Maiden Speech

Maiden Speech Main Image

Maiden Speech


I acknowledge the traditional owners of the land upon which we gather today, the Ngunnawal and Ngambri people, and also those in my electorate of Robertson, the Darkinjung people. I pay my respects to all elders past, all elders present and all elders emerging. What we must recognise is that the land upon which we work, the land upon which we love and the land upon which we live always was and always will be Aboriginal land. As a proud Wiradjuri man, living on Darkinyung country, to be here today—to have the honour and privilege of speaking in this place, representing my community—is the result of not just an electoral victory but the sacrifice, the courage and the commitment of those that have come before. We have an essential duty to listen to our elders, to hear them and to understand them, so that our light might shine brighter today than it did yesterday. This begins by implementing the Uluru Statement from the Heart in full.

I will start by thanking the hardworking and welcoming people that are the constituents of Robertson. You are the reason that I stand here today, and it is an honour and a privilege to represent you. You are the reason that I will fight with all I have for the Central Coast. From the mighty peninsula, where I grew up in Umina, to the Gosford CBD, to the leafy suburbs of Empire Bay and Kincumber, to the waters of Davistown and Saratoga, over to Narara and Niagara Park in the north, to the sparkling beaches of Copacabana, Avoca, Terrigal and MacMasters, to Kariong on top of the hill and to our more rural areas of Mangrove Mountain and Spencer, this is our place. To our world-class volunteers on the Central Coast—the rural fire service, state emergency service, surf lifesavers and all those that help our community in times of need—your dedication goes above and beyond, and we thank you.

The campaign for Robertson was extraordinary. It was a grassroots movement centred around what matters—the health and wellbeing of others, the protection of our natural world and the accountability of those elected to govern. It was inspiring to see so many people, both in the party and throughout our community, come together to bring about much-needed change. It was and is a time for unity for the Central Coast, where every voice matters.

There were some exceptional people that must be mentioned today. Firstly, my family. To my beautiful partner Shaylee: you inspire me every day to be a better person and a better doctor. Your empathy and compassion have ensured that our journey here has been one of inclusivity and equality. With you by my side, everything is possible and nothing is unachievable.

My father, Bryan Reid, raised in the council flats of Newtown, a nurse, a paramedic and now a small business owner, recognised the importance of education to overcome barriers. His father, Ronald Reid, who is no longer with us, and my beautiful nan, Aunty Robyn Reid, raised a giant of the Central Coast. My mother, Leanne Reid, a successful small business owner, is the most generous person you will ever meet and is the embodiment of selflessness. She was raised lovingly by her single mother, Elaine Rowan, who is watching on from her home in Woy Woy tonight.

Mum and Dad, I still remember you walking me to Umina Beach Public School. I still remember you being there when I finished school at Central Coast Grammar. I still remember looking out at the crowd at the University of Newcastle and seeing you there when I became a doctor. There has never been a time in my life when you have not been there for me. When I was growing up, you taught me the importance of people. You showed me and continue to show me how important it is to not leave people behind and to make sure that no-one—no-one—is held back. To my little sister Grace, a powerful, strong Indigenous woman capable of changing the world: Grace, you've always had a strong sense of what is right and what is wrong, and it is because of that you have always made sure that I have remained true and that I have remained focused on why I'm standing here today—people.

To Jo Lloyd, one of the greatest campaign managers anyone could ever ask for, your commitment and your loyalty go above and beyond, and the people of Robertson and myself are so fortunate to have you on our side. To Jesse Corda, from the days we spent doorknocking in the rain, in the blistering heat and sometimes in both, to the thousands of phone calls we made in our tiny campaign office—we did it. Thanks, mate. And to my role models in the Labor community: Prime Minister Anthony Albanese; ministers Jason Clare, Chris Bowen and Ed Husic; assistant minister Emma McBride; Senator Deborah O'Neill and state member for Gosford Liesl Tesch, your support and guidance throughout the campaign have been absolutely invaluable, and I will be forever grateful.

