Mr Speaker, parliamentary colleagues, friends, family and everyone who is here today.
I would like to begin by acknowledging the Ngunnawal (Nun-ah-whal) and Ngambri (Nam-bree) people whose land we meet on today, and pay my respects to their elders past, present and emerging.
I would also like to acknowledge the Garigal people as the traditional custodians of the lands of Mackellar and thank them for protecting country and waters there since time immemorial.
I stand before you today – as the Independent Member for Mackellar.
To be here as the elected representative of the community that I love – is a deep honour and a privilege.
But I stand here not for myself, not for a party - but as a voice for you, the people of Mackellar.
I am just the fifth person to represent Mackellar since the seat was first established in 1949.
I’d like to thank my recent predecessors - Mr Jason Falinski and the Hon Bronwyn Bishop for their years of dedication and service to our community.
You may not know much about Mackellar or our vibrant, diverse, and hardworking community.
But the 150,000 people that call Mackellar home - know we live in a special place.
From the beautiful coastline that sweeps south from Palm Beach to Dee Why, to the bushland that lies adjacent to Terrey Hills, Duffys Forest and Belrose in the west – Mackellar is a stunning place.
For thousands of years before us, Mackellar was home to the Garigal people, and throughout Mackellar, you can still stumble upon the area’s Indigenous history through rock carvings, middens and paintings. Over 1,000 sites exist in the Northern Beaches today. An echo of a period long past but that must be remembered and honoured.
However, it’s not just the natural beauty, or the proud Indigenous history that makes Mackellar a special place – it is the people, and their spirit – the Spirit of Mackellar.
That spirit was embodied by our namesake Dorothea Mackellar – who’s beautiful poem ‘I love a Sunburnt Country’ – moves us still.- and whose daring and pioneering spirit led the way for women’s rights.
Mackellar is home to some of Australia’s brightest entrepreneurs, hard-working families, a vibrant arts scene and incredible sporting talent. Mackellar is also diverse.
Wonderfully, Mackellar has Australia’s largest Tibetan community.
It is this community spirit – this Spirit of Mackellar – that rose during the election campaign to say ‘enough’- we deserve to be heard; we want change.
It is this spirit I represent here in Parliament today.
The 2022 election was a watershed moment in our political history. The unprecedented wave of grassroots democracy has resulted in the largest ever Lower House crossbench. This Parliament now has more women representing their communities than ever.
Politics in this country may never be the same.
How did this wave of change happen - what was the ‘secret’? How did someone like me - a GP never previously active in politics - overcome more than a century of party dominated politics.
The key…the power, I believe, was simply listening.
Like my other crossbench colleagues, I listened to my community.
During the campaign, my team and I asked our community ‘What do you care about? What type of representative do you want? How can your MP help to improve your quality of life? How can we work together?’
The results of this new type of politics, of putting people first, and of listening first, were astounding.
I had people in their 80s and 90s tell me - it was the first time in their lives they had ever voted differently.
Young people came up to me in the street asking if they could hug me, letting me know how grateful they were that instead of being treated condescendingly, someone was finally listening to their concerns, and promising to act. Promising to put their future first.
In 2022, listening to our communities was our strength. It transformed our community and now I hope it can transform our future.
Many people ask me - how a GP got mixed up in politics?
Well before beginning this journey, I watched with awe as the independent movement swept across Indi then Warringah.
I was proud that professional women, with no history in politics, could take on the political establishment and win.
That sense of pride grew - when these women changed Australia for the better through their actions, their words and their integrity.
In 2019 - the election looming - I had my own lightning bolt moment.
It came in the form of 12-year-old Mathias – a friend of my son.
I have long been troubled about the impact that climate change will have on the health and wellbeing of children and future generations. This day, my son and his friends were asking me about climate change - and I responded - that they would one day need to act on it.
Mathias looked up at me earnestly and said – ‘Yes because you adults have failed us.’
His comment found its target. I listened - and decided to act.
As Cathy McGowan so frequently puts it - I realised that -“there was no cavalry coming over the hill to save us - there was only us.”
I had to do whatever I could to make a difference.
If not you then who? We had already been waiting for 2 decades for action on Climate Change.
I never imagined, however, that my decision to act that day would end up with me standing here…
My colleague Monique Ryan quoted Albus Dumbledore in her first speech – coming after her, I obviously need to try to outdo her somehow – so I’m going to quote Gandalf!
‘It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.’
I urge you too, to step onto the road and join me in this journey.
Stepping up as a candidate wasn’t easy for me. I’ve always been pretty horrified by public speaking.
I also gave up being a GP; a job that I loved. And I knew this role would take me away from my family.
