Mr GRIMLEY (Western Victoria) (16:39): Thank you, President, and I congratulate you on your advancement to the chair in this 59th Parliament. I also thank you for your warm welcome to me as a new member of Parliament. I look forward to working with you over the next four years.
I begin my first speech by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which we stand today. I pay my respects to their elders, both past and present. My association with the Aboriginal peoples extends to the Western Desert region of Western Australia many years ago. The person I have become to this day is partly as a result of my time spent in those remote communities, which I shall talk about later.
The Western Victoria Region holds a special place in the heart of Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party. Ballarat was chosen as a launching pad of the party in 2016, when I stood with Derryn as his running mate for the federal election. Geelong was selected as a launching place for the 2018 state election. Through holding a recent job as a senior detective at the Moorabool criminal investigation unit (CIU) I have become extremely familiar with the many towns within that shire, as well as in Melton and Ararat.
The previous job that I held as an educational stationery salesperson also allowed me to traverse many other towns and smaller locales within the 80 000 square kilometres that make up Western Victoria Region. It is certainly a big patch to cover, and through my experience with the people I can say it is full of big hearts and big opportunities.
I would like to thank the many people who have supported me along the journey so far—all the volunteers at the many booths around western Victoria, those who stood in the searing sun and the pelting rain without any complaining, simply doing it out of love and a commitment to the key issues that we passionately stand for.
Although we could not field volunteers at every booth, those that we did have to this day remain solid supporters and friends, and in particular to my cousin Scott; to Rob and Deb at Bacchus Marsh and Melton; to Kim at Colac; to Christian, Daryl and my mother-in-law, Ann, at Geelong; to Janette at Torquay; to Marion and Sarah at Ballarat; to Elsie at Corio; and also to my dad, Jim, who manned the booths, no matter what the conditions, every day, as he believes so much in what his son is standing for; and to all the volunteers, I thank you very much.
To my mum—who has also supported me along the journey over the years and has always been there to help in any way she can—I thank you. I am a very lucky person to have such supportive parents, who have stuck by my side throughout my life and have never wavered in their love and devotion to their only son.
To my in-laws, Christy, Brett, Paula, and my father-in-law, Wayne, I would also like to thank you for being there for me and helping out whenever and wherever you could over the years, and thanks for the food fights at our family gatherings as well, none of which I started myself.
To my previous work colleagues at Victoria Police, in particular at the Moorabool CIU, Daniel, John, Josh, Brian and Ben, and also Troy and Nathan, your advice and thoughts on how we can improve our legal system over my tenure will now have the opportunity of being heard in Parliament, and to all my previous brothers and sisters in blue, and indeed all emergency services workers, rest assured that you now have a representative within Spring Street who will work tirelessly to improve our judicial processes, and also work towards addressing and supporting the mental health issues that are becoming all too familiar.
I thank all the candidates who ran in the state election under the banner of Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party. Your commitment to the cause is to be commended, and your continuing support as we lead into a federal election this year is greatly appreciated. I would also like to thank my friend and colleague Tania Maxwell. Like me, Tania has been with the party for many years and was selected as a candidate for her commitment to tougher sentencing and more support for victims of crime, something I know both of us will continue to push for as new members of Parliament. Thanks, Tania, for your support and loyalty. Together we are going to make a formidable team in this house.
We have a leader and founder of the party, Derryn Hinch, a man of conviction—some may say too many convictions. It is well documented that Derryn has completed many periods of detention for standing by his beliefs for the betterment of the community. I have never come across anyone, past or present, who has been willing to make this amount of personal sacrifice for what he believes in.
I thank ‘team Hinch’—in particular Annette, Ruth, Glenn, Clinton, Carly and Zoe—for your support and loyalty towards me at all times. Without all of you I would not be in this position. Derryn, your friendship towards me and my family over the years has been warmly welcomed. We have always had great respect for each other, and your loyalty towards me is much appreciated.
Last of all—and most importantly—I thank my wife, Mandy, and my two kids, Michael and Brianna. Mandy, you are my rock and the love of my life. How you put up with me I do not know and I will never understand. I am the proudest father of my two kids. They have been through some tough times and have come out the other end with strength and most importantly a great sense of humour.
Despite going to a Christian Brothers high school in my younger years, I have never been a religious person. My family is my religion. I look to them for guidance and support. Instead of church, our Sundays are spent together enjoying each other’s company, with the occasional barbecue or game of Monopoly. However, I am always reminding my children that just because I, or we, do not believe in religion does not mean that our views are better than anyone else’s. Your religion or race or sexual orientation does not define you as a person and does not make you a better or worse person than anyone else. We are all the same, we are all human and we all share this one world we have.
I have been fortunate to have had a happy and healthy upbringing as a child. I spent my first 12 years in the much-maligned suburb of Elizabeth in South Australia, where we as kids made the most of our environment by exploring, playing sports and trying to stay out of trouble. It did not take long for trouble to find me, and I soon found myself in the back of a police car after being caught trespassing on a building site with my friends. Even though my ‘friends’ ran away when the police came, I stayed—maybe because I was not too sure if what I was doing was wrong, or maybe I knew that running away was not the right thing to do. Regardless, I was taken back to my parents’ place, and by that stage I was petrified. Yes, back then kids had a distinct respect for the police—something which is sorely lacking nowadays.
