Thank you Madame speaker.
I would like to acknowledge the Traditional Owners of country that we meet on today, the Ngunnawal people and recognise their continuing connection to land, waters and culture. These lands were stolen and sovereignty was never ceded. I also pay my respects to Elders past, present and emerging.
Once again, and I am sure it wont be for the last time, I have been called for the hard act of speaking after my dear friend Mr Davis. I know of no other person who is more passionate for his community of Tuggeranong. And while he may be wrong, misguided, and delusional, as Tuggeranong could never compare to the Green pastures of Gungahlin, I respect and love him for his passion. And I thank the house for the indulgence of leave, where I can wax lyrical about gods country, aka Gungahlin, and he is unable interrupt me.
Just as a side note to all the new members who have delivered their speeches: did you not realise the opportunity you had, unlimited time to speak, every word protected by Parliamentary privilege, and fellow members restrained from intervening. It does not, and will not, get any better than that.
I would love nothing better right now than to take off my jacket, remove this noose from around my neck, roll up my sleeves, take a swig of coffee, and start pace the floor as I talk. Alas it is not to be. To those behind me I am sorry that I am talking with my back to you right now. But I am sure some of you might even think it is my best side.
In researching what to say during an inaugural speech you become aware of a pattern or expectation that is placed upon the member. Telling a story of self, of policy or politics that are important to one’s self. A sort of who am I, from whence do I come and where am I headed.
I had no ambition to join politics until 5 years ago. Sure as a teenager I aspired to become a benevolent dictator of a small coastal town. I can only claim to achieving one out of three. But my journey to the assembly was a circuitous one. Albeit on reflection I see a number of life challenges that have led me to this point.
- From the shy little boy who did not make friends easily, who preferred to spend a good part of his childhood in a Queensland creek; battling lantana, climbing fallen logs, getting muddy and playing in the flood waters. It was nature that has always struck me, given me a sense of peace and harmony.
- In my twenties I faltered when faced with climate change. It was too big, too confronting for me. I turned away my face, for which I am sorry. I do not plan to be found wanting a second time.
- Like many Canberrans I moved here to work for the public service. I made the active choice to live here, to settle down and raise a family. To serve the Australian community in a quiet humble way.
- The still birth of our son, Connor Jack Braddock; taught me how bad things can happen to good people. Providing me with a greater understanding of how many people carry their own unique tragedies, challenges, and sadness within their hearts.
- I am a carer to my wife who has mental and physical disabilities, and I have had my own experiences with depression. I get the silent battles that happen inside people’s heads. I can categorically state: “you are not alone”.
- Becoming a father to twins not only introduced me to extreme sleep deprivation, it opened my eyes to how we are mere temporary caretakers of our environs. And that in time we pass on the baton of responsibility to our children.
- Being a father to a child with additional needs is an enormous ongoing parenting challenge. It was a marked lesson in humility, when I first realised that my then 3 year old daughter is a better negotiator than I am.
So many in our community are doing the best they can, in the circumstances in which they find themselves, with the tools at their disposal. I am not blind to the unscrupulous that move amongst us, but they are the few as opposed to the many. So in my view it is the role of Government to provide the support and tools to enable people’s best, to be better.
And so to everyone in the community of Yerrabi, whether you are struggling or not, I state that: “I am here to serve you”.
30 years ago Gungahlin was a sheep paddock, now it is home to 81,000 people. This brings great vibrancy and potential. Gungahlin is in the process of defining itself, stories not yet written, it is not weighed down by traditions and expectations. We do however need to build our confidence in our own identity. Embrace who we are and push back against those who look down on our home. Ms Castley yesterday proudly owned the term of being a “Charnwood chic”, today I will claim being a “Bonner boy”.
Be proud of our still building suburbs, home to so many people new to Canberra, proud of our green spaces, revel in the finest playgrounds, embrace the many cultures coming together, and the opportunities that abound in such a setting.
I love how diverse Yerrabi is. There are 38 different nationalities represented at my children’s school. It also reminds me that as a group of representatives we need to ensure that Canberra’s multicultural community have their voices effectively brought into this assembly. I will make this a personal priority of mine.
We also have so many opportunities in Gungahlin to leverage the light rail. Integrating walking and cycling so as to reduce our car dependency. This is key to creating a healthier, more liveable, and convenient city. Duplicating roads is akin to loosening your belt in an attempt to cure obesity. As a middle aged man with a spreading waist, I can assure you that is not a winning strategy.
