SPEECH: ADDRESS TO THE 2017 EQUITY LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARDS WINNER NOELINE BROWN - SYDNEY
ADDRESS TO THE 2017 EQUITY LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARDS WINNER NOELINE BROWN
SUNDAY, 26 NOVEMBER 2017
What an honour to be here tonight for you Noeline. I had expected I was going to be one of the people who would be sending letters to this event tonight, but the Prime Minister kindly cancelled Parliament for the following sitting week. A real gesture for the Actors Equity.
The activism of Noeline Brown has been extraordinary. Whether it be the stories she tells of growing up in the sixties through to the support for the ‘It’s Time’ campaign and of course through to the times running as a candidate, or later serving in a policy role as commissioner for the aged. Noeline has always, from the perspective of the Labor Party understood that people who talk about Labor as a brand don't get it. For Noeline it was never a brand, it was a cause.
Running as a candidate in a regional seat for the Labor Party with a conservative media can take its toll. Noeline was able to do what no other candidate could do. She was able to organise the actor John Howard and Gerry Connolly to come to the southern highlands for a function, then she put an ad in the local paper saying the Queen and John Howard were coming to support Noeline Brown. All the conservative establishments spent money in honour of Her Majesty and John Howard and made donations.
I understand Gerry Connolly arrived in full character and explained to everybody that Her Majesty would not normally travel such great distances to such an insignificant part of the country for a single event.
But the conservative press, what leaders go through sometimes with the tabloids, candidates in regional areas go through every edition as well. They don't get the space that you get if you run as a candidate in a major city.
There was an interview that was done on the Bert Newton program where Bert asked what people had been like. Noeline said how people had been wonderful but the rumours started to spread around Bowral, completely false rumours, that Noeline had said all the locals were snobs.
Noeline had the perfect defence - ‘why on earth would I say that if I'm trying to get elected?’ But after rushing around trying to get the tapes and eventually providing the paper with a full transcript, the paper notwithstanding that they had the transcript, still published that they had been unable to view the footage and therefore unable in their final edition before the election, to establish that it hadn't in fact happened. The feeding of those rumours went on, notwithstanding all of that. For the first and only time, Labor took that seat to preferences with Noeline Brown and the result wasn't known on the night. Later, thankfully, Noeline Brown was willing to come forward and take that role as commissioner for the ageing that Justine Elliot’s letter referred to before.
In that role, Noeline came back to Government with the finding that men of any age remain seventeen. But as someone committed to policy change I think its fair to say that when we talk about that political change, what Noeline has achieved in the formality of politics, which is a lot, is but a snapshot of the way Noeline has driven change in this country.
Never underestimate the change that is delivered every day through the solid and passionate involvement in the union. Never underestimate for so many of us here that from the time we turned on the television or watched a screen, because of people like Noeline Brown we were hearing Australian voices. We were watching Australian stories. At a time that Noeline refers to in a book of when the big stories, the big moments were the Queen visiting Australia, or LBJ (Lyndon B. Johnson) visiting Australia it was the change-making of people like Noeline Brown, that made sure we were always being told that we had a home with our own identity and our own stories. Not an outpost of the stories of others. It’s a privilege to be with you tonight.