Valedictory Statement: Ms Hartland | Sue Pennicuik

Valedictory Statement: Ms Hartland

Thursday, February 8, 2018 - 10:45am
Sue Pennicuik

Ms PENNICUIK (Southern Metropolitan) — May I begin by thanking Mr Jennings and Ms Wooldridge for their very kind words in response to Colleen's speech. Both of you said a lot of things that I was probably going to say, and I think I heard you both speak from your heart about your feelings about Colleen as a person and as an MP, and on behalf of my colleagues and on behalf of myself and Colleen I thank you for your remarks. I have made some notes because it is the end of an era — the end of an era and the beginning and even continuation of another era — and I just do not want to forget some of the things I want to say.

Today we farewell Colleen Hartland from the Parliament of Victoria after 11 years as an MP and also as a staff member in a former life, as we have heard. It is for us a momentous day. I first met Colleen in 1991 after the Coode Island explosion and fire, and in the ensuing years we worked on bodies together such as the National Toxics Network and the National Pollutant Inventory fighting the chemical industry and the lax government regulation of it.

Colleen lived in the west and I lived in the south, but we became friends through our work on those issues and we started to see each other socially as well. I joined the Greens in 1996 and Colleen joined in 2001, as she said as a result of the Tampa incident, so she calls herself a Tampa Green — bearing in mind, of course, that Colleen was at the first meeting of the Greens in 1992 but did not actually join until 2001. We have worked very closely since then, since being members of the Greens on committees and working groups of the Greens and as fellow MPs since 2006. Colleen was also one of our first Greens councillors elected, to Sheoak Ward in the Maribyrnong City Council from 2003 to 2005, along with now Senator Janet Rice.

Colleen was one of the very first Greens elected to the Parliament, along with Greg Barber and me. For eight years we were a very tight team, with a huge vision, huge expectations and huge workloads. It was an extraordinary and special time. It took weeks in 2006 for the recount, with Colleen winning by a whisker, as she mentioned in her speech. I was so exhausted; we were all so exhausted. Colleen mentioned how she went home and ate ice cream. I went home and went to bed, and I turned on the news in the early morning to hear that Colleen had been elected, and I leapt out of bed and rang her. The next election brought a greater margin, but the result was still very close, and then she won again in 2014, when we grew from three to seven MPs, and now we are eight with the election of Lidia Thorpe.

The election of Colleen in Western Metropolitan Region is down to the work of the Greens in that area and the Greens generally, but also to the strength of Colleen's personal vote and personal standing in the western suburbs due to the years of hard work on the Coode Island issue and myriad other issues, including drug reform as a councillor and a community activist, so Colleen was talking about drug reform for a long time. She has mentioned many times in this Parliament how her experiences in her local area drove her to call for drug reform. I was just mentioning before we came in here that in fact we have just achieved a supervised injecting room in Richmond, and it was in fact in the first week that we were elected to Parliament that Colleen mentioned the need for a supervised injecting room.

Most of all, that is what Colleen is — a community activist and a community campaigner and, I think everyone would agree, one of the most effective activists and campaigners that I have ever met and I am sure any of you have ever met or will ever meet. Colleen cares deeply and passionately about her community, and she works hard for them. She goes in to bat for them.

Colleen is courageous, compassionate and down-to-earth. She is persistent, stubborn and some could even say dogged. She does not give up; she does not back down. She backs her community, her family, her friends and colleagues. She fights for them and for what is right, and her community backs her back. Over the years she has sometimes come to me for advice. She sometimes listens to my advice. She does not always follow it.

Colleen is known for her quick temper, and she has told me that I am one of the few people who can tell to sit down and stop it when her temper gets the better of her. But of course those are the attributes that have seen her achieve so much as a community campaigner and a member in this place. Colleen and I have spent hours and hours over the years talking about how to make the world a better place in big and small ways, how to improve politics and democracy and people's lives. Colleen also has a very soft spot, and I have seen her in tears over the personal circumstances of someone in her community, and then she would again get spurred on to help them.

Others have mentioned — and Colleen has mentioned some herself — Colleen's many achievements over the last 11 years. I am so glad that she was able to be here in the Parliament at the end of last year to see the passing of the dying with dignity laws, because really those laws have Colleen's name on them. She campaigned for them relentlessly over the last 11 years, and I was so glad that Colleen could be here to see them come into law in Victoria. It is such a good thing for the people of Victoria.

Like all of us, Colleen has always had a wonderful team of staff and volunteers and Greens members and supporters, without whom neither she nor any of us could do our work, and it is for them and for the people and the planet that we do it. I know I speak on behalf of all of them and her fellow Greens MPs — many of us sitting here, others in other parliaments, some sitting in the gallery and others who will be listening and watching online. I join with all of them in thanking Colleen for her amazing work as an MP and a community campaigner. She can be very proud, as we are, of her achievements. I know she will continue to work for the community as she has admitted she just cannot help herself.

It will not be the same without Colleen in here. I am sure everyone agrees with that. I and we will miss her, and I wish her well in whatever she does next, where she will no doubt make her mark as she clearly has in this place.

Honourable members — Hear, hear!