Page 4193 - Week 13 - Wednesday, 18 November 2015

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Gallery of Australia. In May 2000 he was awarded l’Ordre Nationale du Merite by the President of the French Republic in recognition of his devotion to France and his contribution to the development of relations between France and Australia. In 2001 he was awarded a centenary medal for voluntary service to the ACT, to the ACT Legislative Assembly and to Dutch-Australian friendship.

I speak, of course, of Mr Laurus Vant Westende OAM, better known to us as Lou Westende. In a biography of him published in 2005 Lou describes himself as “Lou Westende, a migrant”. He grew up in the Netherlands during the Depression and the German occupation and then spent three years in Indonesia with the Netherlands marines.

Through these early experiences, he gained his love of freedom and independence and the determination and strong persistence that shaped his destiny. He arrived in Australia in 1951 as a 26-year-old immigrant to join his brother John in Melbourne. The brothers found their new life in Australia a happy contrast with post-war Netherlands. After working in various jobs, Lou gained a cadetship with Addressograph Multigraph in 1953, an American firm that marketed printing machines and office equipment. This was to provide him with a very rewarding business career that eventually brought him to Canberra.

I have struggled to condense Lou Westende’s life into a mere five minutes of this adjournment debate, and I strongly urge people to read his biography called Fulfilment and Success: The Story of Lou Westende—a migrant. It is the fascinating story of Lou and Mandy Westende and their contribution to our city and to Australia.

I first got to know of Lou in 1974 when I, too, was transferred to Canberra to work for an office equipment company, and I admired his business acumen as a competitor. Over the years I followed his progress. In many ways our paths are similar: both being immigrants, starting our working life in office equipment, owning our own businesses and, of course, joining the Liberal Party and being elected to the ACT Assembly.

Tonight I am privileged as a friend and admirer to pay this tribute to Lou Westende OAM, just 10 days from his 90th birthday and in the company of other great contributors and former ACT Assembly members and close friends, Jim Leedman and Peter Kobold, as well as other great friends Ian Porteous, Len Goodman and Gary Dengate.

It is fitting to quote from Lou Westende’s maiden speech that he gave in 1992:

I feel very honoured and privileged to be standing here as a member of the ACT Legislative Assembly but, more importantly, I am very conscious of the responsibilities that this honour and privilege entails. It is a responsibility that is indeed entrusted to all members of this Assembly by those who have placed us here—the people of the ACT— and we must never lose sight of this.

He went on in that speech to also talk of the need for strong leadership from government and a firm and strong commitment by every member of the community. Those words of 23 years ago echo to us today, especially to us in the Liberal Party because we know and appreciate the importance of strong leadership in government. We have not seen it for a while, but the Canberra Liberals will deliver it next October.

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