Thursday, 25 November 2021
Parsons, Mr Don
Thank you very much, Mr Speaker, and congratulations on your election; a tribute to you. I know, as the former Speaker, just how diligent you were in following the procedures and processes of the House as a member of the Speaker's panel. This is my first opportunity publicly to say congratulations.
As we know as local members of parliament, a community's greatest asset is its people. In the electorate of Casey, which I am privileged to represent, one of its finest was the late Don Parsons, a person who I worked alongside on many community projects and who became a very close friend. He was born in Tasmania in 1947 and obviously spent his youth there, but at the age of 15 he enlisted in the Royal Australian Navy. He served for 34 years in various posts, and also spent time with signals intelligence in the United Kingdom.
After retiring from the Navy, he went into small business. He ran a cafe in the electorate—a cafe with a naval theme. He raised his family: his son, Ashley; and his daughter, Talia, who I know very well. He later served for many years in the community as a justice of the peace and a bail justice, but it was in his role as a member of the Lilydale RSL that I got to know him incredibly well.
In 2014, he was part of a group that took over the leadership, and he demonstrated great community commitment and incredible passion right across his time there, particularly with the Centenary of Anzac, which he instinctively realised was a unique time to shine a light on those stories in a way that we had never been able to do. He was instrumental in getting a number of local war memorials and local military history publications completed, and many a time we stood together, as members in this House will have done as well, unveiling and launching these projects. The electorate of Casey is the Yarra Valley, Dandenong Ranges and the outer suburbs. Sometimes we launched these in the rain and sometimes with the sun beating down upon us, but Don was always there and he was always there leading the RSL.
What I will remember most about Don, who passed away suddenly last year—and I will come to that; I haven't had the opportunity to speak in this House on this matter—was his being instrumental as a leader, together with local historian Anthony McAleer, in deciding that they would have a ceremony on the 100th anniversary of the death of every local soldier in the Lilydale and Mount Evelyn areas—on the day, a century after those locals lost their lives in World War I. Sometimes three or four of us were there. Sometimes family members had travelled for many hundreds of kilometres to be there. Sometimes schools turned up. He did that 45 times, just to stop and pause on the centenary of the death of those soldiers, reflect on their lives and lay a wreath. It was during those times that I really got to know him as a close friend.
He attended Anzac Day in 2020 with his daughter, Talia, to lay a wreath during lockdown, and died not long after, suddenly, at the age of 72. He was part of my local Anzac essay prize for local schools, and it's quite fitting that the committee decided that, following his passing, that prize would be renamed in his honour. I pay tribute to him. I miss him as a friend. I pay tribute to his family, who I understand are listening today. I wanted to make this contribution here in this House, on his behalf and on behalf of his family, for a community that he served so well.
H ouse adjourned at 17:00
The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mrs Lucy Wicks) took the chair at 10:00.