Chiltern CFA need a new fire station

Constituency question

May 12, 2022

My constituency question is to the Minister for Emergency Services (Hon. Jaclyn Symes MP) on behalf of the Chiltern community.

The Chiltern fire brigade is a busy, vital emergency service of more than 100 members, proudly supported by the community.

The brigade is under significant pressure to expand its premises. The current motor room does not meet occupational health and safety requirements – the building is too small for modern vehicles and too small for the safe movement of personnel. The meeting room, which also doubles as the CFA Local Command Facility, is very cramped and diesel fumes in the building are a concern.

A local landowner has offered to donate a parcel of land in Chiltern to establish a co-located Ambulance station and Chiltern fire brigade. CFA, Ambulance Victoria, Indigo Shire and Vicroads have discussed the establishment of the new site, and CFA has appointed a consultant to undertake a feasibility study.

So my question to the Minister is, will the government commit to providing the necessary funding of approximately $2million to establish a new facility for the Chiltern Fire Brigade?

Photo: With Chiltern CFA brigade lieutenant Geoff Perry at Chiltern fire station on April 12, 2022.

Automatic licence suspension for hit-and-run accused drivers

Road safety changes deliver on my amendments to make licence suspensions automatic for those accused of hit-and-run and other serious charges

Return rowing to Nagambie for 2026 Games

Adjournment

May 11, 2022

Tania MAXWELL (Northern Victoria) (17:45): (1908)

My adjournment is to the Minister for Tourism, Sport and Major Events (Hon. Martin Pakula MP), and the action I seek is for the government to expand the list of Commonwealth Games sports across regional Victoria and designate Lake Nagambie to host rowing for the 2026 games.

Northern Victoria covers more than 100,500 square kilometres, around half of the state. There are 27 local government areas in my electorate, and yet only one of those, Bendigo, has been earmarked so far as a venue for the 2026 Commonwealth Games. While the multi-city model is worthy of credit, much of my electorate has been overlooked to date.

A program of 16 core sports and four para sports have so far been agreed between the State of Victoria, the Commonwealth Games Federation and Commonwealth Games Australia. Typically there are 17 or 18 sports competed at the games, so I am hoping there is room for a couple of additions.

When the City of Greater Shepparton conceived a regional games concept back in 2017, it presented a vision of a regional cities model that included 11 cities. As well as the four already announced by the Premier (Geelong, Ballarat, Bendigo and a hub in Gippsland), the 11 included Shepparton, Mount Buller, Yarrawonga, Wodonga and Nagambie in my electorate.

The two-kilometre rowing course in Strathbogie shire is an example of an existing location ripe for the opportunity that the Commonwealth Games could present.

Lake Nagambie is the only 2km rowing course in regional Victoria. Last month the Australian Rowing Championships were relocated to this course with only eight days’ notice after the devastating floods in New South Wales. Around 2000 athletes competed, and Strathbogie shire and Lake Nagambie showcased themselves with high honours.

Strathbogie shire is a great tourism destination with fabulous food and wine offerings, well-established agriculture and equine industries, beautiful landscapes and wonderful potential. The mayor and council of Strathbogie have reached out to me for help to ask the government to consider flat-water rowing as an additional 2026 Commonwealth Games sport and to nominate Lake Nagambie as the location to host this event.

Rowing was part of the Commonwealth Games sporting program from 1938 until 1962*, when it was classified as an optional sport for the Commonwealth Games. Rowing is a popular sport in Australia—60,000 people participate, including more than 185 schools and 165 clubs. This is an absolute no-brainer for the government, and I know Nagambie and the Strathbogie shire would do Victoria proud in hosting a great rowing event.

I look forward to the government’s positive response, and I hope to see Strathbogie’s name on the list.

* Rowing returned for the 1986 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh. It has since remained optional for host organisers.

Report targets better victim support

Statement on report

May 11, 2022

Tania MAXWELL (Northern Victoria) (17:16):

I rise to speak on the Legal and Social Issues Committee report on the inquiry into Victoria’s criminal justice system*.

With more than 50 per cent of people incarcerated in Victoria going on to re-offend and 6pc of offenders being responsible for more than 44pc of crimes reported to Victoria Police, there was a solid case for evaluating how we break the downward spiral of offending and try to limit the suffering of those who are victims and survivors.