But I am thankful that my past as an athlete trained me to step outside of my comfort zone. As I had thousands of times before in my earlier life… I put myself in the race.
Thankfully, I did not stand up alone. A group of strong, everyday women stood up alongside me - Anyo Geddes, Leonie Scarlett, Rebecca Clarke, Maree Nutt and Pattie Burton - women who had had their own lightning bolt moments and decided to act. Together we sat down with locals around the kitchen tables of Mackellar and in cafes and parks - and we listened.
So what did we learn?
Time and again, climate change was the first issue people talked about and were most desperate for our government to act on.
We have been warned repeatedly - by experts and scientists - that Climate Change is the greatest threat to our environment, our health, our security and our economy. And that opening any more coal or gas mines is inconsistent with the Paris Target and a liveable future.
My Question is - are we listening?
But without a doubt, Humans respond to stories not statistics.
So recently, I visited Lismore to hear people’s stories of the floods - from their own mouths. I can only thank the courageous young woman who recounted her story for me – telling me how, without warning - In the middle of the night - Cold dark, swirling waters rose rapidly within inches of their ceiling. Her hours long struggle to keep herself, her mother and 2 dogs alive. The warmth that started to spread through her body as hypothermia set in. The people who held up their children screaming for them to be rescued as an overloaded tinny took them to higher ground – her inability to work or simply take a bath, since.
The physical and mental scars from repeated extreme weather events, will last for years to come.
I ask you – are we listening?
I believe that - if we do listen, if we act and if we take the community with us – we can prevent the worst impacts of climate change and we can grasp the window of opportunity to lead the world in the clean technology revolution.
But we must act now.
As we listened over our cups of tea, we also heard people’s deep frustration at the all too frequent acts of corruption in our politics – The jobs for mates, the stacking of government bodies with political appointments, the pork-barrelling.
Australians want a return to decency, accountability, and integrity in our politics. They want to trust their representatives and have faith in their democracy. They want to have confidence that decisions are being made in their best interests - not vested interests.
As we witness the rise of autocracy around the world - we understand how fragile democracy can be.
Together - we must work to keep our democracy strong.
We must ensure that the institutions underpinning our democracy remain independent and well-funded.
We must ensure that political appointments to government agencies are independent, merit-based - and that this is enshrined in law.
Trust is the glue that holds society together. Without trust, people lose faith in institutions and disengage from their democracy.
Over the next 3 years – I will be working hard with my colleagues to build transparency and accountability into our political processes - so that our democracy will remain strong into the future.
The people of Mackellar also told us they want a strong economy and support for our local small business community.
During my time as a doctor, I learnt that a strong economy supporting well-paid jobs and stability is a key driver of good health.
A decent job gives people purpose and access to the fundamental determinants of good health - a roof over someone’s head is key to safety, security, and prosperity.
We also heard how difficult it is for many people to make ends meet right now.
And that despite Mackellar’s beauty, there are pockets of disadvantage.
Young people, young families and essential workers – many of whom are women – are being locked out of the housing market and are being forced to move out of the area.
Small business owners, teachers, nurses, and many others are reeling from the pandemic.
But we can build an economy where small business thrives. Where people - no matter their postcode or career choice - can prosper.
Where owning a home is not a distant possibility for the young.
We need to act on housing affordability.
We need to act on the cost of living pressures we are all facing.
Investing in renewables and making electric vehicles affordable for everyday Australians will mean lower energy bills and everyday living costs – for families and small businesses.
As the member for Mackellar, I will work to grow our economy; support local businesses and those who are doing it tough.
The people of Mackellar also told us they struggle to get the health and mental health care they need when they need it.
Before becoming a GP, I worked as an emergency doctor at Mona Vale and other hospitals. I know first-hand the importance of meeting our community’s healthcare needs.
Chronic disease, population growth, an ageing population, climate change and future pandemics will continue to strain our healthcare services.
Now more than ever, we must invest in our healthcare workforce and value their work.
The World Health Organization has warned that climate change is the greatest threat to human health - it will strike the foundations of our health and wellbeing.
In the Lismore region for example people are still living in tents, crops and livestock were lost - and local businesses destroyed. Housing security, food security, and a stable income - are the basis of health. We need to implement a national strategy for climate, health and wellbeing.
As your GP will tell you. Prevention is better than cure – acting now on the obesity epidemic will alleviate the burden of future chronic disease; Let’s invest in primary health care and prevention; let’s learn from this pandemic and plan for the next one.
Youth mental health is a pervasive concern for my community.
Tragically - the Mackellar community has grieved the loss of too many young lives through suicide. Every young life lost is utterly devastating. We must do better.
