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Member for Eden Monaro, Kristy McBain, makes first speech in Parliament

"Let me be clear; the partisan politics of the last decade or more just won’t cut it in the future,"

"A reset button has been pushed.

"We need to work together – that’s what people expect.

"Speaking to scared and frightened faces in groups large and small [during our region's bushfire emergency] reinforced to me the importance of leadership.

"Local leadership matters; especially in our darkest of days.

"Leaders show up.

"Leaders walk with their communities.

Leaders are motivated by what they see and feel, and look to drive action for betterment and change.

"That’s why I am here and that is why I am part of the Australian Labor Party that Anthony Albanese leads.

"I stood for Eden Monaro because I believe we need to do politics differently."


Above: A big day for Kristy and Eden Monaro with the First Speech done and dusted.

Photos by David Foote, Senior Photographer, Department of Parliamentary Services. Ms McBAIN (Eden-Monaro) (15:18): I rise today with great ambition for the people of Eden-Monaro, determined to make a difference in the lives of the people I now represent. So I will start by thanking them for electing me to this place. I won't let you down.

I invite those here to listen for opportunities to work together to build vibrant, happy and prosperous regional communities. No one person has all the answers, but together, united, we are a powerful force. There is much to do, and I will work with anyone willing to ensure the best for the people of Eden-Monaro.

I speak at a momentous time for Australia and the people of Eden-Monaro. We are rebuilding from the most damaging fires Australia has ever seen, battling a once-in-a-century pandemic and enduring Australia's first economic recession in 30 years. And we face a climate in crisis, including years of devastating drought. And yet, despite these enormous challenges, I've never been more optimistic about our future. I'm optimistic because I know that our communities are home to hardworking and resilient people—people that have moved this nation forward with each passing generation.

I'm lucky to live in one of the most naturally stunning electorates in the country, the mighty Eden-Monaro. From the top of Australia, Mount Kosciuszko and the Snowy Mountains, to the rolling green hills of Tumut and Tumbarumba; from the sapphire waters of the far South Coast to the rocky plains of the Monaro; from the suburbs of Queanbeyan to the vineyards of Murrumbateman, we are proud to call Eden-Monaro our home.

I want to pay tribute to and thank the traditional custodians of the lands and waters of this place I call home—the Ngunawal, Wiradjuri, Ngarigo and Yuin peoples. I recognise their continuing connection to the land, waters and people, and pay my respects to elders past, present and emerging. Leaders at every level need to go beyond voicing our respect, though. True respect comes with an active and attentive head, heart and hands. Our Indigenous sisters and brothers have walked this land for over 60,000 years. Their connection is rich and deep, something we all need to spend more time understanding and respecting. Our shared history needs to be told in its absolute truth—a history laid bare for our children to know, a history that needs to be acknowledged—so that we can shape the connections and relationships we all want and need for a better future.

There are stories in our history that point to what is possible—that point to a trust and goodness across all cultures. One such story has its roots in Yuin country, on the far South Coast of New South Wales in my electorate. Historian Mark McKenna, from the University of Sydney, tells the story of 17 shipwrecked sailors from Sydney Cove who, in 1797, walked from the southern tip of mainland Australia to Port Jackson. One of the leaders, William Clark, kept a diary. His great fear along the way was encounters with what he referred to as 'hostile savages'. His experience with our First Nations people could not have been more different. After almost two weeks of walking, backed by the hospitality of the Gunai people in East Gippsland, the sailors reached the Nadgee River, just over the Victorian border in Eden-Monaro, home to the Thawa people of the Yuin nation. According to Dr McKenna, this is where they made what Clark calls 'friends'. The Thawa people walked with the struggling sailors all the way to Pambula, showing the sailors the way, feeding them and helping build rafts for river crossings. Not all the shipwrecked sailors made it to Sydney. Clark was one of three who did. Clark reported to the then New South Wales governor, John Hunter, that the group only survived because of the help of Aboriginal people along the way, or, as Dr McKenna puts it, 'a succession of guardian angels'.