In retrospect, given how broad this inquiry was, I probably would have preferred that the examination of the criminal justice system was separated into two parts: first, how we address serious and violent offending, and then a separate consideration of lower level offending.

In considering factors that increase the risk of engagement with the criminal justice system, the inquiry confirmed that adverse childhood experiences have a significant impact and that support for children and young people should be community led, place based and focused on education and employment.

How we implement early interventions and primary prevention strategies that address the root cause of offending, particularly where it relates to disadvantage, trauma, childhood neglect and family violence, is an ongoing challenge and a responsibility. This was strongly reflected in the report and is a key focus of the regular discussions I have with ministers about our justice system.

While the inquiry gave a general recommendation to raise the age of criminal responsibility, I acknowledge the answer the Attorney-General recently gave to a question in the chamber about this very matter.

I am very supportive of the Attorney’s response that the focus should be on holistic programs that stop children from being caught up in the justice system in the first place. How we support at-risk children and, importantly, their families with appropriate, trauma-informed services that are implemented early with intensity and consistency must be a priority.

This inquiry considered diversion programs and the important role they have to play in providing alternative pathways to prison whilst keeping our community safe.

Victoria Police issue around 130,000 cautions and diversions every year, and Drug Courts are another judicially-supervised pathway that is proving effective and worthy of expansion. There are various recommendations about data and the importance of evaluations and transparency. Some will be difficult to implement and require further unpacking with key stakeholders before progressing.

Three chapters of the inquiry report are dedicated to victims of crime, their experience and support. Some of the recommendations made by the inquiry have progressed quite recently, including a new financial assistance scheme, which will go a long way to assisting victims of crime, something I have been advocating for since my first day in Parliament.

While I made a deliberate decision not to submit a minority report, I will put on record my strong opposition to any watering down of practices or laws relating to high-risk offenders, or that may rush major law reform without evidence-based early interventions in place that are well-funded, evaluated and working.

This makes it clear that our justice system should ensure that presumptions against bail are targeted to serious offending and serious risk. It also recommends that any review of practices should take the views of victims and law enforcement into account. I will note that offences subject to strict circumstances in the granting of bail include serious charges such as murder, manslaughter, threats to kill, rape, incest, family violence, drug trafficking, home invasion and committing offences while on parole. These are not trivial offences, and they are certainly not victimless.

We cannot forget the six people killed and 30 injured at Bourke Street Mall (on January 20, 2017). We cannot forget the families who suffer after their loved ones have been killed by someone on parole or bail. This did not just happen once. It happened to Jill Meagher, to Karen Chetcuti, to Zoe Buttigieg, to Courtney Herron, to Masa Vukotic. Before the Coghlan review more than 20 Victorians were killed by serial offenders who should have been in jail—20 offenders.

With more than 800 pages and 100 recommendations there will continue to be much to say about the justice inquiry. I look forward to the government’s consideration of the recommendations made and the continued debate it will no doubt generate as we continue to endeavour to make our community safer.

* The report was tabled in the Legislative Council on February 24, 2022.

Maxwell seeks Albury Wodonga Health funding

Question without notice

May 11, 2022

Tania Maxwell MP, Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party Member for Northern Victoria, asked the Attorney-General and fellow MP for Northern Victoria Jaclyn Symes MP a question without notice for Health Minister Martin Foley MP about funding for a new Albury Wodonga Health campus:

Tania MAXWELL (Northern Victoria) (12:05):

My question is to the Attorney-General for the Minister for Health regarding the need for a new single-site hospital in Albury-Wodonga.

Albury Wodonga Health has completed a master plan that addresses the needs of the cross-border community. We know a new single-site hospital is desperately overdue. I have heard the call of local community leaders. They want focus on the dire health needs of the community and need a commitment from the Victorian government to deliver a new hospital.

I have worked collaboratively with the minister and you, Attorney, on health projects for our communities. The great news last week for Bright hospital is a prime example of that.

So my question on behalf of this community is: will the minister also find the necessary funding for this critical project in the $2.2 billion yet to be allocated in the current 2022–23 budget?

Jaclyn SYMES (Northern Victoria—Leader of the Government, Attorney-General, Minister for Emergency Services) (12:06):

I thank Ms Maxwell for her question for the Minister for Health.

I too am familiar with the needs of that community. It is a hospital that is utilised by my family members as well. It has been a wonderful resource, providing great services to people in that region, and it is fair to say that we know that the infrastructure does not currently match the efforts of the hardworking staff up there.

