House debates

Wednesday, 10 May 2023

Constituency Statements

Velazquez, Mr Walter Mario

10:02 am

Photo of Tim WattsTim Watts (Gellibrand, Australian Labor Party, Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs) Share this | Hansard source

I rise to recognise the life of a member of my staff, Walter Mario Velazquez, who tragically passed away last month. Like so many members of my community, Walter came to Australia seeking freedom from a repressive government—in his case, a past government, in Uruguay. He lived a life dedicated to family, especially to his mother, Gladys Novoa, and the love of his life, Emilia, as well as to solidarity and activism, particularly to the Australian Labor Party and the Latin American diaspora communities across Melbourne.

My staff, the Victorian Labor Party and the federal Labor government are in mourning, and we're already keenly feeling Walter's absence in our lives. I'd like to thank the Parliamentary Workplace Support Service for their support in this difficult time. We used to joke that Walter's job in my office was simply to help people, to help them when they were in scary and stressful situations and were seeking support from complex bureaucracies, like Centrelink, the immigration department, NDIS or public housing authorities.

In your time of need there's no-one you'd rather have at the other end of a phone than Walter. He was gentle. He was patient. He was dedicated. He listened to people. He was an advocate for them. Walter made a really big contribution to the federal Labor government, but it was in these little acts of service that Walter will be remembered. The community that I represent deeply appreciated his work, and the hundreds of people who attended his funeral service are a testament to the impact that he had on people's lives.

Working in politics isn't your average office job. Political officers are a little bit like a second family. You spend so much time together, working in close quarters doing difficult, sometimes stressful work, and you get to know who people really are. People don't just do the kind of work that Walter did for a pay cheque; they do it because they believe in something bigger than themselves. They do it because they want to serve a cause bigger than themselves. They come together with others who believe the same things and want to serve the same causes. When we lose someone who believes what we do, who was working shoulder to shoulder with us on a common cause, we feel their loss especially acutely. We're all heartbroken to have lost Walter Mario.

I'm thankful that one of the last times I saw Walter was a happy time. It was the opening of my new electorate office. We were celebrating together as a team what we've achieved together and what we were able to do for our community as part of the new government. At the end of the night I hugged Walter and said to him, 'Mi amigo, can you believe how far we've come?' I thought we had so much further to travel together. Que descanse en paz, mi compadre.


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