Senate debates

Monday, 28 March 2022


Kitching, Senator Kimberley Jane Elizabeth

10:55 am

Photo of Kristina KeneallyKristina Keneally (NSW, Australian Labor Party, Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) Share this | Hansard source

Y (—) (): I rise to speak to the condolence motion for Senator Kimberley Jane Elizabeth Kitching. I begin by expressing deep sympathy to her husband, Andrew Landeryou; her parents, William and Leigh Kitching; her brother, Ben; and her wider family, friends and, of course, staff in this place.

Since Senator Kitching's passing, many have noted what a shock and tragedy her death is. Senator Kitching's husband and father spoke movingly, about their shock and loss, at her funeral last week. Like some in this chamber, and like many in the community, I know something of coming to terms with an unexpected death in one's family. Such tragic shocks often cleave the lives of those left behind into before and after. So much has been lost and nothing for the family will be the same again. In an instant, a family is irrevocably changed. For a family in such circumstances the grief can be profound—for the loss of a life but also for the loss of a future. Since the day Kimberley died, her family have been in my prayers.

We as senators gather today to pay respects to Kimberley Kitching's family and to stand with them in sympathy at an extraordinarily sad time. We also gather to pay respect to Senator Kitching's contribution to this chamber and to our country, and it is fitting that we do so. It is a fine tradition of this Senate and, indeed, of this parliament to set aside time to honour our colleagues for their contribution to Australia and its people. It was only too recently we gathered, for the same purpose, for our colleague Senator Alex Gallacher, and today we do so for Senator Kimberley Kitching.

Senator Kitching's time in this place will no doubt be marked by her enthusiasm for the Senate estimates and committee processes and, indeed, her enthusiasm for questions on notice. Kimberley was dedicated to her committee work, particularly in foreign affairs, defence and free trade. She took an expert eye for scrutiny to a range of issues across a variety of portfolios. Of course, Kimberley served on the front bench of the Australian Labor Party as a shadow assistant minister for government services and the NDIS, where she brought great passion and compassion, as well as being the Deputy Manager of Opposition Business in the Senate.

As Senator Wong has so well outlined and other senators have remarked, Senator Kitching was a driving force in Australia for a Magnitsky act, introducing the private member's bill in August 2021 before the government introduced its own bill in November 2021. In November last year, Kimberley Kitching was rightfully awarded the Sergei Magnitsky Human Rights Award for outstanding contribution to the global Magnitsky movement, at a 2021 ceremony in London.

I served with Kimberley since my election in the Senate in 2018. When I first arrived, we were seated at a bench that we decided was clearly reserved for people with the initials KK. We campaigned together in 2019, in Victoria, on the campaign bus. We visited the USS Ronald Reagan in Brisbane together, along with other members and senators across the parliament, and we experienced being catapulted off an aircraft carrier. I still have in my phone photos of Kimberley smiling in her helmet and protective gear as we boarded that plane.

After the election, Kimberley and I also worked together to introduce new formal and informal ways to build teamwork within our caucus, especially within the right faction of Labor senators, including meetings and social events that we coordinated together. Sadly, COVID lockdowns and physical separations made maintaining some of those processes a real challenge.

I was not as close to Kimberley as some, but the Kimberley Kitching I experienced was, as Matthew Knott wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald, 'fascinating' and 'complex'. In my experiences in working with Kimberley, I would never have described her as a shrinking violet. She was never backward about coming forward. If she had a view she put it, and in many ways I found this refreshing. In politics we often have to resolve matters of policy or process quickly, and some people are not always direct about what they want. I welcomed that Kimberley was not one of those people.

In the days since Kimberley died, much has been said and written, especially about the stresses she was experiencing as her preselection approached. Others have had a lot to say and write about this issue, and some of what has been suggested I have strongly responded to on the record outside this place. But today, in this place, I will treat her life and her legacy as I did prior to her tragic death: with deep respect for her intelligence and her capacity. She was never to be underestimated. She made her own decisions. She was not manipulated by others in her career, her beliefs or her passions. Those who use the grief caused by her death for purposes other than honouring her life and her work will find no friend in me.

At Kimberley's funeral on Monday, her friend Bill Shorten spoke of her qualities, encouraging everyone in the Labor family to channel their grief into winning the upcoming federal election. Bill said:

She understood—in the marrow of her bones—that the people who count on Labor count, above all, on Labor government.

So I know if she were here with us still all her energy and activism and enthusiasm and the powerful force of her personality would have been dedicated to a Labor victory in May.

Guided by Bill's words, that is what we should do. Alongside the humanitarian award that Anthony Albanese has established in her name, securing a Labor government is the most fitting tribute to Kimberley's life and service to the Australian Labor Party.

In conclusion, I reflect upon Kimberley's Catholicism, which is a faith we shared and something we discussed, especially as the parliament considered how to provide protections to people of faith from discrimination. One of the rites of passage for a Catholic is the Sacrament of Confirmation. It is a moment where a young person chooses the Catholic faith for themselves and confirms their membership in the church. As part of the sacrament, a young Catholic chooses a saint's name as a new name for themselves; Kimberley chose the name 'Elizabeth'. In the Catholic tradition there are several St Elizabeths, but two in particular—St Elizabeth of Hungary and St Elizabeth Ann Seton—seem particularly relevant today as we honour the life of Kimberley Jane Elizabeth Kitching.

St Elizabeth of Hungary was born of nobility in the year 1207. She was educated abroad, she was worldly and she shared a deep love in her marriage to her husband, Ludwig. They were considered a powerful political couple in their time. St Elizabeth Ann Seton was the first American-born saint, and she is widely considered the founder of the American Catholic education system. As Kimberley's father recounted at her funeral, Kimberley thrived in her primary-school years in the United States. St Elizabeth of Hungary dedicated her life to serving the poor, often doing so quietly so as to avoid detection. One of the most famous miracles associated with St Elizabeth of Hungary is the miracle of the roses. Today the Senate honours Kimberley Jane Elizabeth Kitching with her favourite flower, a single white rose, on her empty desk. As roses did for her namesake, that rose today serves as a symbol and a reminder of the love and grace God gave to Kimberley Kitching in her life and now in her death.

I end my condolence where I began, expressing my deepest sympathies and prayers for Kimberley's family, for their loss, amongst all our losses, is the most significant. May the words of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton provide some solace on this day:

The accidents of life separate us from our dearest friends, but let us not despair. God is like a looking glass in which souls see each other. The more we are united to Him by love, the nearer we are to those who belong to Him.

Vale Kimberley Kitching.


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