In relation to your question, you referenced a completed master plan or completed business case. That is incorrect. It is still in progress, and I do commend Albury Wodonga Health along with NSW Health and our health department, who continue to have discussions in relation to that. Similarly to the question that Dr Cumming asked me yesterday in relation to the Melton hospital, there are a lot of processes that need to be undertaken.

You have referenced preference for a single site. I have received mixed advice from people on whether they think it should be in Albury or it should be in Wodonga, for example. So there are ongoing discussions about these important matters, and in order to fulfill a business case it has to be completed with an idea of what you need to provide in the way of funding and what type of services and staff will be required.

Not all of those questions are answered yet, but I know that it is a priority for that community and a lot of people have views. A lot of experts have views, which is much more important than hearing from politicians. And I know I have had advocacy myself from collections of health experts up there. All of those views are certainly welcomed by me, and I know that the Minister for Health is also very interested in progressing this project.

As I said, the master plan process is well advanced and underway, and in relation to more detail I think it is probably more appropriate from the Minister for Health, because of course most of my knowledge about this is not in my ministerial capacities but in my role as a member for Northern Victoria.

Ms MAXWELL (12:08):

Thank you, Attorney, for your answer.

A proactive group of community-minded leaders, including doctors and health workers, have established Better Border Health, a working group aimed at raising the profile of the urgent need for a new site for the hospital in Albury-Wodonga.

They would be very interested to meet with the minister, and so my question is: will the minister accompany me—and perhaps you, Attorney, given that this, as you said, is not within your portfolio but within your electorate of Northern Victoria—to meet with this group and hear their aspirations for a new hospital?

Ms SYMES (12:09):

I thank Ms Maxwell for her supplementary question, and I will pass it on to the Minister for Health for his response in accordance with the standing orders.

Violet Town police officer commended

Member statement

May 11, 2022

Tania MAXWELL (Northern Victoria) (09:49):

I wish to commend Leading Senior Constable Pat Storer, who recently retired from Victoria Police.

Leading Senior Constable Pat Storer, known to many as simply Pat, proudly served in the Victoria Police for 44 years. Fourteen of these years have been dedicated to local service as the officer in charge at Violet Town police station.

I recently attended a community celebration for Mr Storer that was hosted by local Chris Raeburn and the Country Fire Authority, who set up a great guard of honour to farewell and thank him for his service. A lot of community members were in attendance to give their well wishes and thanks.

In speaking with local people, a consistent message was how these are going to be hard shoes to fill. Indeed many of them joked that they had trained Pat so well they would have a tough job ahead to train a new officer in the ways of their community.

I get a sense that a caravan is going to be a key part of Mr Storer’s next chapter, and I wish him all the best in his retirement with his beautiful wife, Kate.

Abused care leavers deserve redress

Adjournment speech

May 10, 2022

Tania MAXWELL (Northern Victoria) (16:59): (1895)

My adjournment is to the Premier, and the action I seek is for the government to outline why it has not yet provided a redress scheme for care leavers who experienced physical, psychological and emotional abuse while in Victorian orphanages.

The government has announced a number of redress schemes for those who have been harmed by historical actions from state policies and practices. This includes the recent announcement of redress for mothers who had their children forcibly removed through the historical practice of adoption for children born out of wedlock, as well as reparations for Aboriginal Victorians forcibly removed from their families before 1977. These schemes will provide $100,000 in redress to each person who experienced harm from these practices.

Care leavers (those who lived in state care homes as children) hold no grudges against others who have been given redress, but it is hard for them not to feel envy and disappointment that their own harm has not been recognised in a similar way.

The historical sexual abuse of care leavers in orphanages, children’s homes, missions and foster care is covered under the national redress scheme, though I will note with a heavy heart that this scheme has re-traumatised many victims in the process.

Inconsistencies between claims and victims being denied the maximum redress amount—for example, because they were sexually assaulted only once when they were living in an orphanage at the age of five, as if this is not horrific enough—defies logic and demonstrates we still have a long way to go in understanding trauma.

The Care Leavers Australasia Network has long campaigned for recognition and redress to extend to physical, psychological and emotional abuse and child labour practices in state institutions.

