SPEECH – Vale Willow Walker

15 August 2017

I rise tonight with a heavy heart to reflect upon a tragedy that has happened in recent weeks that resulted in the loss of a little angel named Willow Walker in the Central West part of my home state. I have decided to reflect upon this for a number of reasons. Willow Walker, the daughter of Brooke and Daniel, and sister to her brother, Harley, was a child of the Collins and Walker families of the Central West in Queensland.

I had the privilege to be able to join the family, extended family, friends and, indeed, almost the entire community of the Central West as Willow’s life was celebrated. I was particularly moved by a number of things that I saw. Firstly, the stoic and resilient approach taken by her parents as they celebrated this little girl’s life was inspirational—nothing short of inspirational. Supported by the broader family, the grandparents and, indeed, the entire community of the district, in so many ways it really was a restoration in the faith of our communities. I’m reflecting on this on the basis that these are rural communities. I think that the opportunity to provide support in these circumstances—the very nature of those communities, where everybody knows each other and everybody feels affected by these things, makes it easier or more likely for that support to happen in some of our smaller rural communities than we might sometimes see in larger metropolitan areas.

The entire Central West was affected by this enormous tragedy. It is an area that’s remained under the heavy hand of drought now for four or five years. It remains one of the districts—there are many—in Australia that have not recovered from the impacts of drought and of market forces that have really challenged the economic and social stability of these places. In the midst of that, to see them rally around the Walker and Collins families around the loss of this little angel, Willow Walker, was something that I am unlikely to forget.

I felt so moved that I believe the circumstances need to be placed on the annals of our Hansard here in the federal parliament, to let all the Brookes and Daniels of Australia, who each face their own tragedies, many of which we don’t learn about, know that we recognise their strengths. We recognise the strengths of their communities. They go to the very heart of what makes us Australians. They are deeply held in the culture and psyche of our people, who endure very difficult circumstances as they make their contributions to this nation. So I just wanted to say to Brooke, Daniel and Harley: the loss of Willow has not gone unnoticed. The impacts of how you celebrated her life were inspirational, and they will continue to play a part in underpinning this enormously important culture.