As the final packages of land in Gungahlin start to build out, their importance increases. It is the gaps in the painting that can bring the greatest potential to a piece of art. The process of filling those remaining gaps will be of great interest to me. The community has already expressed its views on this in so many ways, in Yoursay surveys, via the Gungahlin Community Council, of which I had the privilege of been on the executive, and to me directly during multiple campaigns.
They have called for the prioritisation of green and community spaces, diverse range of services, and opportunities for employment, so as to enable Gungahlin to maximise its potential as a community in which to live, work and play. I will diligently represent the views of Yerrabi in this chamber.
During the campaign I stated very clearly that I would be an alternative voice for Yerrabi. And that is exactly what I will do in this assembly.
- I am here to serve my local community. To represent their views authentically, be frank and honest in all dealings, take long term views, develop nuanced approaches based on evidence, call out what needs to be called out, and work constructively with all parts of the community.
- And having actively made the choice to live here, I am here to serve. With quiet humility, dignity, respect, and hard work; so as to carve out a future for all of us.
- I am not here to play politics. I will work with anyone here who wants to have a constructive conversation. With self-deprecating humour, willingness to listen, and understated style, I will work to serve.
For those who wish to work with me, I must admit, despite many roles over the course of my professional life, I still possess an engineer’s brain. The practical, tangible, on the ground, outcomes, to create a better future for our community, will resonate with this simple MLA.
To those in the chamber today I apologise in advance, but I will challenge the status quo, the conventions, the way we have always done things. I wont change my behaviour, but I feel better for having warned you and apologised in advance. Because I always have that urge to figure out a better way of doing things.
In a final nod to tradition I would like to pay tribute to the family, friends, and fellow Green travellers who helped me get to this esteemed place.
- To my wife Deb, who for the past five years, has had to endure this crazy dream of mine. I still recall that night when I had to come clean. Explaining to an exhausted mother of two-year-old twins; why I had just joined The Greens, because I wanted to run as a candidate, in order to work here in the legislative assembly, to help save the world. Deb thank you for not leaving me that night
- To everyone in my family who helped me become who I am and get here today I say thankyou. In particular my mother who gave me the critical nudges needed whenever I hesitated in this endeavour.
- To my daughters who are not here today, because lets face it they don’t listen to daddy at the best of times, let alone for 10-20 minutes. You have made many sacrifices as I undertook “Greens work”, I hope to make those sacrifices worthwhile.
- To so many within the Greens, who pulled together as one awesome team. To mention you all would take too long, but from the bottom of my heart thankyou.
But now I would like to depart from tradition and finish with a call to action. Because as I stand before you, I am being judged. Every time I sit in this chamber, I will be judged. For the entirety of time that I serve as the member for Yerrabi, I will be judged.
- I will be judged by myself. In those dark moments of the soul when I stand in front of a mirror.
- I will be judged by history – which will in the fullness of time come to a verdict on what I did and, perhaps more importantly, what I did not do.
- I will be judged by the voters of Yerrabi – each of them my ultimate boss who will have their say in 2024
- But the harshest judges of all will be my own children - Once they become aware of the state of our climate. I will need to look them in the eye and be answerable to them.
If you want to know what is driving me, it is this.
If you think I will be alone in the dock, you are very much mistaken. We will all be judged together.
Because it is the future of my children, of all children, that is at stake. Normal doesn’t cut it any more. We congratulate ourselves on 100% renewable electricity. Its not enough. Natural disasters, bushfire, smoke, and pandemic are our new normal. This last decade, the hottest on record, will be the coolest decade for the remainder of the century.
I’m not worried for the sake of our planet. This lump of rock will go on, life in some form will continue. Its humanity that I worry about. It’s our own survival.
We need to act fast, act with determination, act with courage, and with boldness. We need to collaborate. We cant be complacent, we have to move faster and harder. And I exhort all here today to take up this challenge.
I want to pass on a better future for our next generation. And so my promise to this assembly, to my children, and to all of our children is I will single-mindedly apply myself to this issue every day that I have the privilege to serve here.
Because the future is not fixed. We have opportunity here to craft something better. And we need to do just that.
Madame Speaker, I draw to a close. Thank you.