Inaugural Speech

Congratulations, Speaker, on your appointment. I will first say how honoured I am to be here as the member for Prahran, and how proud I am to be one of the first-ever Greens elected to the Legislative Assembly, alongside the member for Melbourne.

I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land of the Prahran electorate and on which this Parliament sits, the Boon Wurrung and members of the Kulin nation, and I pay my respects to their elders past and present.

I grew up on a 4-acre hobby farm in Hastings on the Mornington Peninsula. It was a place of paddocks, giant cypress pines and some atypical household chores, like bringing in the firewood from the wood heap, lighting the fire after school and making sure the ducks were out of the dam and locked away each night. It is fair to say that when I mowed the landmass known as the lawn with a push mower on the weekend, I earnt every cent of my pocket money.

Mum and Dad were both local secondary school teachers. Mum was a science and maths teacher, Dad taught English and later became a principal. They are both politically minded with progressive values and committed to our family — my two big sisters, Anna and Kate, and my older brother, Simon.

Like many young people, I was — and still am — sport obsessed. My weekends were spent down at the local footy and cricket club and every chance we could get Dad and I would make the long trip to the MCG to watch the mighty Bombers or the Aussie cricket team. Quite often we would park in the streets of South Yarra and walk through what is now the electorate of Prahran to the ground.

If sport was my first passion, then politics was my second. Since I was a teenager I have always followed elections and political events with a keen interest. Thankfully my values and those of the Greens aligned at the right time, and I am proud to say I have voted Greens for my whole life. Having followed politics for most of my life and now being here inside the tent, so to speak, I must say there is no place I would rather be.

My being here today as the member for Prahran is testament to an affordable, accessible and quality TAFE system. After leaving school I was working as a storeperson and looking for a change, and my first port of call was my local TAFE in Frankston. If it were not for TAFE, I would not have gone on to university to study social science and policy, had a career in social services or been elected to Stonnington council, and I certainly would not be here today as the member for Prahran. These well-worn steps of tertiary education and personal progress are the very reason we need to save TAFE in Victoria, and I will be doing my very best to make sure that happens in this term of Parliament.

My third passion is social policy. I am a strong believer in the power of social policy and an active government to ensure a cohesive, fair society that meets the needs of its people and where prosperity is for everyone. My work in the community sector for Crossroads Youth and Family Services and later with the Department of Human Services (DHS) put me in contact with the many Victorians who benefit from social programs and demonstrated how critical they are to so many, and also how they can always be improved — something you learn firsthand when you man the DHS complaints line, as I did, or when you report on the number of critical incidents in disability group homes and youth residential units.

Through my work I have also met many people who are passionate about social justice, and I am heartened to know that so many in this place share those values. If the indications from the federal government are correct, this year more than any year we will be called on to defend those who cannot defend themselves. One person I met during my work is of course my fiancée, Ariel. She has been an amazing support, without which support I would not be here today. Ariel and I bring with us to the seat of Prahran an unyielding commitment to sticking up for the most disadvantaged members of our community and making sure that everyone has access to the same opportunities and choices in life.

I love living in Prahran; I have called it home for almost eight years. Diverse is a term you hear a lot to describe the Prahran electorate — a diverse electorate with a rich history. That history starts of course with Indigenous history. Prahran was home to the Yalukit-willam clan, had several important meeting places for Indigenous tribes and was the site of corroborees.

Prahran has a history of migration from Europe, particularly from Greece and the Mediterranean, and many Jewish migrants. All these groups add to the vibrancy of our community and make it such an amazing place to live. Prahran is well known for its strong lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex communities. It is and will continue to be a safe and inclusive community, and I will be taking the fight for equality directly to this Parliament.

Many of Prahran's suburbs have been traditionally working class, and it is only recently, in the last couple of decades, that they have become desirable, aspirational places to live. It is not hard to see why Prahran has become so popular when you look at its iconic features: the Yarra River, which after years of neglect is being embraced by the city; parks and green spaces, big and small, from the Royal Botanic Gardens surrounded by the Tan running track to the much-loved Victoria Gardens on High Street; St Kilda Road, our inspired boulevard which many call home, a place to work or part of their commute; and of course the vibrant Chapel Street. South Yarra, Prahran, Windsor and St Kilda East each have their own unique character.

Keeping Prahran and our community livable was my focus in my time as a Stonnington councillor and I will continue this focus as the local MP. I was one of the first ever Greens elected to Stonnington City Council, alongside Cr Erin Davie. It was a politically diverse council but one that worked together to deliver for its residents. I am proud of what each one of my fellow councillors and I have been able to achieve together at the City of Stonnington, in particular improving Chapel Street with new public space; new sustainability programs and a community garden at the Armadale Baptist Church; investing millions in better cycling infrastructure; the support of street art; and increasing much-needed open space in our community.

The Greens Prahran campaign is an example of the power of grassroots democracy, with over 200 volunteers — many of whom are in the gallery tonight. Together we knocked on over 20 000 doors, made phone calls, spoke with voters and did countless other tasks, all of which contributed to the final result. Prahran has clearly demonstrated the power of people in bringing change to Parliament from the ground up. I am enormously thankful for all those who supported the campaign and worked so hard to create a historic victory.

I want particularly to thank Josephine Maguire-Rosier, Bianca Maciel Pizzorno, Dinesh Matthew and Bob Hale, who lead the way on the Prahran campaign, along with our dedicated neighbourhood organisers — doorknock, phone bank, data and street stall coordinators. I would also like to thank our Victorian MPs — Sue, Greg and Colleen — Greens federal MPs for their support on the campaign trail, and Bob Brown, whose visit to Prahran during the campaign was a lift to our team and a timely reminder that optimism is a powerful agent that can make a real difference.

Finally, I thank the voters of Prahran who opened their doors to us, took our calls, and shared their views and values with us. One of the great things about winning in Prahran has been the sheer joy on the faces of so many Greens members and supporters who have worked so hard and given so much time not just in the last campaign but in many campaigns over many years. We are a party where each success is built on the back of previous successes, and there are many more to come.

I bring to this Parliament a firm belief that for a government to successfully meet the challenges we face, whether they are social, economic or environmental, it requires the progressive values, the change ethic and the long-term vision of the Greens. Victoria is faced with the challenges of increasing demand on services and more complex needs of our citizens, as well as unprecedented change in our society of values, attitudes, behaviours and technology. For this Parliament to be relevant and for the government to deliver for all Victorians, it must respond to and embrace the change that is already occurring in our state.

We must move away from crisis-driven governing, where we inefficiently and expensively lurch from trying to solve one crisis to another. We must also move away from the boom-bust cycle of governing, where in good times the chequebook opens and in bad times the red pen comes out and rules a line through programs and infrastructure that people depend on.

We must address changing needs of our population by shaping services to fit with the needs of individuals. Increased demand cannot be met with cuts hidden as imaginary efficiency dividends, where we have to do more with less, but with a genuinely new approach. We need an approach focusing on early intervention, particularly for young people and their families, and helping people before they reach the crisis point of needing child protection services or facing prison or homelessness. We need investment in preventative health services to keep people healthy and out of hospital.

We need to shift investment to public transport and sustainable transport like cycling to create a resilient transport system that people can rely on. These measures are about responding to and meeting change in society and having a long-term vision to address problems before they become crises. Our response to climate change is an example of this opportunity to not only be a world leader in the fight against climate change and to protect our environment, but to create the smart, clean and innovative jobs in a 21st century economy.

This Parliament has so much potential to deliver for Victoria and meet the challenges we face. I look forward to representing the people of Prahran and working with all members to make that happen.