Thursday, 18 October 2018
Macquarie Electorate: Toastmasters, Whirlpool, Private Frederick, VC, Macquarie Electorate: Thompson Square
We spend a lot of time talking in this place, and most of us don't seem to mind that too much—in fact, some of us clearly love the sound of our own voices. But not everyone is as comfortable with public speaking as the average politician, and I want to talk about the work of Toastmasters in my electorate of Macquarie.
We all know that fear of public speaking is up there in the top fears people express, although one American researcher has found that since Donald Trump became President, it's been pushed down to No. 52, with fear of mass shootings now at No. 35. I know from my days as a trainer that the fear of speaking can impact on people's careers, and, at the very least, ruin their enjoyment of sharing their knowledge. That's where Toastmasters—volunteer run—is doing great work building people's skills and confidence in standing up and speaking.
My experience of visiting Toastmasters is that our groups—under the regional leadership of people like Louise McMahon in the Hawkesbury, who was kind enough to invite me to the Toastmasters meetings that she was overseeing when she was president of Hawkesbury, and Heike Tye in the Blue Mountains—are very supportive environments to make mistakes. They're working hard to make sure that it's okay to not be perfect. I'd like particularly to note John Wayland, whose ability to entertain us on the subject of nothing is legendary. The sense of support that comes from Toastmasters comes from every single member of the groups that I've had contact with, from Hawkesbury Valley to Springwood and Glenbrook to Katoomba. They all know they can work together more effectively than struggling on their own. Congratulations to them all.
It probably needed the skills of a former police investigator to get to the bottom of the mystery of Frederick Whirlpool, the first person in Australian uniform to be presented with the Victoria Cross. His medal hangs in the Australian War Memorial, but his name wasn't really Whirlpool. We now know a lot more about him thanks to former police officer and former art gallery director, now turned historian and writer, Alan Leek, whose book, Frederick Whirlpool: Australia's Hidden Victoria Cross, I had the pleasure of launching at the Hawkesbury museum.
Whirlpool's links with the Hawkesbury are strong. He moved to Victoria in 1859 but then found the Hawkesbury, hiding his past and some of his demons, and, with those, he hid the story of how he came to be awarded the VC. Humphrey James was his real name, and he was awarded the VC for services during the 1857-58 Indian mutiny, where he suffered 17 severe sword wounds that ended his military career.
I'm always fascinated by the stories behind the soldiers who serve in battles and events not of their own making. This era of colonisation by the British took their soldiers around the globe. It was the peak of the East India Company, formed in 1600 for the exploitation of trade with East and South-East Asia and India. The Indian mutiny led to the dissolution of the East India Company and forced the British to reorganise the army, the financial system and the administration in India. It resulted in India being administered directly by the British government in the new British Raj for nearly 100 years.
My point is that this was a time of tumultuous change in parts of the world, and there is so much that we don't know about the lives of the individual men who were part of that time. That's why I say that true investigative skills were needed to reveal the details of Whirlpool's life. Alan Leek honed his skills during his years in the New South Wales Police Force, including leading the investigation into Australia's first political assassination. Whirlpool was presented with his VC by Lady Barkly, the then Victorian governor's wife, when he was a member of the Hawthorn and Kew Volunteer Rifles. His grave, though, now lies in South Windsor, in my electorate, unmarked and neglected. I'm hoping to find a way to fix that and ensure that the Hawkesbury can provide appropriate recognition for a VC awardee, the first to be presented their award publicly in Australia and the first to someone wearing an Australian uniform.
Thompson Square is the oldest square in the country and is being dug up and destroyed to make way for a replacement Windsor Bridge. Around a hundred Hawkesbury residents gathered to discuss what changes need to happen to protect and preserve the ever-declining heritage we have in New South Wales. I've put on the record many times my dismay and horror at the willingness of the New South Wales government to override its own heritage advice and the findings of an upper house inquiry and the request of every heritage group, including the National Trust, and its willingness to ignore the request of the former federal environment minister to reconsider the project on heritage grounds. I want to thank shadow New South Wales heritage minister, Penny Sharpe, and shadow minister for local government, Peter Primrose, and Labor's Hawkesbury candidate, Pete Reynolds, for taking part in this important forum.