Anyway, I think my parents saw the writing on the wall, and a move was on the cards—out of Elizabeth and off to Geraldton in Western Australia, where I was to complete high school. I have often said that had I not been taken out of that environment then maybe I would have ended up on the other side of the thin blue line.
The move away to a new state and new school and away from my friends was tough to begin with, but I soon had a new bunch of mates to hang out with, and by the end of high school I had discovered the beauty of the beach and a beer. It also meant that I spent more time surfing than studying, and my grades may have suffered as a result. My tertiary entrance score meant that I was ineligible to attend university, even though at that stage I still had no idea what I wanted to do with my life.
It was not long after year 12 that I decided that a move back to South Australia was on the cards. It was there that I somehow got word that a tertiary entrance score in Western Australia was worth more in South Australia. How and why I do not know, but it meant that I was able to begin a course at the University of South Australia—a bachelor of arts in education. After completing six months of that course I was able to transfer to a university in Western Australia. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. From there I completed a teaching degree and became a pretty decent teacher, but my first job was in a challenging environment to say the least—the Western Desert.
Getting your first full-time job as a teacher is a pretty exciting time. Knowing that my accommodation in the desert consisted of a caravan parked at the back of the school, with the toilet and shower some 50 metres away, definitely took the gloss off the great news. I use the term ‘caravan’ loosely, by the way; it was more of a metal box on wheels with a bed just big enough for my legs to hang over the edge. As a wide-eyed and ready-to-change-the-world young fella, this made the experience a little more challenging, to say the least. To top it all off, I was told that it was a dry community. I recall saying something like, ‘Of course it’s dry—it’s the desert!’. Imagine my surprise when I was informed that by ‘dry’ they meant no alcohol. You could have knocked me down with a feather. This is a place where the temperature can reach above 50 degrees. As a 23-year-old at the time I never knew such places existed.
Anyway, my body seemed to respond well to the zero alcohol during the school term, and my teaching career was off to a flying start. I loved the job, and I loved immersing myself in a new culture and meeting many wonderful people. It was all English as a second language, and I soon became familiar with many of the common words of the Ngaanyatjarra dialogue, the first of which were the swear words, of course, as these seemed to be the most commonly used in the classroom when I first started.
It was also during my tenure as a desert teacher that I experienced the impact and frequency of abuse suffered by children, as well as domestic abuse suffered by many families. At times I felt helpless, even more so as the nearest police station was over 3 or 4 hours away. Maybe this is where I began to learn how to communicate with people under extreme duress—something which became invaluable to me as a police officer.
I often reflect back on my time in the Western Desert and have come to the conclusion that I have learned more from the Indigenous peoples than I could ever teach them. I am very thankful for that, and it has made me become a strong advocate for improved living standards for all Aboriginal peoples. The tie that I am wearing today comes from an Aboriginal artist. It is a symbol of acknowledging and thanking the peoples of the Western Desert from my past being here in this present.
Doing the hard yards in the desert set me up well enough to gain a position as a school principal in the wheat belt region of Western Australia. There is something about the country that has always had a strong pull for me; however, to further my career I had to move back to the big smoke in Perth, where my passion for teaching was overcome by my passion for justice. Where or how this came about I am not too sure, but it was a strong calling that could not be ignored.
My time as a police officer has been served in the northern suburbs of Perth and also in Kalgoorlie. I have a lot to be grateful for from my time in Kalgoorlie. It was where I met my wife, Mandy—in a pub, believe it or not. It was there where our firstborn son, Michael, came into our lives, and it was where I began to understand the issues of our Indigenous peoples’ struggle with alcohol, homelessness and crime. That was nearly 20 years ago, and sadly these issues still remain to this day.
After our son was born we made the decision to relocate to Victoria, as we soon realised that our family would be more suited to being closer to our relatives in the eastern states. After a short stay in Mount Gambier, where our Brianna was born, we continued our move to Victoria, where we settled in Geelong. My reappointment as a police officer in Victoria has seen me in positions including general duties, as a detective in the sex offences and child abuse investigation team in Footscray and finally as a detective in the Moorabool police service area.
Being a police officer can be rewarding, is often thankless and is always challenging. It is a job where you will see what the worst of humanity can deliver, yet at the same time it is a job that can deliver justice to people so desperately seeking it. It has been a job where I have talked people out of jumping off the West Gate Bridge; where I have comforted a dying young man trapped in his car after an accident; where I have supported family members following the sudden and unexpected death of a loved one; where I have trawled through thousands of child abuse images on a paedophile’s computer, trying to identify victims while categorising the images on a scale required for prosecution; and it has been a job where I have had to do the dreaded doorknock to tell a parent that their child has died. These are the jobs that our police service does day in and day out, so when you are having a bad day just remember who is out there trying to make your life and community safer.
Going from being someone who failed to get into university after year 12 to someone who has been a teacher, principal, police officer, detective and now a member of Parliament says something about persistence, commitment and hope. I have often said to my children and other school students that your results on a test are not a reflection of who you are or who you could be. I always encourage my children to do their best but not be defined by results; be defined by your potential and what you can do to be the best version of yourself possible. And yes, there will be mistakes along the way; how can we learn without them?
You will all get to know me as a pragmatic person willing to listen to all parties. I am here as a representative of the constituents of Western Victoria Region, but more importantly I am here as a father and a family man. I look forward to what the next four years will hold and the new lessons to be learned, because not only are we here to make our communities better places to live, but this is also a rare opportunity to make our own lives the best they possibly can be.
That is my story; that is my ethos. Thanks for listening.