House debates

Monday, 10 September 2012

Statements on Indulgence

Fred Hollows Foundation

5:36 pm

Photo of Janelle SaffinJanelle Saffin (Page, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

I had not planned to speak to this debate, but, sitting here listening to all of the contributions, I felt driven to. I want to make a short contribution not along the lines of the comments we have heard so far, which I associate myself with, but really about Fred Hollows the larrikin. The honourable member for Flinders called him a larrikin a couple of times, and that is how people always think about Fred. He was a larrikin, but he was a larrikin who did enormous good. In doing so, he also had what I would call a disdain for officialdom and bureaucratic humbug. He epitomised secular goodness. It was something that Fred spoke about as well. He did good at home and he did good overseas. He was a good citizen and a good neighbour to our friends.

I want to share my experience of reading about Fred. Over the years I attended various functions and heard him talk and raise money, but I want to describe what I read in a book about Fred. I am just going on memory. It has been a long time since I read it, but it really epitomised how Fred operated. Fred decided that he wanted to get some of the army tents that you can use to travel in outback Australia and even carry out procedures and things like that—those good, secure army tents. Somebody said to him that you had to go through the procedure of writing to the minister and all the officialdom. Somebody wrote the letter and sent it off and, in the interim, Fred made contact with people who could actually liberate those tents and give them to him. He already had the tents. He waited months for the letter to come back. Of course, if you ask for things officially, we know that often you will be denied, and in that letter he was. The letter apologised to him. It came from the minister, duly outlining why Fred could not have the tents and so on. When the import of the letter was conveyed to Fred, the tents were already in outback Australia being used very well. That is just one story. Everybody has their Fred stories. They are the things that characterise his will to make things happen and his larrikin nature.

People probably forgave Fred a lot that they might not forgive others because of what he did and how he helped people. He restored sight to people—what a gift. That was my Fred story that I wanted to share.


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