Thursday, 17 July 2014
Elliott, Mrs Lorraine
This morning I want to pay tribute to a great Victorian, a great Australian, a great person, a great wife and mother, a wonderful grandmother and a first-class friend to many, myself included—someone who made the most of life and made a difference to so many individuals and the wider community. I speak of Lorraine Elliott, who passed away on 2 July.
I went to school with Lorraine's children, Tom, Caroline and Edward, so I knew her for a long time—first as another friendly mum at school sport and secondly as a parliamentary colleague. That was when I got to know her well. In 2001, when I was elected to this parliament, Lorraine had been the member for Mooroolbark, an area within the Casey electorate, since 1992. She quickly became a mentor and friend to my wife Pam and I, and an inspiration.
She cared about the community she represented and the constituents within it. She served the electorate for a decade before losing her seat in the landslide of 2002. To this day it is still a rarity for me to visit an RSL or a community group, conduct a mobile office or attend a public meeting, without someone praising the work of Lorraine Elliott.
How she became the member for Mooroolbark says so much about her. She had been a loyal, hardworking and senior Liberal Party member for a considerable period of time when she decided she wanted to serve in the Victorian parliament.
She could, with her background of service and extensive network, very easily won endorsement for a safer seat or entered the upper house. But Lorraine wanted to win a difficult marginal seat and she wanted to represent a community, to serve them and be their champion. So she nominated for the outer suburban electorate of Mooroolbark—a newly created 'lineball' seat. First she won the pre-selection, second she won the election, and third, and importantly for her, she won the respect not just of those who voted for her but of so many who did not. Her tirelessness, her effectiveness, her integrity and her numerous other outstanding personal qualities won her this more enduring accolade—one that is timeless and one that will never dim.
As it was in the community, so it was also the case in the parliament. She won the respect of her parliamentary opponents who could see her decency, quiet strength and deep passion for her electorate matched only by her numerous policy passions. When she lost her seat, in what was an 'electoral Armageddon', she demonstrated pure class—in defeat and in the years that followed.
Lorraine became the first member for Mooroolbark at the election after the seat's creation. In 2002, following an electoral redistribution, she was contesting the redrawn and renamed electorate of Kilsyth. This leaves her as the first and only ever member for Mooroolbark. It will be a fitting, symbolic tribute if that remains the case.
There were many words uttered in an attempt to sum up Lorraine Elliott at her funeral on 2 July. The one that will always be in my mind when I think of her will be 'dignity'—dignity in victory, dignity in service, dignity in defeat. By being so she was never defeated personally. She did not wallow; she was never bitter. She continued to serve Victoria in the arts and numerous other causes for good. She enjoyed more time with her much loved and supportive husband John Kiely. They loved spending time with their families in Melbourne and at Flinders, a holiday home and a sanctuary.
Tuesday of last week was a time to say goodbye. It was a time to reflect and it was a time to be sad for a wonderful life cut short, but simultaneously a time to be proud of a life so well lived. Lorraine's husband John and her three children—Tom, Caroline, Edward—and grandchild Henry gave beautiful speeches that were testimony to the wonderful wife, mother and grandmother that she was.
For her six grandchildren—Henry, Sebastian, Mathilda, India, Lottie and Ava—this is, of course, a bewildering and confusing time. Lorraine will always be part of their lives because of the memories they have and because her qualities will live on in them. As they grow older they will seek out more information about the special lady they called 'Ma'. In the years and indeed decades ahead they might seek out some of the words about the value of her life, some of the tributes to all that she did that are on the public record. If they happen to find these, together with others that have been said and will be said in the Victorian parliament, let me say to you now: you should be very proud of all that your grandmother was and did.