Given we had the backing of such a strong community-led campaign, including our wonderful branches, it would be impossible for me to single out individuals, but you know who you are. The community gave so much to our campaign, and I owe each and every one of you an incredible thanks. To all those sitting in the gallery, and those watching on from home, thank you for not only making this journey with me, but for every moment of your unwavering support. I want to recognise the previous member for Robertson for her commitment to our community, and I wish her and her family well for the future.

Health is not simply a state of being free from illness or injury. Health is the strength of a society and a community. Health is a community having access to affordable and equitable care and services. Health is having the freedom to go about our daily lives with the reassurance that those elected to represent us are held to account. Health is having a strong, clean, protected and sustainable environment. Health is having a sense of belonging through cultural acceptance and representation. Health is having the ability to participate in the workforce all while knowing your children are being cared for and educated to the absolute highest standard. Health is having a safe and secure place to call home.

The health of our nation and, indeed, the Central Coast is front and centre to what we must achieve. I am so honoured to be part of a government that will change lives for the better. I have been particularly fortunate to serve my community through our health service, in particular, in our emergency departments. To work alongside great doctors like Dr Matthew Ingram, Dr Matthew Knox and Dr Liam Clifford and provide care for our most vulnerable truly is a privilege.

Our hospitals are a place where it does not matter who you are, where you come from, or the circumstances leading to your presentation. You will be cared for and you will be cared for for free due to the hard-fought Labor initiative that saw a little, green card come into the lives of all Australians. A little, green card with the word that represents complete and universal access—Medicare. A place where the lights are always on. A place where you'll be met by some of the world's most highly trained nurses, doctors and support staff. A place where people do not expect to be and it often is the worst day in someone's life.

The shift I will now describe was not that dissimilar to many others that had come before it. But it was the turning point and why I stand before you today. I stand removing my PPE and washing my hands after seeing a patient, and then I hear the sound of the bat phone, a high-pitched shrill piercing the already noisy environment. The sound of that phone, the pre-arrival notification of a critically unwell patient, commands the attention of everyone in the room.

Over the loudspeaker—'bat call'. And so it begins. The team assembles in the resus bay and roles are assigned: airway, breathing, circulation, drugs. We stand ready in full PPE to try and shield us from COVID-19, with a face mask essentially suctioned to our faces, eye protection and a face shield, and a long, splash-resistant gown with gloves. You feel the sweat running down your face and your neck, but you have no time to sit and no time to rest. The room must be prepared for the incoming patient.

And then you hear it. You hear the sirens. The ambulance drives up to the resus bay, having to slow down because of the many other ambulances that are ramped and filled with unwell patients. The doors to the resus bay open, and paramedics are doing chest compressions and rescue breaths on the 55-year-old male that was found unresponsive on the floor of his home by his wife and young children.

A cardiac arrest protocol begins in order to save the man's life. In the time that this happens, his wife arrives and is understandably distraught. Just under 20 metres away, in the waiting room, more patients present within minutes of each other—one with a stroke, another with a heart attack and many who are unable to afford or unable to see a GP in a timely manner. This is on top of a waiting room and a subacute area that only have standing room remaining and an acute section without any beds. The corridors of that waiting room are filled not only with medically unwell patients but also with those fleeing domestic violence, those at risk of homelessness and those who just have nowhere else to go.

Back in resus, return of spontaneous circulation has occurred, and his heart is now beating properly again. This patient needs to be transferred to the intensive care unit for critical care, but there are no beds. The stroke and the heart attack need immediate attention, but there are no beds—no beds and not enough staff.

While all of this is occurring, others come through the door: the five-month-old child with a femoral fracture as a result of domestic violence; the 17-year-old in crisis due to a deterioration of their mental health; and the 80-year-old presenting unwell—someone's mother—and yours will be the last hand they ever hold. The people that come through the door on their feet, in a chair or in the arms of a loved one all know one thing: that we will be there for them.

The emergency department, however, can surprise you. It can be a place of love and a place of new life: the healthy baby boy born in the resus bay; that Saturday sporting injury that, after an X-ray, turned out not to be a fracture; and the child presenting in the middle of the night as unwell, who just needed an ice block, some medicine and lots of hugs from mum and dad.

