Senate debates

Monday, 28 March 2022


Kitching, Senator Kimberley Jane Elizabeth

2:39 pm

Photo of Jess WalshJess Walsh (Victoria, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

I rise to share some reflections on Senator Kimberley Kitching, who passed way too young and with so much more to do, and to share my condolences with her family—Andrew; her parents; her brother, Ben—her friends and her staff, and also her union comrades, many of whom are here today. I'd known Kimberley for just the most recent years of her life, the years since I joined her when I arrived here as a fellow Victorian Labor senator in 2019. Although our paths hadn't previously crossed inside the same mighty institutions that we both come from, the Victorian trade union movement and the Australian Labor Party, they did pass regularly on the Senate ground floor corridor where our parliament offices were both located.

Kimberley and I often shared walks to and from the chamber, and I wrote on the day after her sudden passing that Kimberley was always hard to keep up with on those walks. She whirled her way around the parliament, smiling and chatting to all, transacting much mischievous business wherever she went. I noted that, without any doubt at all, she absolutely loved her job—just loved it. This place throws people together within and between political parties. Interspersed with so many incredible moments, great contests of ideas, great debates on the floor and astonishing achievements, there are also many quiet moments of very ordinary life that we inevitably share together. These are moments that can illuminate a person for us—ordinary moments that the public don't see but which can tell us just as much about a person, a senator, as any great contest, great debate or achievement.

My reflections on my interactions with Kimberley are less about her public life, her profile or her persona and more about what I saw in those smaller moments that we shared. On those walks to and from the chamber, I saw a person who was literally always smiling and always genuinely delighted to be a senator in this place. I saw a person who was extraordinarily proud to be here and a person who always exuded energy and enthusiasm.

I recall an exchange late last year in which that real pride and enthusiasm were reflected. A few senators were texting about who was going to attend an economics committee hearing that week on shipbuilding. It was the run-of-the-mill type of exchange that we all have every week. Senator Carr was first out of the gates, saying that he was planning to attend, as one might expect given the topic. Kimberley was next on the exchange, explaining that she was an apology because she would be in London receiving a human rights award at a ceremony in Westminster. I was next on the SMS, noting that I was also an apology, adding that my reasons were somewhat more mundane than Kimberley's, to which Kimberley replied, without skipping a beat or a second on the text exchange, 'LOLs' and that she was also off to Paris to do a function with French politicians and an interview on French TV. I can't remember exactly what I was doing that week, but I know that it didn't involve Europe, an international accolade or addressing French politicians in French!

I say again that Kimberley absolutely loved her job as she excelled at it. The eulogies at Kimberley's funeral service in Melbourne gave all of us greater insight into who Kimberley truly was, particularly those of us who knew her only in recent years. In particular, I want to note again the comments of her dear best friend, Bill Shorten, who said at the service that Kimberley knew how to live and that she lived, as urged by the Irish balladeer Liam Clancy, without fear, malice or jealousy, a recipe, Bill said, for a good life and also a recipe for a courageous senator.

Kimberley had truly dedicated and loyal staff. In particular, I've been thinking today, and for the last several days, of the loyal and wonderful Maree. I bumped into Kimberley and Maree on another walk one weekend at the Kingston shops. Both of them were laden with shopping bags, brimming with new purchases, and Kimberley was brimming with excitement about a referral she wanted to make to the Senate Economics References Committee on the future of Australian manufacturing. For her, a strong manufacturing sector meant a strong economy and it meant pride in being a nation that can be more self-sufficient, more resourceful, more economically diverse. I'm really proud to have participated on that inquiry with Senator Kitching and with Senator Pratt, and the report of the inquiry is yet another important part of Kimberley's contribution.

It was truly devastating to learn and then to realise over and again as the days passed that someone so full of life, so full of zeal and so full of ideas will not be here to pursue them. At just 52, Kimberley passed way too soon with so much more to offer this country. My thoughts are with her loved ones, her comrades and colleagues and her dedicated team. Vale Senator Kimberley Kitching.


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