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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 03 Hansard (Thursday, 3 April 2008) . . Page.. 1011 ..

National Folk Festival

Ms Val Plumwood

DR FOSKEY (Molonglo) (6.23): My apologies for not understanding the Speaker’s selection system. I want to remember—even though it is a little while ago, there is a change that we will not remember—the incredible organisation that produced, as usual, the National Folk Festival that was held in Canberra. I just want to say that, as always, it was an absolutely stupendous affair with thousands and thousands of people. Apparently, about 30 per cent of the people who attend the festival are Canberrans, so it brings many people to our city and it is always very, very well organised—a very classy event—and as usual I commend its recycling system.

This leads me to something that is a little more poignant. People may remember my mentioning the death of Val Plumwood in the last sitting week. Val died on 29 February—it was just like her to die on the leap year day—and last Sunday I went to Val’s burial. We could call it a funeral, but it was certainly a burial and it was held at her place. It was delayed, you will note, because of the various permissions that had to be achieved to allow her to be buried on her land, only a few metres from her house—in a cardboard coffin, of course.

The connection with the folk festival is that, in her very beautiful owner-built stone hexagonal house, sitting on one of the tables—exactly as she left it as she walked out that morning, had an aneurism and died—was her folk festival pamphlet. She would have been there; she would have been there if she could, because Val was a very well-known player of the tin whistle.

Nonetheless, we all trekked up the track—a very long track it is—to her house and had a party. It was a very strange thing that, though Val was not there physically, she was absolutely there, absolutely present. We all had a feast and then went and had a look at the lookout from her place. You can see right down to the coast, down over the escarpment, down through the mountains—probably one of the best views in the world.

She has deeded her land to national parks. There are quite a few people who are aware that there is a wombat that turns up every night to be fed, that was actually hand-reared by Val, and there is still a certain role for humans in that place, in maintaining her garden, which is full of foreign species but nonetheless absolutely beautiful. It will need maintenance to make sure that those do not become weeds in that incredible forest that she lived in; I say “lived”, but I really mean “lives”.

Val was an independent thinker. She was a very ordinary woman. While mostly good comments are made at funerals, there were, of course. people who had had their brushes with Val. There was a bit of trouble getting her coffin into the hole that was dug; it was a pretty damn hard hole to dig as well because the ground is very rocky. It was just like Val not to fit into her hole, even her final hole. But what was really interesting was the butterfly that just came out of nowhere as the people spoke and as the coffin was interred. I do not know how many people have been to funerals—I have been to far too many of them—but the sort of bird dipping, the butterfly appearing from nowhere; who knows what it all means? But I think it means that Val

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