Elizabeth Kikkert MLA
13 December 2016
Legislative Assembly for the Australian Capital Territory
It is a great privilege and honour for me to stand before you this day. I am deeply grateful to the residents of the Ginninderra electorate who put their trust in me and gave me the opportunity to serve as their member of the Legislative Assembly. This is a responsibility that I take extremely seriously, and as I embark on this journey, I am focused on giving to and serving the people of Ginninderra, as well as the people of Canberra.
My journey to this office has not been entirely straightforward or easy. I arrived in this country at the age of eight knowing only two words of English: yes and no. The confusion of attending classes that I could not understand was further complicated by frequent beatings, both before and after school, and by the fact that food money was often taken to be spent on alcohol instead. This situation eventually changed, but that change meant that the rest of my growing-up years were spent in a broken home headed by a single mother. I decided as a youth, however, that I would not let any negative experiences rob me of my personal dignity or hold me back from anything good. I also made the unshakable determination that the next generation in my family would be protected from such things.
I would not wish to repeat many of these experiences, but I am fully aware of, and feel the importance of, such trials in my life. Without these life-learning experiences, I would not be who I am today.
I would therefore like to thank some of the people that have come into my life and who have made it possible for me to develop and grow and mature. My husband Sean has been my rock and inspiration. I thank my children for their loyalty, cooperation, hard work and trust. I am grateful to my parents, particularly my mother, for her strength and her devotion and for being a compassionate woman. I am also grateful for my dear friends, who have carried some of my burdens and supported me during the events in my life. I also wish to thank all those who contributed to my campaign in any way, volunteering everything from time to resources.
I have grown to love the people of Canberra, and the love that I feel for the people inspires me to serve them with all the strength that I have. As a local member, I am determined to act as a voice for the people of Ginninderra. I am in partnership with them to build a better Ginninderra and a better Canberra. I believe that all members of the public should be treated as full partners and full participants in our quest for a better Canberra. They need to know that their input is valued. We want to involve, listen to and support people. Many have expertise and experiences that we can humbly learn from. As we strive for a better Canberra as a whole, we must always remember to love and care for the people we serve as individuals. Each person is important to me, and I want no one to feel as if they are forgotten by the government.
This desire is evident in my personal life. When my eldest daughter was born 14 years ago, my husband Sean and I named her Utopia. We named her Utopia because we believed in actively participating to create a better society to live in. We loved how Sir Thomas More, the author of Utopia, had a vision for a better society, and we also believed that we can all work together to create a better world if we are united in respect and care for each other. As much as my husband and I have actively participated and volunteered within our community to build a better society, we also fully recognised our duty to teach these same principles to our children. I believe that investing in our children and our youth is one of the most important investments that we can make.
As a mother, I wear many different hats and have many different roles. Motherhood is truly a challenging, demanding and selfless occupation, one that requires a myriad of skills and abilities. While effective motherhood is a skilled occupation that requires the very best of us, I have learnt that great things can be accomplished by ordinary mothers who have the passion, the love and the dedication to make a difference.
I have been proud to teach my children by example that nothing about effective work in a family or in society is particularly complicated. It is all based on the timeless principles of faith (which is a belief in things that are hoped for but not yet seen), affection, patience, hope, kindness, humility and diligence. Mix those principles with planning, hard work and organisation, and families, individuals and society will be able to accomplish anything we can imagine. There really is strength in unity.
Women are the masterpieces of society. I believe that children are the most precious and the most valuable thing in all of the world, and as women, we have been entrusted to bear and give birth to our children and then raise, nurture, train, and teach them to be good citizens and our future leaders. I believe that we need more mothers in politics, for the same principles that build strong families will also build a stronger society. As a mother of five children, I am well aware of many issues that are important to families in the Australian Capital Territory. As a dedicated, hard-working mother, I have developed the attributes and qualifications that will allow me to work towards a better Canberra as a member of the Legislative Assembly.
Participation in the assembly is both a privilege and a responsibility. As a member of the Liberal Party, I feel personally accountable to lift burdens from the shoulders of my leader and my MLA colleagues. I will diligently prepare for and participate in meetings and discussions so that we, as Canberra Liberals, can be the best we can be. As a shadow minister, I feel the need to not just know policy but to engage with the people who day in day out are affected by policy decisions, and learn from their expertise and experiences. As concerns and issues arise, I am obligated to sincerely question the government and work with them towards resolving these issues.
As I hold a position of leadership, I will be required to give an account for what I did with the position that I hold. I understand that leadership is a sacred trust. I am dedicated to investing my energy in solving or preventing problems and to strategically plan for the future.
Through many years of community work, I have been able to address fragmentation and work towards achieving co-operation and unity among diverse groups within our communities. As a result of rendering significant service in Canberra, I have come to the conclusion that it is only when we give of ourselves to others that we find true happiness. By giving ourselves to others in service, we can put our differences behind.
When I turned 30, I wanted to celebrate my birthday in a different way. Instead of focusing on receiving gifts, I wanted my birthday to be about giving to others. And so I performed 30 random acts of kindness around Canberra. I visited the hospital, emergency department, schools, car parks, the Belconnen bus interchange, the library, shopping centres and an embassy and did small acts of kindness to Canberrans in those places. I visited a stranger in hospital who had not been visited by anyone for six weeks and gave her flowers. It was such a highlight to see how overjoyed she was when I visited with her.
Every year since then, I have continued this tradition of doing random acts of kindness according to the age I turn. This year I used my reverse birthday activity to raise awareness for mental health. I wanted people to be able to see the person rather than the illness. I believe we need to extend our kindness to everyone. When we extend kindness to people, we restore their faith in humanity.
Serving others allows me to focus on them as people. I see the one and not just a mass of humanity. I see the individual pieces of detail as well as the broad brushstrokes of the big picture. For all of us, there is a gap between where performance is now and where it could be in the future, and we can all help each other reach our full potential. I have a clear vision about what causes I need to champion and what I want to help people do and become.
The family is the most important unit of society, and it creates and fosters the values on which a unified society is built. I will work towards strengthening families so that family members are supported and equipped with the tools to help them identify and reach their aspirations. Our children and youth need models to imitate, knowledge to acquire and things to do in order to learn and to grow. Inasmuch as I am a partner with the people of Ginninderra to represent them in the assembly, I need to hand much responsibility back to the people. I can help them to their feet by respecting their individual dignity and supporting the development of a robust, stable economy.
An important ingredient for a thriving society is to have people occupied with their work rather than sitting around aimlessly. A person’s freedom is the basis of her or his dignity. For families or individuals, work is very important as it will create a greater sense of personal dignity for having done all they could do for themselves. We need to make sure that those who consume shall be among those who produce. I will constantly talk to experts and ordinary people and will enlarge my vision of what is possible. A true leader is one who serves, and I see my role as a servant of the people. And all these are the values that, since its establishment, have been the driving force of the Liberal Party.
Canberra has a destiny to fulfil. What we need to achieve this destiny is not just young people with training and skills, but rather we will need a generation of great leaders. We need those who have learned discipline, who are able to not only organise a thriving community but also build hope in people. We need people to sustain the weak and faltering and to defend the defenceless.
And I as your servant member of the ACT Legislative Assembly am committed and grateful to do this work.