House debates

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Constituency Statements

Gellibrand Electorate

9:54 am

Photo of Tim WattsTim Watts (Gellibrand, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Last week I had the pleasure of hosting a variety of community members at my new office in Footscray in Melbourne's west. Opening a new electorate office is perhaps an appropriate moment to reflect on an MP's role as a representative of the local community. In that respect, it was an honour to have my office officially opened by five students from the Footscray Primary School—Nicole Tang, Lily Andrews-Quinn, Ilan Blenariu, Albert Van Gemeren and Charlie Redmond. These young ambassadors of the school marked the occasion with a speech on the importance of politics in a democratic society. In that speech they highlighted issues that were of particular concern to them, such as rising inequality in society and Australia's treatment of asylum seekers and Indigenous Australians. They stated:

We strongly believe in social justice and equality for all members of our community and believe that politicians have a big part in making sure we are looking after our community in the best ways possible.

We are concerned that we are seeing more inequality arise in areas like education, homelessness and our treatment of asylum seekers and Indigenous Australians.

Maybe Australia's treatment of asylum seekers and Aboriginals will be looked back on with shame, like the way we now look back on South Africa's apartheid regime and wonder how that could ever have happened.

I am proud that such smart young students who are so passionate about social justice were able to officially open my office. These students are willing to speak up about the issues that matter to them, express a view firmly and take their views to their elected representative with an expectation that they will be heard. I take very seriously their concerns about rising inequality in our society and Australia's treatment of Indigenous Australians and asylum seekers. These are issues that I continue to fight for, alongside my Labor colleagues, as their representative in this parliament.

Nicole, Lily, Ilan, Albert and Charlie finished their speech by saying:

The future of Australia is in our hands; a good democracy needs the people's voice, a freedom of speech that empowers everyone. We need to share the love or there might not be any left.

It is gratifying that Nicole, Lily, Ilan, Albert and Charlie feel that they can take their concerns to me with confidence that I will hear their voices as part of 'the people's voice'. I look forward to again hearing from them, and their friends, on the issues that matter to them most. I hope that they and the broader community in Melbourne's west will be frequent visitors to my office in the years to come.

I am also pleased that visitors to my office will be able to see the work of the Footscray Community Arts Centre's 'ArtLife' artists with disabilities program in my office. At present, I have on display the works of Ms Pamela Debrincat, who has worked with geometry, texture and colour in her works. Her works will be on display in my office for the next three months. I thank the Footscray Community Arts Centre for their collaboration with me on this important project and congratulate them on their longstanding work with artists with disability in my community.