Newly-elected Nationals MP for Myall Lakes Tanya Thompson has delivered her inaugural speech. This is what she had to say:
I would like to firstly acknowledge the Gadigal people, the traditional owners of the land on which we meet, and the First Nations people of the Myall Lakes electorate, the Worimi and Biripi people, and pay my respects to Elders past, present and emerging. As I stand here this afternoon, proud and full of nervous energy, I am reminded of a cherished childhood memory. I recall a time when my youthful spirit, combined with an unyielding determination, which now translates to sheer stubbornness, led me to conquer this one particular hill near my family home on my bicycle. With the wind in my hair and the exhilaration of the downhill ride, my—with the need to be PC in this place, mum, how would we put this?—well-nourished body would pedal fiercely and, even as my chubby ankles would clip the sides of the pedals and blood would be pouring down my feet, nothing could break my unwavering spirit to get to the top of that hill. My mum is nodding. She understands. That spirit is what has led me here today, ready to embark on this journey, humbled and privileged to be elected as the youngest and the first female representative of Myall Lakes on behalf of the National Party—a party that has long been, and will always continue to be, the strongest voice for rural, regional and coastal communities.
Only two others have held this seat before me: John Turner, who gave 23 years of service to the people of Myall Lakes, and the late Stephen Bromhead, who sadly passed away on 16 March. Stephen was an amazing local member. He was a dear friend and mentor, not only to me but to many, and he served his community selflessly for 12 years. His tenacity and unwavering determination to make a difference in the lives of those around him is truly inspiring. It is an honour to follow in his footsteps and I will work tirelessly, just as he did, towards a better future for the Myall Lakes community and greater electorate.
So many people have contributed so much of themselves to help me on this incredible journey. To try to name them all would simply be too impossible a task for the risk of missing someone, so to every single volunteer and supporter that stood for hours on end, day after day, for pre-poll and on polling day, those that put up corflutes, handed out brochures, doorknocked, attended forums in support, packed booth kits and put up booth kits on polling day, and so much more, thank you just does not seem to cover the immense gratitude I feel.
I acknowledge and thank the entire Nats family—Joe Lundy, Andrew Fraser, Wendy Machin, Tory, Franny, Nick, Brook, Cosmo and the whole head office crew. There were times when this was not an easy campaign, particularly towards the tail end, and I am so grateful for the way you all wrapped around me to support me when it was truly needed the most. I am so very proud to be a member and representative of the New South Wales National Party.
To all the Ministers, the MPs and MLCs, that travelled to Myall Lakes throughout my campaign, thank you for your guidance, for your advice and for your support. I would like to give a special shout-out to Mr Scott Barrett. Scott, to me, you are the epitome of a true National Party person. Your commitment to the party and to this election campaign cannot be matched. You travelled all over the countryside in support of your peers, and I thank you for teaching me how to gatecrash a Country Women’s Association [CWA] meeting and how to distinguish different types of cows simply by gazing at their rear ends. He does it well!
To my family, my daughters Bianca and Lucy and my stepdaughter Asher, who are here today, thank you for coming on this crazy roller-coaster ride with me. I am so incredibly proud to be your mum. To my husband, Ben, from the first day I came home to tell you “the plan”, you have been the most amazing support. My rock of Gibraltar, you continue to believe in me with every single step I take. Thank you for your dedication to corflute placement, giving up your weekends for market stalls, securing the best spot to hand out at pre-poll and stubbornly never moving from that, for dancing in the rain, listening to all of my speeches, and for keeping the lights on while I quit my day job to be a candidate. This just would not work without you. Thank you. To those that cannot be here today, my sister, Kylie, and brother-in-law, John; my nephew and niece Frankie and Deanna; James and Sarah and family, thank you all for your love and support. To my work family, Sasha, Jenny, Nikki and Gary, thank you.
I would like now to acknowledge my amazing parents, my mum, Julie, who is wiping her tears away I can see—hold it together, mum—and who has travelled a long way to be here today, and my dad, Mick, who I know is watching from home because, unfortunately, he is not well enough to be here today. Thank you for the lifetime of unconditional support. You have taught me resilience, to be independent, and that hard work and respect for others will take you far in life. You are both my greatest inspiration.
Like others that have delivered their inaugural speeches before me, I too have a unique story to tell. Born in Tenterfield, the middle child of a brickie and a nurse, my mum and dad packed us up when I was still a baby and moved to Port Macquarie to give us a coastal life. I watched my parents work incredibly hard to make sure that we did not want for anything. Weekends were for sport, household chores and a sneaky hour or two watching Rage on the TV in the morning with my sister. I absolutely loved school, with the exception of maths homework—which we won’t talk about, will we, mum? No. I was never far away from a stage, a microphone or a basketball court.
