Tuesday, 20 September 2022


Member for Euroa

Member for Euroa

Valedictory statement

Ms RYAN (Euroa) (17:10): It has been the honour of a lifetime to serve in this place as the first member for Euroa. I will always be indebted to our community for putting their faith in me as a young 28-year-old, and many at the time said I looked 18 and wondered if I could vote. But I leave Parliament optimistic about the future of our region. I have always believed that our greatest strength is our people. I feel so privileged to have been invited into people’s homes and into their lives, often in the most difficult of times. We have confronted bushfires, floods and a pandemic, and in the face of it all, we have gotten up, dusted ourselves off and kept going. More importantly, we have looked out for one another. I think about people like Barb Radford, who has devoted her time to helping families in crisis, and Ivan Lister, our rural outreach worker who spends his days checking in on people just to make sure they are doing okay. They are just two of the many extraordinary people who call our region home. When I started this job, I wanted to solve everything immediately, and it took me a while to realise that real change can only be achieved when you bring people with you. I am proud of what we have achieved in the past eight years, but anything I might have achieved has been done in partnership with my community.

Of course there are always a few constituents who drive you nuts. No-one has worked harder to support me during election campaigns than my predecessor Bill Sykes. A few weeks ago he offered me one of his better pieces of advice: ‘Steph, you can tell at least 12 people to get stuffed on the way out the door’, in slightly different Bill words. I have been happy to hear the complaints about the can-opener that was not up to scratch, the lukewarm temperature of the resident’s hot-water system and, more recently, the slightly too strong scent of the air freshener at the local pool, and I have always done my best to assist. But today there is one person I am going to tell to get stuffed. Her name is Marg Ryan and no, she is not related to me. Marg moved into my electorate just before COVID. She contacted me in the middle of lockdowns, amid all those restriction changes, with the most ridiculous questions. Knowing how stressed people were, I spent literally hours poring over those bloody regulations in an effort to give Marg accurate answers. But after providing a detailed response and another detailed response, I would still receive tetchy emails. I made representations on her behalf to the federal Treasurer about her concern that she was not eligible for JobKeeper. To the former member for Kooyong, I am deeply sorry. But it was when Marg sent me an email asking how many intimate partners she was allowed to visit under the government regulations that I almost broke. Marg, quite honestly, made me question what I was doing with my life. After a while she went away, until two months ago, in a momentary lapse of memory, the member for Gippsland East revealed himself as Marg. ‘Marg’ is currently corresponding with her local dog groomer in Bairnsdale. She is outraged that the groomer will not agree to groom her Dorset sheep, her alpacas, her guinea pigs and a goldfish.

I will admit that it has not all been one-way traffic. Marg came into being shortly after Bully sent Chris Waller an email to inquire about what COVID-safe measures he was putting in place around his stables to protect his Cox Plate prospect. He was deeply concerned after reading that horses could contract COVID. When the shadow minister received a very detailed reply from that prominent trainer the next day during question time, he looked at me and his eyes almost popped out of his head. It was the only time in eight years that I honestly wished I was not sitting next to him, and I think after that question time I fled the chamber rather quickly.

The hardest thing about leaving Parliament is leaving the camaraderie of our party room. The Leader of The Nationals is one of the giants of our party. His leadership has kept our party room together. No-one has worked harder to get more women into our party than Walshie, and I know he will be a fantastic Deputy Premier. Walshie’s often repeated mantra that ‘If you’re not living on the edge, you’re taking up too much room’ is a wisdom that I will take with me into my next chapter.

Killer is a fighter, and I cannot wait to see what she does. Danny is one of the kindest and most considerate people I know. Macca is one of the humblest and the hardest working, and people underestimate him at their peril. Bully, I will miss our pranks on each other and also on Kim, though he remains oblivious to most of them. Melina, you are a glorious human being, and I knew I would cry when I got to you. I love you to bits. You care and you invest so deeply in the party and its future.

Beyond the party room I have been supported by an amazing network of volunteers and members, people like Nanny Marie, Neil Pankhurst, Darren Chester, Drummie of course—although sometimes it is debatable whether it was support or not—and local branch members including Frank Dean, the indomitable Bruce Nicholls, Maureen Cotham, Jim and Margaret Brook, Kevin Cooper, Ian Smith and James Brook and so many others.

During my 15-year journey in and around this place I have had the privilege of working with some wonderfully talented and caring humans, all of whom have shaped me. Wendy Nolan was responsible for bringing me into the party 15 years ago, and Paul Weller gave me my first job in politics. Peter Ryan gave me the next one. My career has intersected with incredible people: Catherine Horsefell, Ben Hindmarsh, Luke O’Sullivan, Deb Cole—all one-time colleagues but, more importantly, trusted friends and great sources of advice.

I am also so grateful for the assistance and friendship of the staff we have had in the leader’s office and head office who supported me during the time I was deputy leader: Em, Royce and Gina, Kate, Laz, Paul, Kelly, Alex, Sharon and our wonderful Jess. We lived through the pressure cooker of premiers, through the nanny state numberplate saga, ‘Moorpoopna’, incoming and outgoing press conferences and Ted’s cryptic sense of humour.