This story epitomises the values of cooperation and respect that we need to continue striving for every single day. Our Indigenous leaders are showing us the way, asking those who gather here to enshrine a voice for our First Nations people in the Constitution, acknowledging their ongoing and everlasting connection to this country. For my part, I will look to establish a group of elders or endorsed representatives from the Ngunawal, Wiradjuri, Ngarigo and Yuin nations across the Eden-Monaro electorate whom I will consult and meet with, drawing on their wisdom as my service grows.

I'm here today because a great servant of our nation and of Eden-Monaro retired. I want to thank Mike Kelly for his nearly four terms as our local member. Both literally and figuratively, I have big shoes to fill in following Mike. I wish Mike, Shelley and Ben all the best for their future.

The opportunity to stand for Labor and be a representative in this House follows some of the darkest and hardest days my family and the many I now represent have ever faced. In the days heading towards last Christmas, I was excited to be spending some time with my young family. My youngest boy had just finished preschool and would be heading to 'big school' with his brother and sister in 2020. Some precious time with my fast-growing kids, on the back of what had been a big, busy year for my husband and me—simple downtime together in our beautiful coastal backyard—was everything we wanted for last summer. The fires that followed, now burnt into our history books, landscape and community, changed everything.

In the final weeks of 2019, fire was already widespread across New South Wales and was on the move. The Currowan and North Black Range fires were destroying homes, infrastructure and landscapes, from Braidwood and Bungendore to the Eurobodalla. Our crippling drought, the changing climate and the obvious danger we were all in had every community in Eden-Monaro under pressure.

The full potential of this dangerous mix was unleashed in the middle of the night on the last day of the year. The people who saw a firestorm unleash itself upon homes and farms west of Cobargo on New Year's Eve speak of it as an angry spirit or a wild animal that couldn't be tamed. We lost lives and homes on that night, as we did on a number of days and nights that followed. Indeed, Eden-Monaro was on fire for the next seven weeks as fires moved in and out of places like Pericoe, Batlow, Colinton and Devils Hole.

The true character of these communities was revealed on those days of black and orange skies. People stepped up and they stepped out to assist anyone who needed help. Evacuation and relief centres at places like Tumut, Narooma and Merimbula became life rafts manned by heroes from all walks of life. What guided that work during those days of uncertainty and fear was a deep commitment to each other, a sense of goodness and a sense of what needed to be done.

The communities of Eden-Monaro can be very proud of what they've achieved together so far. We need to use those values to reshape our future based on the lessons that we've learnt along the way. The soaking rain we've had over the last few months cannot be allowed to dampen or delay the work and change that still needs to take place.

The horrors of those days throughout December, January and February—days where the sun didn't seem to rise—are still very real and very fresh in minds. Friends and family wake up with deep and lasting trauma. Tears are still flowing today, and nightmares still wake us at night.

Knowing what to do and how to respond on a personal, professional and political level has not been clear or easy. But I am here to supercharge the response to bushfire recovery, to fight for each and every one of the thousands of people affected by the fire last summer. There are lives, jobs and businesses that need hope in their future again, people and places who need to see and feel action that moves us all to a more secure, locally-led future.

In the blink of an eye, our dependence on supply chains located a long way north, south and west was exposed. Fuel ran out, supermarkets were empty, stock were without feed, and power and communication were impossible for many. Regional infrastructure needs to be more robust and resilient—our lives and our livelihoods depend on it. This is not just about safety. It's also about local jobs. We need to broaden the capacity of regional communities by investing in key communication infrastructure, ensuring our networks are up to scratch to attract families and professionals to the regions.

Our economic drivers, the foundations of regional livelihoods, have been hit hard. There is not a person, business or industry that hasn't been impacted by our black summer. Asking 80,000 tourists to leave the Bega Valley at the height of our tourist season is something I will never forget. And, because of the coronavirus, the impacts across Eden-Monaro are now deeper and they are hurting harder. An environmental crisis driven by climate change has rolled into a health crisis and now an economic crisis. We need our leaders to come together now more than ever. And the recommen