At 13 I got my first gig at a local fish and chip shop called Macquarie Seafoods. My sister, Kylie, had recently started working there. I was watching her wardrobe expand and her CD collection grow, and I decided one Friday night to accompany my mum on the trip into town to pick her up from work. It was there that I had my first job interview, decked out in my finest pyjamas. The interview went a little something like this. Someone said, “I hear you’re looking for a job.” I said, “Yeah.” They said, “Do you have white sneakers?” I said, “Yep.” They said, “Do you have white shorts?” I said, “Mum, do I?” Mum said yes. I said, “Yep”, and they said, “Fantastic! Learn this menu. You can start tomorrow morning at 10 o’clock.” I went home that night and I think I pulled an all-nighter because I learnt that entire menu, front and back, and fronted up full of enthusiasm and ready to start adding to my own wardrobe and music collection. I absolutely loved it.
I continued to work for John right up until I finished my HSC. I might add that I am also very blessed to have John as my brother-in-law. I thank him not only for the many ways he has supported me throughout my life but for teaching me to always give 110 per cent in your work, regardless of what that job may be. When I was 19, John and Kylie called to let me know they had found a location for a new shop and asked if I would like to move to help them set it up. So I packed up my life and hit the road to begin a new chapter. Luckily, I did not have to travel too far; that road lead me to the beautiful Myall Lakes.
My home for well over 20 years, the Myall Lakes boasts the best of all worlds and is without a doubt the most beautiful electorate in all of New South Wales. We are blessed with pristine beaches, such as One Mile and Lizzy, the crystal clear Wallis Lake and the mighty Manning River. Dolphins frolic daily in all our waterways, teasing drivers making their daily commute over the bridge. In fact, our waterways are so fantastic that a 13-metre southern right whale came for an extended holiday in Wallis Lake in June 2021. She almost brought the entire town to a standstill for a glimpse of her majestic beauty.
But the Myall Lakes is not just about boating and beaches. Rural hinterlands that stretch as far as the eye can be see can be found in Wingham, Upper Lansdowne, Mount George, Mooral Creek and Bulahdelah, just to name a few places. Tourism is extremely important to the electorate, but so too are our agriculture and primary industries. Not only do we have some of the best meat exporters and dairy farmers there, we also have one of the biggest Sydney rock oyster nurseries in the State. So, my friends, as you can see—and I hear no objections in the House—the Myall Lakes really does have it all.
Like so many places along our coastline, the Myall Lakes has had its fair share of disaster. The devastation of the Black Summer fires in 2019 and 2020 and the floods that saw homes float down the Manning River in 2021 have certainly tested the strength and the fortitude of our communities. But we are a strong bunch and it is through our determined spirit that we see families and businesses finally starting to rebuild and regroup. On the back of Volunteer Week, I stop to acknowledge and thank our volunteers and emergency service workers who worked tirelessly, day after day, to help all of those affected by the fires and floods that tore through our communities. You are the true heroes of our electorate.
As we look towards the majestic waters of the Great Lakes and the Farquhar Inlet, we see we must continue to confront the challenges that sedimentation and sand shoaling poses to our tourism and other industries. The present state of the rivers is impacting greatly on all users and many businesses, in particular the iconic Amaroo Cruises, which runs dolphin and whale watching cruises. It is a longstanding family business, first established in 1978. Skipper Matt has been unable to conduct his famous whale watching cruises as The Amaroo cannot safely pass under the Forster-Tuncurry bridge due to the build-up of sand. With another whale watching season rapidly approaching, it is crucial that the Wallis Lake be prioritised for dredging. I call on our new Government to take positive action to rectify the situation.
Just as the Wallis Lake faces its challenges, so too does the mighty Manning River, with the fight continuing to progress the permanent opening of the river. Creating reliable entrances to the Manning has the potential for great economic growth and positive social change in our region. It was evident that the community is in full support when close to 14,000 signatures were gathered through a petition that was tabled and debated in this place last year. Given the positive outcome of the debate and the allocation of funding given by the previous Coalition Government, I was somewhat shocked to learn that the new Government has pulled said funding and shelved the project. Opening the channel will not only provide environmental and economic benefits but also assist with flood mitigation. We have all seen firsthand the damage that floods can do in the area. It is critical that we install the infrastructure needed to protect our communities now and well into the future. I take this opportunity to thank the Manning River Action Group for its continued advocacy for this project. It is not over yet.