Then there was my time with Kim, where he came to love my clicking pens and I his meticulous lists. On one particularly memorable outing he left me behind in Geelong because I refused to call a press conference that in my estimation was a suicide mission, and I would still say that it was.

Mr Wells: No, it wasn’t.

Ms RYAN: Over the last eight years I also count myself very lucky to have employed some wonderful staff. Rachel Tharratt and Lyndel O’Sullivan, you two inspired and motivated me every day. You brought enthusiasm, energy and joy. Our tour of 28 towns in 24 hours across the electorate at the last election will always be a highlight for me, and I am so proud to see the careers you are now carving. I love you both dearly.

To my current crew, what a team. I will miss the debates where Caitlyn and Mitch inevitably line up on opposite sides, Adam’s random costume purchases and Lois’s swear jar, which is overflowing—because of us, not because of her, mind you. I should point that out; I do not want to defame Lois, who is perfect. Mitch Itter has one of the sharpest minds I have ever come across and Adam Scott is the epitome of charm—there is nobody who does not love him They have been the perfect team. They both have very big futures, wherever they go next. Thank you for your loyalty, your hard work and the laughs. Caitlyn Putt has given me amazing continuity through changes in the office, while Lois Tharratt has been the calm through every storm.

I also want to thank the wonderful parliamentary staff for the support they have provided over the last eight years. Bridget, I am in awe of the work that you do and your achievement as the first female Clerk of the Assembly. I want most particularly to thank Adam in security, with whom I have developed a very strong rapport with my almost daily visits for a new pass.

When I was first elected in 2014 I received a letter from Tim Fisher with his top 10 tips for surviving politics. Tip number one: on entering Parliament write down 10 names of the close non-political friends you want to still have at the end of your career, and if you have not made contact with them by Cup Day each year, you initiate contact to keep the friendship alive. At the time I thought he was joking, but he was not.

I have been so lucky to have friends who have stuck by me when I have not always had the time or the headspace to respond. The Pondettes—Monni, Lauren, Micki and Flood—you are my oldest and dearest friends, and you have never wavered in your support for me. I know our friendship has sometimes felt one-sided, but I am so looking forward to spending more time with you. Nikki, I still have not met your two beautiful girls. Jus, I am sorry I could not be with you when you were terribly sick half a world away. Hugh and Ben, I will always regret missing your wedding. Smyth and Dunlop, I have just missed you, and I just really want to see a lot more of you—more dinners and more wine. And to the comrades, thank you for your support and your love—overseas group holidays are back on the agenda. Gerard and Sandra, I simply do not have the words to thank you for all you have done for us. You are generous to a fault, and you are like family to us. To Nina and John, Dave and Annabelle, Jim and Lauren: you have all been wonderful mates.

Now for the teary bit. Brad, hand me the tissues; wearing mascara was a terrible mistake. I am eternally grateful to my beautiful parents, Paul and Jenny, who have given so much love and support. We truly could not have managed without Mama and Pa. Lizzie and Philip, thank you for your belief, your quiet encouragement and for always turning yourselves inside out to help us. My wonderful siblings, Luke and Dave, and most particularly my sister, Tasha—without her I would in all likelihood still be single. I might also be homeless; she designed our house. She planned and organised my entire wedding, and had she been called upon to do so, I am sure she would have stepped in to play me when I could not get away from Parliament in time to make my own wedding rehearsal. Above all she has been the most enormous emotional support for me, and I love the three of them so very much.

Finally, to Tig and Sunday. From the moment that I plucked up the courage to hit ‘Reply’ to an email Tig sent to the Premier’s media team titled ‘Tim Holding on 774’ to ask him out, to today, our life has never known anything but politics. In my defence, when we met I did not know he was a member of the Labor Party. All I knew was that he had the warmest smile and the kindest heart of anyone I had ever met—ripping taste in music too. It took another year before he relented to my single-minded determination, by the way. Always one to uphold the highest ethical standards, he believed it was inappropriate for a public servant to date a political staffer. This week I thought back to the moment Tig said to me, ‘You should do it; think of the change that you can make’. It sticks in my mind like it was yesterday. He stepped back to let me enter public life. If I had not, it could very well have been him, and I know that he will hate me for saying that. The last eight years have brought so much change in our lives. The year after I was elected we got engaged then married. We built our first home, and most importantly and life changing of all we had one beautiful baby and we lost another. Tig and Sunny, I love you two above all else, and I am so very excited for the next phase of our lives together, one where I am around more.

Today simply marks the end of one chapter in my career and the beginning of another. Last week when I got home from Parliament, we danced around the living room to Talking Heads. Naive Melody is currently Sunny’s favourite song, for which I am grateful because I was getting pretty sick of the Wiggles, and it is mine too. Home is where I want to be. If someone asks, this is where I will be. Thank you.

Members applauded.