Main Committee - Constituency Statements - McLean Ms Coral

Mr HUSIC (Chifley) (4:19 PM) —I would like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the Canberra area, the Ngunawal and Ngambri people, and pay my respects to the elders past and present. On 13 February I attended a function in the Chifley electorate to commemorate the third anniversary of the apology to the stolen generations. Chifley has one of the largest urban Aboriginal populations in the country. Many Aboriginal people in my electorate are either members of the stolen generation or their direct descendants. The apology made by former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd was an enormously healing moment for many in Chifley, and I am delighted that they continue to commemorate this historic occasion.

The function was organised by the Mount Druitt and District Reconciliation Group, originally known as the Chifley Reconciliation Group. They have been active in the Chifley electorate for the past 14 years, and over that time have organised an annual reconciliation walk and gathering in Mount Druitt. I would like to express my gratitude to their executive—Marguerite Tobin, President; Pat Smith, Secretary; Maureen Berger, Vice President; and Debra Robertson, Treasurer—for their continued work towards reconciliation.

Sadly we learned last Monday of the passing of Coral McLean who, along with Father Paul Hanna, Mavis Halverson, Ray Leslie, Wes Marne, Gloria Matthews and Rita Wright, began the work of this group all those years ago. The former member for Chifley, Roger Price, was also part of that group and has in the past spoken fondly in the House of Coral McLean and the contribution she made to the people of Holy Family at Emerton. Yesterday my colleague the member for Greenway eloquently detailed Coral’s many contributions to community life in the Mount Druitt area. She referred to the comments of Coral’s long-time friend and co-contributor in a range of crucial community activities, Father Paul Hanna, who figures Coral gave over 100,000 hours of her time to community service—just a phenomenal act of generosity towards a grateful community.

We sometimes take for granted the fact that literacy is the key to our effective participation in day-to-day life. Coral knew this to be a truism. It is what drove her to be involved in literacy and education courses at the Holy Family Education Centre. She saw the power of education to help put people back on a better path than the one they were travelling upon. Additionally, she worked hard to ensure that those without their own funds were not without a voice in our legal system. She, with others like Merleen Millson, devoted their energies to the establishment of the Mount Druitt and Area Community Legal Centre. Her success rested on treating everyone with respect and love, and a real care for the community. She touched the lives of so many because ultimately she was true to them and herself.

I last saw her at the 2010 reconciliation walk, her comforting smile masking a deep battle with cancer. While she fought bravely for such a long time, in the end that contest was too great to overcome. I am told today’s service at the Central Coast of New South Wales was a beautiful one conducted by family and the community. It was a packed service that, as someone said, they would likely never see repeated in their lifetime. While today she is committed to the earth, her legacy must be celebrated, remembered and built upon. I would like to express my deepest sympathy to the family and friends of Coral McLean. (Time expired)

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Ed Husic MP
Federal Labor Member for Chifley

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