In the realm of public health, I am unwavering in my determination to see the completion of the Forster public hospital and the stage two and stage three redevelopment of Manning Base Hospital. Cardiac issues are the number one cause of death in the Myall Lakes electorate and, with the oldest demographic in New South Wales, we need to continue to invest in the healthcare needs of our growing communities. But my drive for better health care extends beyond the walls of the Manning and the Great Lakes.
In Bulahdelah our vibrant constituency desperately needs an multipurpose service facility. Up until 2012 Bulahdelah had a small hospital, which included a two-bed emergency department and 11 acute care beds. The acute care beds were also used for respite and palliative care as the need arose. The hospital closed due to the local doctor becoming ill and a replacement doctor not being able to be found. At present, residents of Bulahdelah have to travel a minimum of 74.8 kilometres for medical assistance, often for relatively simple procedures, such as sutures.
In May last year Anglicare closed the doors of the only aged-care facility, Cedar Wharf Lodge. The 32 residents were rehomed many kilometres from family and friends. With quite a few partners either being unable to drive or on restricted licences, visiting loved ones is problematic. Tragically, many residents died in the first few weeks of being moved. This leaves the Bulahdelah community with very little by way of health care and only home care for the elderly. One-third of the population is aged over 65. Many of the elderly residents are struggling on at home as the thought of leaving the area and their spouses and family is too much. I am committed to advocating for this cause for the welfare of the Bulahdelah community at large and because every person in New South Wales has the right to the best health care, regardless of their postcode or political preference.
Our roads are the arteries of our local economy and region. Road improvement and safety are not mere aspirations but absolute necessities, and I applaud the previous Coalition Government for its support and investment in the improvement of our road networks as it was faced with some of the toughest natural disasters across our great State, including in the Myall Lakes. There is still a lot of recovery to be done, and I call on the new Government to retain vital funding programs such as the Fixing Local Roads Program implemented by the Coalition Government.
Furthermore, our community deserves a second bridge in Forster. Stephen Bromhead tirelessly advocated for this cause, presenting 10,000-plus signatures to this very Chamber. His relentless efforts reflect the aspirations and demands of our community for not only the duplication of the bridge but also the upgrade of the Failford Road and The Lakes Way intersection and for the reclassification of The Lakes Way. This reclassification is not just a mere label. It represents the challenges and frustrations endured by our community on a daily basis. The burden of maintaining and improving The Lakes Way falls heavily on the MidCoast Council, which already shoulders the responsibility of overseeing an extensive network of 3½ thousand kilometres of roads. It is time to reinvigorate the efforts of this reclassification to ensure that our constituents’ needs are met and their road safety is guaranteed.
It may appear from my earlier comments that I come to this place with the sole experience of a fast?food cook. However, I have in my short 44 years managed a small business and worked as a property manager, a legal secretary and an electorate officer. I am also a mum to five beautiful daughters. I bring with me a raft of lived experiences—some of which have changed the very fabric of who I am—including domestic violence and losing my younger brother to suicide in 2015. In recent years there has been growing recognition of the importance of mental health. As we heard last night from the member for Davidson in his wonderful inaugural speech, there needs to be an increased focus on destigmatising mental health issues. I will forever be an advocate for having those conversations and I thank my parents for allowing me to share our story so that others may not feel the void we feel with Michael’s absence.
Some might say these next four years will be a challenge. To that I say, “I am here for it.” Premier Minns, I say to you today graciously and with all due respect: Please do not forget about the people of regional New South Wales. I implore you, Premier Minns, to keep the needs of regional New South Wales at the forefront of your agenda. Do not forget about our regional seniors and our regional apprentice and university student travel cards for those who do not have access to public transport services. Do not forget about the active and creative kids vouchers and back-to-school initiatives that have eased the burden on our local families facing a very real cost?of?living crisis.
While our cities may be the bustling hubs of economic activity and stadiums soon to be full of avid Bon Jovi fans just “livin’ on a prayer”, it is the regional areas where the heartbeat of our State truly resides. It is a tremendous honour to represent the good people of Myall Lakes in the New South Wales State Parliament and a responsibility that I do not take lightly. Over the next four years and beyond, I will wholeheartedly dedicate myself to demonstrating to my constituents that their trust in me is not misplaced. I will serve my community with the passion and drive they deserve, and I will always fight to ensure they receive their fair share. I thank the Chamber for the courtesy and attention afforded to me today.