Senate debates

Monday, 28 March 2022


Kitching, Senator Kimberley Jane Elizabeth

12:47 pm

Photo of Jenny McAllisterJenny McAllister (NSW, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Cabinet Secretary) Share this | Hansard source

When I first met Kimberley Kitching, the sound track of our Brisbane lives was dominated by The Cranberries, The Breeders, Pearl Jam and The Cruel Sea. The Joh years had finally ended. Goss was in power. Keating was fighting John Hewson's fight back—and so were we all—and everything for Labor seemed possible. Of course, it is a universal truth of youth politics that this did not in any way guarantee that Kimberley and I would work together on campus. Kimberley was seeking election as president of the UQ student union, supported by the now member for Oxley, Milton Dick. I was on a different ticket, seeking to be elected as secretary, and supporting Murray Watt as president. Murray ended up winning, Kimberley conceded graciously, and we all settled in to working together in the student council. Shortly thereafter, she and I both left Queensland—she went to Melbourne and I went to Sydney—and both of us settled into our new geographic and political homes. Neither of us ever returned to membership of the Queensland branch, where it all started for both of us. But we were reunited when she was elected to the Senate, and Kimberley was keen to mull fondly over that past and her shared history with Murray, Milton and me.

My relationship with Kimberley was not especially close—not when compared to others in this place—but it was long. Sometimes in politics, that can be nearly as important, and that's especially so when those relationships are formed in youth. So I rise today to make just a brief contribution about her life. Like most of us, I was first shocked and then immensely sad when I learnt of her death. Fifty-two is very young, and there are a number of conversations that I'd imagined we might have that will now never take place.

Here in the Senate, Kimberley worked very hard, and, serving alongside me on Finance and Public Administration, Kimberley and her tireless and loyal staff defined the issues that they wanted to pursue, brought them into the committee and brought all the resources they could to pursuing them. Kimberley and I also travelled together, travelling to Jordan to better understand the nature and scale of the Syrian refugee crisis there and the opportunities to strengthen Australia's response. Browsing through my photo collection reveals Kimberley entirely at ease in this environment—laughing with young Syrian girls; listening carefully and empathetically to the stories of traumatised women; and smiling graciously with our hosts as we confronted tables groaning with food, a mark of the incredible generosity of our hosts. Kimberley was only very recently arrived in the Senate at that time, but she had already applied her formidable networking skills to establishing an ambitious schedule of personal meetings to augment the official program. Much has already been said about this passion for international affairs. It is fitting that Labor will establish an award in her name.

Tragically, it is only a few months since we farewelled Senator Alex Gallacher. In speaking just here, Kimberley said this:

I'm sad to be eulogising Alex Gallacher, but I'm also weary of reflecting on so many careers like his: too much time spent in opposition and not enough time … to make real change—all that time, all those missed opportunities, all the good that should have been done and could have been done.

Kimberley perceived that good intentions are not enough, that good outcomes require power.

I actually don't know if Kimberley ever read Joan Kirner's The Women's Power Handbook. It was certainly in frequent circulation among the young, politically active women of my generation. But she certainly heeded its lessons. She was comfortable with the exercise of power and she pursued it without apology. Having joined Labor just as our national party was formalising its commitment to the representation of women, Kimberley came into the parliament with a keen sense about what she wanted to achieve, and she was determined to acquire the means to do so.

I attended Kimberley's funeral at St Patrick's last week. I was struck by the deep love and affection expressed by her family and her friends. She was a loving daughter and a fun and dedicated friend. She was a light in the life of many. I offer my most sincere condolences to Andrew; to her parents, Professor and Mrs Kitching; to her brother, Ben; and to her many friends, who grieve her keenly. Vale, Kimberley.


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