Senate debates

Thursday, 20 June 2013


Crossin, Senator Trish

7:28 pm

Photo of Anne UrquhartAnne Urquhart (Tasmania, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise tonight to pay tribute to one of our colleagues, Senator Trish Crossin. If you Google the words 'Trish Crossin' and go to Wikipedia, this is just a section of what you get. It starts off saying:

Patricia Margaret "Trish" Crossin … Australian politician, has been a member of the Australian Senate for the Northern Territory since June 1998, representing the Australian Labor Party

… Crossin was born in Melbourne and was educated at Deakin University, where she graduated in education. She was a teacher before entering politics. She was Northern Territory Industrial Officer of the National Tertiary Education Union 1996–1998.

Crossin was Deputy Opposition Whip in the Senate 2001–2004 …

… Crossin is married to Mark Crossin, and has four children.

This is a very brief, impersonal snapshot of Trish's political life; but, as many of us know, it does not even give a glimpse of what Trish is to many people. There are some omissions in the Wikipedia story referring to Trish's chairing of the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee—omitted are the many hours she spent here in this chamber during the debates affecting Indigenous Australians and also her consultations with Indigenous Territorians. She led these debates with compassion but also with unsurpassed knowledge of the wide range of issues affecting Indigenous Australians.

I personally have not known Trish for a long time but feel as though I have known her for a lifetime because of the many stories that Amanda Diprose, who works with me, has shared with me. These stories are from a time that Amanda spent sharing some of her life with Trish and her family in the Northern Territory. One memorable story was a time when Amanda was working at Hengyang Company, as a sewing machinist in the Trade Development Zone in the Northern Territory, and Trish was an organiser with the Miscellaneous Workers Union. The business had Chinese owners who brought Chinese workers who could speak little, if any, English to Australia to work in their factory. These workers were brought to Australia on two-year contracts and had their passports confiscated when they arrived. Hengyang purchased a block of flats to house all the workers and provided them with bags of rice and few other necessities. They worked around the clock. The company had a bus to take the Chinese workers to and from the factory. They could hardly ever close the doors of the bus because some of the workers would have to sit on the bus's steps. At the factory, the company provided the workers boxes to sit on. Apparently, you had to bring your own cushion because the only chairs were in the office.

Trish and Amanda arranged to meet the Chinese workers at a church in the middle of the night. They were handed a piece of paper from those workers which contained their work contract. It had been given to them prior to their coming to Australia, and it was written in Chinese. Trish and Amanda obviously had to get it translated. It identified horrendous working conditions, and a couple of those included not to become pregnant within the first two years, not to participate in or be involved with any political organisations—and so the list went on. Through Trish's involvement, the workers received chairs, got the chemicals stored correctly as well as guarding around belts and had the piles of jeans that blocked the fire exits removed. They were among many other things that were improved. I know there are many other examples—thousands, possibly—of areas in which Trish has made a difference to the lives of people she has represented over many years, and this is just one.

Since my time in this place, I have shared the same hallway as Trish but, more importantly, I believe I have shared a lot more. I have shared laughter, anger, comradeship, stories and experiences. I have gained so much from Trish in my short time here. I could go on but I am sure that everyone knows what I mean. So it is with a great deal of sadness that the days of sharing that hallway are drawing to a close. I know that we will keep in touch, and I know that Trish will continue with great work, wherever her path takes her. I, along with Amanda, wish her all the best in the world for whatever her future holds.