Shifts like this formed a turning point for me. I stand before you today not because I no longer want to be a doctor—I love being a doctor, and I will always love being a doctor—but because, by undertaking this most important role, my skills and my experience will no longer be limited to the bedside. At the bedside, I have the opportunity to help one family at a time. Here, in this place, I have the opportunity to be part of something that can change the lives of everyone in our community for the better. I have the opportunity to use my experiences to bring about informed systemic change.

When people come through the doors of the hospital, they put their absolute trust in those caring for them. They know that you will do your absolute best for them against all odds. The decisions that you make will make a difference in their life and for their life. And that is what I want to help bring to this place. The public must be able to trust us. We have been given an incredible honour of representing our communities, and the people need to know, and need the guarantee, that they can trust us to do the right thing.

I will fight day and night to ensure that those in power—every person in this place, including myself—are held to account, because the health of our nation depends on it. A healthy democracy has at its core accountability, and I see it as my responsibility—in fact, our responsibility—to ensure that we safeguard and protect it for future generations.

Our government developing the nation's first independent anti-corruption commission is one of the missing pieces of the puzzle in restoring the community's faith and trust in their elected representatives. Our future generations should be at the heart of every decision we make. Without them, we are nothing, and this great Australian story ceases to exist. Therefore, we must provide them with an environment, with a planet where they can continue to grow, to love and to become whoever they want to be.

In the afternoon, with the sun setting and an orange glow filling the sky, if you look out from Umina Beach, you will see a small island, Lion Island, and on it a colony of penguins. Surrounding it and the remaining coast are rolling waves and rolling ocean teeming with marine life. It is truly something beautiful to behold.

The scene I describe is not that dissimilar to many parts of Australia, although the peninsula is truly one of the greatest places on the face of this earth, but it places front and centre what we must do—protect, preserve and nurture. I want to see a world where our policy brings people and business into the future and where Australia becomes an environmental and climate superpower benefiting us all. To improve the health of our climate and environment is what my father would describe as a generational project. We must leave things better and stronger for future generations—for our family.

Many families across this country and across my electorate, own and operate small businesses, which are the backbone of this nation. To have a small business is not to just have holidays when you want or to have an easy life, like some people believe. It is to risk everything because you want to aspire to something better, to provide for your family, and to have the capacity and ability to provide local jobs for local people. That is small business, and Labor supports it.

For myself, family is everything, as is my community. Part of that story is my nan, Aunty Robyn Reid, an incredible Aboriginal elder and leader. Nan has spent every waking moment being part of and supporting the local Aboriginal community on the Central Coast, and I am so proud to be a part of that. One of seven children, she spent her childhood in what was inhumanely branded 'the camps'. Nan grew up where severe abuse and poverty were the norm. The threat of not sleeping or of not living somewhere safe and secure was real. The threat of not eating was real. But she was able to escape this cycle with social housing—in Newtown, in fact.

The provision of social housing, which my nan refers to, to this day, as a blessing, was a pivotal opportunity in her life—an opportunity that gave her safety, security and support to strive for something even bigger. With her perseverance and incredible resilience, she was able to go on to be the first person in her family to own her own home.

My nan loves being able to use her story to help support and inspire members of our local Aboriginal community and let them know that, if they are struggling, they have the whole community behind them supporting them. I am so proud of my Aboriginal heritage and couldn't be prouder of the incredible role that my nan plays in our local community as a strong female Indigenous elder.

Every person deserves the right to have a secure roof over their head, and I will endeavour to ensure that those sitting in the emergency department waiting room, those on our streets and those at risk of homelessness have just that. A nation's health depends on its ability to care for its most vulnerable, and Labor's housing vision is part of the therapy that's needed to resuscitate our social and affordable housing right across the country.

Our movement, the Labor movement, has always been one of opportunity and access. Whether it be the health of our loved ones, the education of our people, the acknowledgement of the past, housing our most vulnerable, making sure employment becomes more secure, or the expansion and modernisation of our economy, our movement is one that has and will continue to improve the lives of all Australians.

These are the pillars of the Labor Party, and they are the foundations of our society and they are who I am. As your member for Robertson, I will work to protect our most vulnerable, to grow our region and to unite our community, because together we are healthier, together we are better, and together we are stronger.