What a privilege to be back in Parliament. I started my inaugural speech in this House using a phrase something akin to “brimming with pride and enthusiasm”. I start this next session of the sittings of this Parliament with the same sentiments—brimming with pride and enthusiasm. The recent break gave me the opportunity to get out and about and meet and spend time with my constituents, doing with them the things that they regard as so important to their lives. How fantastic and humbling it was. Three events in particular, which I will relate to the House in a moment, gave me cause to be humble about what is happening in my community and how brilliant our communities are.
In my time away from this place I had three unique opportunities. The first involved the Rotary Club of Cessnock Wine Country holding of its changeover dinner and annual thankyou night. This Rotary club is constituted by just seven people, but without fail they turn up to meetings—except in extraordinary circumstances—lest they should wear the criticism of their colleagues. They manage to raise more than $7,000 per person annually. They have been doing this for more than a decade.
The recipient of their funds is the Children’s Medical Research Institute. The institute’s association with Cessnock began 30 years ago. For 20 years a lady by the name of Olive Drayton—who is part of the family associated with Drayton’s Family Wines—solely manned the ship and raised funds for the institute before handing the job over to the Rotary Club of Cessnock Wine Country because age was catching up with her. The Rotary Club continues her great legacy. I am humbled by and pleased to acknowledge the longstanding efforts of the members of this association.
The second dinner I attended—and I do not want to be labelled with the moniker Sir Lunchalot—was the Cessnock Lions Club Changeover Dinner. On this occasion I was fortunate to meet more hardworking people who are dedicated to their community. They have a long history and go about their work with pride under the banner of fellowship. Their work includes fundraising efforts for local, national and global conditions of childhood cancer—a topic dear to my heart—and issues of childhood sight, hearing and mobility. They support an amazing array of worthwhile and important causes. They conduct their business with humour, primarily through a member whose title is the Lion Tamer. Those who have not attended a Lions Club function should go to listen to the Lion Tamer at work. The Lion Tamer’s role is to make all sorts of assertions—ridiculous, large and small, true and false—about other Lions members and accuse them of all sorts of things in a humorous way. The Lion Tamer then finds the accused guilty of the charges and orders them to pay money into the fine jar.On this occasion I wish to contribute and make the job of the Lion Tamer a little bit easier by naming two members. First, I refer to media starlet Peter Torenbeek. Peter has been in the media for many and varied reasons and on each occasion he has been ordered to pay a fine. Peter recently appeared on the front cover of the White Pages and Yellow Pages for the Cessnock community, for which he also had to pay a fine. On that occasion it was in relation to another of his contributions to the community in his role as President of the local Men’s Shed. My naming him in the House today undoubtedly will result in his having to pay another fine. Jason Harrington, the outgoing president of Cessnock Lions, also will have to pay a fine. Jason and I have been friends for 20 years. He is a hardworking man, a former local chemist and a former soccer, sorry, football player. He now works with his wife and children to improve the condition and treatment of children with autism.The third function I attended was the Cessnock Women’s View Club forty-sixth annual dinner, which also commemorated the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day. The guest speaker was a newsreader with NBN News for the Hunter, North Coast and Central Coast who has a child with autism spectrum disorder. She spoke at length about her time in the media not only as a journalist but also as a mother of a child with autism. The incidence of autism seems to be increasing and more must be done to address it. I am pleased to acknowledge these magnificent people in my community.