I rise to add some personal reflections on the condolence motion for the former member for Ballarat West, Karen Overington. It is humbling to follow so many members who clearly have so many great memories of their time working with Karen. I did not have the opportunity to serve in this place with Karen; however, I was able to work with her during her three terms in Parliament in some of the portfolio areas that she was very passionate about. Whether it was public housing, health, aged care or education, they were all areas where Karen sought improvements and advancements in her electorate.
I saw that passion firsthand many times during my time as an adviser in those portfolios. I soon learnt that if I had to see Karen about funding issues or a problem relating to a constituent, preparation was the key. Karen would know what she wanted: she could sniff out bureaucratic nonsense or spin in a moment. I would often get a look from her, like that of a disapproving aunt, if she thought my answers were perhaps falling short of her expectations. I can remember many times looking back at her as she weighed up whether the needs of her electorate were being met on one issue or another.
Honourable members have talked about Karen never forgetting where she came from or what she stood for. She also had the effect of providing timely reminders to Labor members and staffers in government of the limited time we have to advocate and deliver lasting results to Labor people who rely on progressive governments to improve their opportunities in life. Karen did not waste a moment. She always took a keen interest in my local government career. She had a lot of success and experience in local government, and I place on record my thanks for her support and advice, particularly as we worked to establish the West Heidelberg neighbourhood renewal project. As has been touched on by the member for Melbourne and others, Karen’s Wendouree West community renewal project was the gold standard, and my residents drew inspiration from Ballarat’s success, in large part her work.
Karen and I used to also trade pot shots about the respective weather in Ballarat and Melbourne. I can remember being in Ballarat for one of Labor’s campaign launches. I was frozen solid waiting to get into some community hall, and I saw Karen and thought she must be cold too. When she saw me, she smiled and waved and said, ‘A great day in Ballarat!’ — and I reckon she meant it too. She had the last laugh of course when the sun and blue skies of Ballarat greeted mourners the other week. Karen, more than many others, knew her town, her electorate and her constituents.
Finally, a strong Labor Party and a strong Labor caucus, indeed a strong Parliament, needs people like Karen Overington and, although poorer for her loss, I for one will be a better community advocate for having known her. My condolences to Karen’s family.
Motion agreed to in silence, honourable members showing unanimous agreement by standing in their places.