for the wonderful local member he was and the wonderful team he and Ellnor were to the people of the Riverina at both state and federal levels.

Having had the privilege of going to Al’s funeral, there were a lot of anecdotes told as to what he did when he was the member for the Riverina and the immense amount of work he, Ellnor and the family put in on behalf of the people of the Riverina. After that—I suppose in the 1980s—I got to know Al Grassby and Ellnor very well. I had the honour of serving with Ellnor in the First Assembly and in the latter half of the Second Assembly.

Al had a unique ability to get on with virtually anyone. He had a bubbling enthusiasm in whatever he did. He was always friendly, he was gregarious, he always had a smile on his face and he was always encouraging you—it did not matter what side of the political fence you were on.

There were a few issues on which I would disagree with Al. He certainly was a controversial character in many ways but he was full of life and had a unique ability: he seemed to know everyone, and I found that quite remarkable. I would see him at all sorts of events but especially at the multicultural events that he loved so much.

Canberra—I am old enough to remember growing up here—was a fairly staid place in the 1950s and 1960s. By the time I was becoming a young man I think we had a couple of Chinese restaurants. We certainly did not have the multicultural festival. Being half-Polish, I was well aware of some of the cultural things they did at the club but, apart from a few Chinese restaurants, the Blue Moon Cafe and a couple of Italian restaurants, there was not much here to show that we were a multicultural society.

Mr Corbell: Happy’s!

MR STEFANIAK: There was not Happy’s, exactly. That situation changed by the late 1970s and early 1980s, and I think Al had much to do with that. Mention was made of what he did with migrant students. It always gave me great pleasure, as a former

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