Ms Peta Murphy
11 Dec | '2023
I’ll start by saying what a privilege it is to stand here and speak to this condolence motion today and to acknowledge the very heartfelt words from colleagues from across all sides of politics and all parties here today in the chamber. It’s a sensitive and emotional time for everyone, especially those close to Peta—the member for Jagajaga, the member for Cooper—but also those on our side, like the member for Berowra, who also gave a very fitting tribute.
The loss of Peta Jan Murphy, 1 November 1973 to 4 December 2023, is indeed a reminder to all of us of our mortality. For those of us who have been touched by cancer and lost a loved one, it is a reminder that we must make haste in this place, as the member for Forrest often talks about: don’t waste a day of your time here. It is a time for all of us to reflect on what’s important in our lives and also to create the best Australia we can, as Peta did in her work and the legacy that she left behind—to create the best version of Australia that we can have. And I applaud all the work Peta did, all the change she made for good during her time.
She was, like my mother, who also died from cancer, cut down in her prime. Peta was 50; my mother was 51, with stomach cancer. It was painful to watch Peta deteriorate over the last years. My condolences go to Rod and of course Peta’s parents, her family, her extended family, her community, her friends, her Labor colleagues and the electorate of Dunkley, about which she was so passionate.
Peta and I came together to this place in the class of 2019. Many colleagues have spoken about how special the class of 2019 was, and that was also my experience. But as is sometimes the case in this place, you don’t always get the opportunity to get to know members on the other side, even if their office is just across the hallway and every time the bells ring you find yourself in the hallways or stairwells together. So it wasn’t until much later than 2019 that I got to know Peta, and that was through the opportunity that many colleagues have spoken about, including the member for Berowra, and I’m sure there’ll be others—the McKinnon Institute for Political Leadership opportunity and the great work of Rod Glover, and many others, who put together that very important work to help develop newer politicians to be ready for those senior roles in government or in cabinet. I take the opportunity, as the member for Berowra did, to congratulate all those who worked for that course that we undertook and the learnings we took from that.
There were moments when I had time alone with Peta and Rod. I recall sitting in an airport with just the three of us. We had the opportunity to talk about our vision, our experiences, our hopes and our dreams for the country and for our electorate, but, mainly, Peta and I came to the conclusion we actually had a lot in common. We came to politics for the same reasons: to help others; to champion those who come from underprivileged backgrounds, as I did myself; and to try to hold up those less fortunate, and Peta was passionate about that. We discovered that we both went to public high schools, big public high schools, so we had a lot of similarities growing up.
Before that opportunity to speak with one another and to get to know one another, we really didn’t have a connection, so it was very special to have those moments with Peta to understand who she really was. She was a woman of great strength, great courage, great intelligence and great tenacity. She had what we call ‘chutzpah’. She wasn’t backwards in coming forwards. She had a view, and it was a strong view, and she stuck to her guns. That was something that I admired about her. We shared a joint passion for empowering women and improving cancer research treatments for Australian women and, indeed, all Australians. That was something that we did discuss. But she really was passionate about her work. She was passionate about being the member for Dunkley. We owe it to Peta, every one of us here in this place, to continue the great work that she did.
Something that many of us, if not all of us, are passionate about protecting our children, and online gambling is one of those harms, as well as the dangers that our youngest and most precious Australians face online, where they are exposed to all manner of atrocities and things they simply shouldn’t be looking at at their age. I know that it would’ve been very difficult for Peta and for Rod to accept Peta’s inability to have children due to that treatment, which is the case for many hundreds of thousands of women around our country. Peta was open about talking about that. She was open and transparent about the good that she could deliver by just being her and sharing her journey.
To finish, I want to say that the last time I saw Peta, she was sitting where the bouquet of flowers is now last week. The member for Gippsland had delivered a very heartfelt speech, and I looked over at Peta and she had a tear. At that point, I wanted to get up out of my seat, walk over to Peta and put a hand on her shoulder. I didn’t because she rose from her seat and left the chamber with a tear in her eye. That was the last time I saw her. That was probably the last time many of us saw her. There’s a lesson in that. If you want to get up out of your chair and you want to walk over to someone and give them your support, that’s something that all of us need to reflect on, that we can and should support one another.
She was strong, fierce, courageous, intelligent, empathetic and, indeed, unique. She never gave up on her personal fight, her parliamentary fight and the fight for the people of Dunkley. Vale, Peta Murphy.