Senate debates

Tuesday, 3 August 2021


Parish, Mr Kevin Phillip, OAM

7:40 pm

Photo of Deborah O'NeillDeborah O'Neill (NSW, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

I rise to speak on the tragic passing earlier this year at the wonderful age of 89 of my dear friend and local Central Coast luminary Kevin Parish OAM. Kevin was a community activist and Labor stalwart, and a beloved father, grandfather and great-grandfather whose love for others covered all and formed the basis of a life given to others. Kevin grew up in the tiny mid-north coast town of Herons Creek, where he first learned the difficulties and punishments that many commuters face when he had to catch the train from Herons Creek to Taree for school—a round trip of nearly 120 kilometres each day to get to school. It fostered in him a love of trains, which was later matched by his fierce desire to advocate for other commuters to improve their lives and standard of travel and give them more time at home with their families. Kevin learnt firsthand what the tyranny of distance really was, and he resolved to do what he could all of his life to erase it for as many people as possible.

Following his graduation, he moved to Sydney, where he met his wonderful wife, Marie Day, and completed training as a technician with the Postmaster-General's, which obviously later became Telstra. Kevin was a very hardworking, charitable and community-minded spirit. He was a tireless volunteer for the Labor Party and, as a man of the Catholic faith, he worked very hard for the St Vincent de Paul Society and all those he encountered. Kevin embodied the best ideals of both his Catholic faith and the Labor Party. He served faithfully as the president of the ALP's Gosford branch, was a life member of the NSW branch and was a delegate to Gosford SEC and its predecessor, Peats SEC. Kevin was a constant presence in all local Labor campaigns, whether they were state, local or federal, and he was a friend to countless Labor representatives, such as me. We all miss his presence and his advice terribly.

It was in his advocacy for commuters, though, that Kevin really made his biggest impact. He was a founding member of the Central Coast Commuters' Association, later becoming its president, as well as chair of the Commuter Council of New South Wales. Through his advocacy, he was able to push governments to deliver better timetables and services for fellow Central Coast residents, changing the lives of a huge proportion of coasties who commute for work and giving them more time with their families and for recreation. Kevin was awarded an OAM in 2005:

For service to the community through organisations supporting commuters, particularly on the Central Coast of New South Wales.

It was a well-deserved and long-overdue recognition of his constant advocacy.

Kevin is survived by his six children, 10 grandchildren and 18 great-grandchildren, a truly amazing legacy. I pass to them my deepest condolences and I hope his memory remains a blessing for years and years to come. I recall that the last occasion on which I met Kevin was a visit to him in the hospital. In these COVID times it was no mean feat to be able to organise and have one visitor on the day, so I felt very privileged to be with him. While I was there, it wasn't surprising that, from his bed in the hospital, Kevin took a call from a community organisation that he was still doing training for. He was just an indomitable force for good, and there was no-one who needed assistance that Kevin would turn away.

That sort of generosity of spirit is at the heart of the best things in community. Australians really warm to that and we celebrate it. I think that, in these COVID times in particular, where our worlds have shrunk to be way too small, the sense of connection to others is something that we yearn for. Kevin yearned for it, and he sought it out every single day of his life. Vale Kevin Parish, a great Australian citizen who did his best with what he had for his family and everyone with whom he came into contact.


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