As a GP I know, just how difficult it is for young people and their families to access the mental health services and support they need.
Understanding the fear and extreme stress of parents trying their hardest to keep their children safe without adequate support - I would give them my mobile number- so they would always have someone to call.
We must prioritise expanding mental health services.
The neglect of our aged care system was also exposed by the pandemic. Reform is urgent. We need to ensure older Australians receive the respect and quality of care they deserve. So this week I look forward to supporting the government’s bill for 24-hour nursing care and a cap on administration costs.
With the benefit of my experience in medicine and public health. I will use my role here to prioritise building health and aged care systems that meet the challenges of our time.
I have spoken a lot today about the power of being listened to – its empowering and healing effect
However -- For over 200 years the voice of our First Nations People has not been heard.
They weren’t listened to when their land was taken away.
They weren’t listened to when their children were taken away.
They weren’t listened to when their ancestor bones were stolen.
They weren’t listened to when their culture was suppressed.
The Uluru statement from the heart, the first nations voice to parliament and the Makarrata – truth telling - are all generous invitations for us to listen and to heal.
After more than 200 years, I hope that Australia is finally ready to listen.
Lastly I want to say to the youth of Australia.
I am listening to you - and I have you back.
I do feel that as politicians we have a duty of care for you.
It is your future we are creating - so you deserve to be heard.
Please indulge me as I round off with a few thank you-s and tributes - you don’t often get such an opportunity as this.
I wanted to acknowledge my female forebears who provided me with so much inspiration throughout the campaign.
My grandmother, Dorothy Arnott, the second woman ever to graduate from Vet School at Sydney University.
My great aunt, Phyllis Arnott, the first woman in Australia to earn a commercial pilot’s licence.
My maternal grandmother, Joan Probert, who left school at age 16 to support the family after her father died.
My mother, Jenny, always strong and upright, who taught her 4 children the simple yet important life-lessons of right and wrong, and giving your all.
I thought of them often throughout the campaign and felt – if they could – I could. I’m so grateful that with bold spirits - they paved the way.
I am deeply thankful to my husband, and life partner, Adam Magro for always believing in me and supporting me.
To my wonderful children Freddie, Jasper and Claude – you know already that all of the sacrifice is for you – your beautiful daily encouragements during the campaign – ‘you’re doing a great job mum’ and ‘keep it up’ – did keep me going.
And to my mother and sister Simone and brothers Daniel and Edouard and brother-in-law, Dave – thank you also for urging me on and keeping me laughing. Dad also would have enjoyed the ride.
To the 1200-plus volunteers and team that campaigned for change - we often spoke about the Spirit of Mackellar during the campaign and wow didn’t it shine brightly during those months.
It showed in the glowing faces of children smiling up at me, the teens wanting selfies, the honks from tradies, the hugs, the music that was played and the songs that were written.
The dancing with signs on the sides of the road. The expressions of deep gratitude from people who told me they felt hopeful for the first time in years. -So many words of support - ‘feel the support not the pressure’ - I was told.
We kept it positive, we kept it polite; we planned and prepared. There was joy - and there was such wonderful comradery. So many deep and lasting friendships and connections were made.
It was an exhilarating ride, and it has only just begun.
- To Jacqui Scruby, Louise Hislop and Chris Williams – you gave up your jobs to join me and worked tirelessly by my side every day of the campaign – you had my back in every way. The words ‘Thank you’ do not seem enough
- Anthony Reed and Mark Connolly – you are pure genius – it was an honour and a pleasure to work with you.
- Thank you to the rest of campaign team – Leonie, Rebecca, Kay, Vivien, Seb, Cara, Amelia and Petra - The hours, the effort and the dedication you put in was nothing short of extraordinary - you helped make history and you made it fun.
- To Cathy McGowan, Kirsty Gold, Tina Jackson, Anna Josephson and Rob Purves, thank you for so generously sharing your knowledge and for providing unwavering support.
To the hundreds of donors in Mackellar, the more than 11000 donors from around the country to C200 - and the incredible C200 team yourselves. Thank you so much for putting your faith in me and in Mackellar - and for giving us a fighting chance, against all odds.
Thank you for dreaming big.
To my friend Anyo Geddes, you stepped out onto the road with me, and we have taken every step on this journey together. Without you, none of us would be here today. You are amazing.
Finally, to the people of Mackellar: Know I am here on your behalf.
I will work hard every day to ensure that the spirit of Mackellar burns brightly here in this chamber, and that your voices and values are heard and respected - so that your vision for a brighter future can be realised.
Thank YOU for giving Mackellar back OUR voice.