Hon Fiona Richardson MP

Written on the 5 September 2017

5 September 2017

COUNCIL 

Hon Fiona Richardson MP 

Condolence Motion

GEORGIE CROZIER (LIB - Southern Metropolitan)

 

I also rise in support of the government's motion on the Honourable Fiona Richardson.

To Fiona's family, Stephen, Marcus and Catherine, to her mother and brothers and indeed to her entire family, I extend my condolences to you all at this very sad time.

Much has already been said about Fiona Richardson about her upbringing, her education, her forging her way into politics and her many achievements, in particular with the work she has done in the area of family violence but I would like to speak to the motion by providing a few of my reflections of Fiona. I really only got to know Fiona following her appointment as the first Minister for the Prevention of Family Violence and I as the shadow minister in this area. I cannot say I really knew Fiona in the previous Parliament, as I was in this house and had different responsibilities. Of course I did not know her in the same way as her colleagues, her staff and those she worked very closely with, but our relationship I believe was a good and mutually respectful one. It was one where I could speak or text with her freely and we did. Fiona would on occasion text or speak with me to inform me of some announcement or initiative that she was leading, so I was very appreciative when Fiona reached out to me just a few weeks after her being appointed as the Minister for the Prevention of Family Violence. Our first meeting in Strangers was over a cup of tea and was a very open one and her cups of tea were spoken about very fondly in the state memorial service last week. We discussed how we could work together in a bipartisan way on many of the issues at hand, whether that was family violence or women's affairs, and on how we could work together to get the message out about family violence.

On one occasion I recall Fiona coming to my office, one I shared with Mr Ondarchie and I think, Craig, you will recall this. Fiona came down with an array of handwritten messages that she wanted us to use for social media. She wanted not only a message from both of us but for all members of Parliament to share in the message of keeping women and children safe at Christmas time. Christmas time can be a very vulnerable time for many women and children and is a time of heightened family violence incidents. I know many of you joined with her to get that important message out as we held signs with her and took photos to tweet or post on Facebook.

Victoria Against Violence was another message that she was very passionate about, and she got that message out at any opportunity. She initiated the symbolic gesture of landmarks across Melbourne being lit up in orange to raise awareness of family violence. Our own Parliament was lit up in orange, and I, together with Fiona and many other MPs, stood together as the lights were switched on. Fiona said at the time, 'Lighting the Victorian Parliament sends a clear message that our state stands together when it comes to addressing family violence'.

I do not think anyone in this chamber would disagree with the notion of wanting to do what we can to end the scourge of family violence. Governments at all levels are addressing the issue and building on initiatives of previous governments. The horrific events that we all read or hear about in our news outlets of the violence that is committed is one thing, but it is the stories that come into our office and the people we meet who tell of their horrendous accounts of violence that drive us all to want us to make Victoria a better and safer place. And that was Fiona's very clear and evident determination in her role as minister in this important area.

Last week's state memorial service for Fiona was attended by an array of people from across Victoria, including from her own local community of Northcote. We heard stories from those who spoke about her courage and determination. Northcote's Regal Ballroom was packed with those wanting to pay their respects and pay tribute to a woman who was widely admired and respected. Those who attended the service included of course those who loved and cared for her, those who had worked with her in many different aspects of politics and government and those constituents she had touched by having advocated and worked on behalf of them in her local community. There were also many people who were victims and survivors of family violence along with people within the family violence sector who had been working with her on a range of policy areas.

The tributes by the Honourable Steve Bracks and the Honourable Jane Garrett were wonderful with the heartfelt way they described the respect, love and friendship they had for her, telling the stories about a woman who was greatly admired within the Labor movement and clearly a dear and close friend to many. The very moving account by Jane of their shared battle of having that insidious disease, breast cancer, was very real and described the comfort Fiona gave Jane at such a difficult time. I think that was who Fiona was: she was real, and it was obvious that she comforted many.

As was said in the tributes on Thursday, she was a woman who was caring and compassionate. She had humility, and she was a fierce advocate and champion for improving the lives of women and children. She was a woman who was prepared to go the extra mile, and she certainly did that by sharing her own family's experience of family violence on the ABC's Australian Story, which was a very courageous thing for Fiona and her family to do. It is these real stories that people connect to, and Fiona did that. She connected, and she also followed through when she could.

As has been said by many in here and by commentators and ordinary Victorians who have reached out through their grief following the death of Fiona, Fiona's legacy is one that will be remembered by Victoria and by many Victorians. Fiona achieved so much, and it is what she achieved and her legacy that her entire family can be so very proud of.

 


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