Senator Siewert: It has been a privilege to represent the people of Western Australia


“It has been a privilege to represent the people of Western Australia” Senator Rachel Siewert said, as she delivered her valedictorian address to parliament on Wednesday.

The Greens senator is stepping down after 16 years of representing Western Australia in the senate, and while her valedictorian speech allowed her to reflect on her time in parliament and thank those who have supported her, she told her colleagues they would probably still here from her in the remaining days of the current session.

“Just to confirm, this is my formal farewell speech.” a smiling Senator Siewert told the senate, “However, as I’ll be here for another week, provided we are sitting, it won’t be my very last word. You can’t expect me to sit here silently for a week.”

Senator Siewert said her time in parliament had been focused on equality, environment and community, and those values were as important today as when she first arrived in Canberra.

Tackling poverty, homelessness, improving income support and recognizing and empowering indigenous Australians were some of the issues Senator Siewert touched upon during her speech.

She said it was frustrating that after 16 years in the parliament there was still no serious move to tackle the climate crisis, and fossil fuel industry held significant sway of political parties.

“The climate crisis is damaging our vital ecosystems, all the life we share this planet with, our health, our water, our ability to grow food and the air we breathe. Climate change now threatens all species. If we fail to act quickly and comprehensively, many more species will be lost to extinction within our lifetimes. All the while, donations from fossil fuel industries continue to influence political decision-making.” Senator Siewert said.

Senator Siewert also noted the parliament’s 2012 inquiry into forced adoptions was one of the most significant pieces of work she was involved in during her time in politics.

“I will never forget the trust and confidence people in the community had in the committee to share their very personal and often deeply traumatic experiences. Because of their courage, we exposed this dark chapter of our history and made immeasurable changes to the lives of those in our community who were so badly affected by this inhumane treatment.”

Senator Stirling Griff from the Centre Alliance paid tribute to Senator Siewert describing her a “legend of the senate”.

“She is someone who truly does the work; someone who makes a real and worthy contribution; someone with a burning passion for supporting people, especially those who endure disadvantage; and someone who deploys her incredible breadth of knowledge to raise awareness and very much drive change.

“Even after years of working together on many inquiries, I am still awed by her. She is absolutely a legend of the Senate.” Senator Griff said.

Praise also came from Finance Minister Simon Birmingham who said Senator Siewert had made “an incredible contribution with such conviction over such a prolonged period of time.”

“You’re a person and have been a senator of passion and of compassion. You are someone with strong convictions but also just such a thoroughly decent person in the way in which you engage and conduct yourself in a principled and thoughtful manner at all times.” Senator Birmingham said in his response.

One of the most memorable tributes to Senator Siewert came from Social Services Minister Anne Rushton, who shared her admiration for Senator Siewert’s approach and admitted that at times she’d found her to be terrifying in her deep knowledge of a subject.

“One of the hallmarks of your time here is that you have always been across your brief. Your understanding of the technical detail terrified me when I first became the minister for Social Services.” Senator Rushton said.

“I said, ‘I don’t care who I get a question from, just not Rachel, because Rachel is more likely to understand way more about my portfolio than I do.’ I have to say that, in my first few months in my job, my office used to say: ‘Watch Rachel. She’s the canary in the coalmine. If Rachel is chasing something, there’s sure to be something on the other end of it.’

“You have taught me an awful lot about chasing something to make sure we get to the salient issue that needs to be dealt with.” Senator Rushton Rushton said.

Senator Siewert’s position in the parliament will be filled by Dorinda Cox.

Watch the full speech. 

OIP Staff

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