PMB: Australia Day Honours

13 February 2017

I rise today to add my voice in recognition to those wonderful Australians on the 2017 Australia Day Honours List. What a great honour it is to be recognised in this way for service to your community. And what a great service to community these honoured Australians do, indeed, make. Today, I want to make mention of three men in my electorate of Paterson, who were recognised with the Medal of the Order of Australia—all from the Port Stephens area.

The first is Colin Edwards of Nelson Bay who was recognised for his service to veterans and their families. Colin is a life member of the Returned and Services League of Australia and has served the Nelson Bay sub-branch since 2001. He was also a director of the Nelson Bay Diggers from 2002 to 2006 and, again, in 2008 and 2009. Since 2006, Mr Edwards has also been a pensions advocate for the Commonwealth Department of Veterans' Affairs. Mr Edwards has been a Justice of the Peace since 2005, was a member of the Rotary Club of Nelson Bay from 2001 to 2013 and a member of Probus since 2013.

Next, Len Graff of Nelson Bay earned his Order of Australia medal for service to sports administration and to the community. His service includes being the treasurer of the Regional Academies of Sport of New South Wales since 2011, and the Western Region Academy of Sport delegate since 2008. Mr Graff was Western Region Academy of Sport director from 1994 to 2004 and has been a life member since 2004. In addition, Mr Graff was a board member of Harness Racing New South Wales from 1994 to 1999 and a Harness Racing New South Wales representative. He was also a member of the New South Wales TAB.

Ron Swan of Nelson Bay has been awarded an Order of Australia medal for his service to local government and the community of Port Stephens. Mr Swan was the mayor of Port Stephens from 2006 to 2008, deputy mayor from 2004 to 2006 and a councillor from 1999 to 2008. As part of his service to the community, he founded the Clans on the Coast Celtic Festival in 2008 and his medal also recognises his Port Stephens Celtic Association presidency. Mr Swan has also raised funds for cancer research, the Red Cross, the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service, Nelson Bay Polyclinic and the Police Citizens Youth Club. Congratulations to Colin Edwards, Len Grath and Ron Swan on these Australia Day honours, and thank you for your service to our community.

I would also like to take this opportunity to recognise a group of people in my electorate who were on standby on the weekend, during the catastrophic bushfire threat: those people are our incredibly dedicated and courageous firefighters. Miraculously, the Hunter Region was spared , but other parts of the country were not so lucky. My family was driving home from Orange in the firestorm yesterday, and said it looked like nothing they had ever seen. My thoughts and prayers are with those communities who are in harm's way at the moment. Although we were lucky back home this weekend, that was not the case in January, when local firefighters battled three infernos in two weeks very near my home town of Kurri Kurri and, incredibly, managed to protect all but a few outbuildings. Hundreds of Rural Fire Service volunteers, NSW Fire and Rescue crews, and National Parks and Wildlife teams battled blazes, on days when the mercury soared well above 40 and hot winds fanned the flames. My mother and sister were evacuated from their homes in Kurri Kurri to safer ground—my place at Buchanan was their refuge until the danger passed. This was too close for comfort for our community, especially when we learned that these fires, in all likelihood, had been deliberately lit.

I want to personally thank the hardworking and dedicated fire crews and other emergency service personnel who fought those fires, on the ground and from the air, to keep us safe on those fierce, fiery days. That gratitude extends to all of the emergency service personnel who are at raging firefronts as we speak—it is just incredible. I know our community is immensely grateful to you. The weather has been incredibly hot, with records broken—it was 47.8 degrees in some parts of the valley over the weekend. I went to Orange, it was 40 degrees there. I have never seen it so hot, even in a place like Orange—which is normally on the cooler side. But again, my thanks extend to those members of our community.