Some of these care leavers have recounted that while they did not experience sexual abuse themselves, they experienced the trauma as a child of witnessing it being perpetrated on others. Significantly, many of them report a childhood completely absent of love or a sense of belonging. We know the trauma an absence of attachment and emotional security has on an individual and the profound impact that it has on their identity and their life’s trajectory.

Back in 2004 a Senate inquiry recognised the history of cruelty inflicted on children raised as wards of the state. It recommended redress back then, and Premier Steve Bracks delivered an apology on behalf of Victoria in 2006. In that apology the Premier committed to working with survivors of abuse and neglect in care to promote the healing process, but formal redress for emotional and physical trauma has stalled since then.

In the absence of commonwealth action, as with other redress Victoria could and should lead the way, so I ask the government: what are you waiting for? Care leavers recently issued their plea on the steps of this Parliament—and they asked the government to please hear them, please see them and deliver to care leavers the recognition that they deserve.

Image: Care leavers outside the royal commission hearing in 2020. [ABC, Jack Fisher]

Tania Maxwell bats with Hanging Rock

Media statement

April 8, 2022

Tania Maxwell MP has implored Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio to allow small Macedon Ranges communities to keep playing sport at Hanging Rock oval.

The Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party Member for Northern Victoria said there was no justification to stop the 120-year-old local cricket club from fielding all-age competition on the historic ground but allow concerts, car rallies and fairs in its place and horse racing to continue around its perimeter.

Ms Maxwell made the appeal after she tabled in the Legislative Council on April 5 a petition signed by 1103 people calling on the state government to amend a draft master plan so local sporting clubs can still use the picturesque oval below the Rock.

“The Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning’s draft master plan for the Hanging Rock precinct flies in the face of the aspirations and traditions of the people of Newham, Hesket, Carlsruhe, Cobaw and Rochford,” she said.

“It seems also to be at odds with a 2018 strategic plan for the precinct and the views of local MP and Regional Development Minister Mary-Anne Thomas.

“Ms Thomas recently spoke in Parliament about much-needed sporting facilities in nearby Gisborne, saying: ‘Sport plays such an important role in the everyday life of our communities. And when sports clubs tell us they lack the facilities to play the sports they love, it means that the effects are felt by everyone…’.

“Well, a go-ahead for this master plan will be felt by everyone who uses and enjoys the oval for community sport.

“Local people feel devastated by the prospect that the master plan, as written, would remove cricket without offering a new home for the local kids, young people and adults who love it.

“The game’s been played here since 1864, Hanging Rock Cricket Club has more than 100 members, and this past season it fielded four junior and three senior teams including girls and women.

“Compared with horse-racing, concerts and similar big visitor events, local cricket must be the activity with the lightest touch on the precinct’s environment.

“But bureaucrats haven’t seemed to grasp the cricket club’s common-sense claim on this vital point.”

Ms Maxwell said the Rock’s Aboriginal cultural heritage was clearly significant.

“There’s so much great work going on in Victoria to advance everyone’s understanding and awareness of First People’s culture,” she said.

“In the same spirit as expressed by the cricket club, surely environmental, cultural and sporting traditions can co-exist in a supportive and respectful way in this wonderful place.”

Comments by Hanging Rock Cricket Club officials and players:

“The last couple of years have been tough enough. Keeping the kids and other players at the club safe and healthy and active through three COVID lockdowns has been an exhausting effort from dozens of volunteers, many of whom were hit hard financially during that time. In the middle of that, the club rooms were broken into and wrecked by vandals. We’ve only just managed to complete those repairs. And now the government is kicking us out without a skerrick of support, or any plan for the future. It’s a death sentence for the club.”
Stephen Mitchell, Vice President

“Since joining the club in 2015, it has provided me with a vital outlet, a chance to play sport and give me a sense of community. My partner and I moved to the Macedon Ranges in 2015 and the club has helped provide that rooting to the local community. The club location is what first inspired me to join, and Hanging Rock has since become a second home, so much so that my partner and I are planning to one day tie the knot there. If the club was to move, then it will not only lose that presence in the local community, but it will also lose its identity. It is after all the Hanging Rock Cricket Club!”
Clinton Sterlson, Secretary

“Hanging Rock Cricket Club is all about families and community and giving girls and boys a fair go. The government could have the decency to look after those kids but instead they’re chasing tourist dollars.”
Peter Walsh, President

“It’s pretty humble. And we don’t take up much room. For us not to be a part of the proposal I see as a bit of an oversight.”
Matt Shanahan, player and parent of three junior players

“We’re the Heelers, we’re at the Rock, and we love it here. We don’t want it to be anywhere else.”
Felix, 12, player

“My daughter came to cricket as an observer before Christmas, and we pointed out at each training session the other girls who were participating. After the Christmas break the amazing coach of the U11s group met Lucy and asked her to join in, his partner introduced their daughter to her, and she joined in. In Lucy’s words after the training session, ‘That was so much fun, I’m going to join in every week and play the games too when I’m bigger. It is amazing we get to play here with the Rock’.”
Lucy, 7, and her mum

“Cricket is a real team game, we get to talk on the ­field with our friends.”
Ben, 9, player

Petition – read into Hansard (Legislative Council) Tue, April 5, 2022: 1103 signatures

Link

The Petition of certain citizens of the State of Victoria draws to the attention of the Legislative Council that the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning’s (DELWP) draft Master Plan for the use of Hanging Rock (the Rock) has significantly shifted focus towards events and tourism at the expense of community involvement and recreation.

Children and adults in the area will have their local sport and recreation facilities taken from them and DELWP is proposing no viable alternative. In particular, the Hanging Rock Cricket Club, established in 1893, has a membership of 100 people with three senior teams, four junior teams and a proud record of supporting women’s cricket.

The Cricket Club provides a safe place for children to play sport in a rural environment where venues for such recreation are limited. Losing access to much needed open space will have a significant and detrimental effect on the tight-knit community around the Rock, which is expanding with many young families.

Removal of a well-supported club from a vital recreation space reflects a desire to maximise profits from a popular and iconic location. In doing so, it sacrifices the wellbeing of the community and abandons the youth of the area.

The petitioners therefore request that the Legislative Council call on the Government to amend the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning’s draft Master Plan for Hanging Rock to allow local sport within the Hanging Rock precinct.

Wangaratta seeks garden funding mulch

With Wangaratta Community Garden’s Mary Daly and Eric Bittner (March 2022)

Constituency question

April 6, 2022

Tania MAXWELL (Northern Victoria) (12:41): (1745)

My constituency question is to the Minister for Health (Hon. Martin Foley MP) on behalf of the volunteers at Wangaratta Community Garden.

The Wangaratta Community Garden was established in 1993, and it has relied on volunteers to bring together gardeners from diverse backgrounds of different abilities and ages who share an enjoyment of growing affordable and healthy produce. The evidence is growing that the relationship between gardening, mental health benefits and community resilience is strong.

Wangaratta Community Garden has room to welcome more but desperately needs funding for a full-time gardener and manager. Mary Daly and Eric Bittner are Wangaratta Community Garden’s co-ordinators. They are tireless, generous volunteers of their time and fierce advocates for the importance of community connectedness and personal wellbeing that come from the garden. However, the future of the garden cannot rely on volunteers alone.

My question is: will the minister consider funding $200,000 towards a garden manager and ensure that it can successfully continue to support the wellbeing of those people in Wangaratta who continue to utilise this market garden?

Mallee communities step up and out

Member’s statement

April 6, 2022

Tania MAXWELL (Northern Victoria) (09:52):

You cannot travel the Mallee without marvelling at the three things these big-hearted north-west communities do so well—turning vast salt lakes into visitor destinations where you wonder at the awesome arc of earth and sky day or night, transforming concrete grain silos into breathtaking portraits of rural life and making award-winning vanilla slice at Sharp’s Bakery, Birchip.

Recently at the first Mali Heart Street Art Festival the people of Birchip and Watchem created another destination experience. Across the Labour Day weekend I joined these communities, artists and school students to celebrate a collaboration that has produced seven work of art on hotel, garage, local store and portable grain silo walls—wonderful additions to northern Victoria’s art trail. Congratulations to the Birchip Community Forum’s Jak Goldsmith, John Richmond and Ed Rickard; Blender Studios; Buloke Shire’s Kerrie Mulholland; festival artists led by Adrian Doyle; and the many people and organisations who made Mali Heart happen.

I also enjoyed Sea Lake’s Royal Hotel’s fine hospitality, got my rev fix at Wycheproof Lions’ Show and Shine and heard about the upcoming Wide Open Spaces weekend in Beulah, home of the film The Dry.

These small communities are not waiting. Using collaboration and creativity, they are stepping up and out into the future.