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Cassy O'Connor - Tribute

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Tuesday, 8 August 2023

Tags: Political Leadership

Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin - Leader of the Greens) - Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise tonight to speak about the former leader of the Tasmanian Greens, the member for Clark, Cassy O'Connor.

Cassy was first elected as the Tasmanian Greens member for Denison, as it was then, on a countback on 21 July 2008 following the resignation of previous Greens leader, Peg Putt. Cassy went on to top the polls in Denison at the 2010 state election and again in 2018. She remains the only MP in Tasmanian history to be sworn in outside of Hobart when she was sworn in during the 2008 regional sittings of parliament in Launceston, when this Chamber was being renovated.

After topping the polls in Denison at a 'Green-slide' election in 2010, Cassy became the first Greens female MP nationally to serve in a Cabinet position when she was made Cabinet secretary in the Labor-Greens power-sharing government. After a Cabinet reshuffle in 2011, Cassy then became the first Greens female minister in Australia when she was sworn in as minister for Human Services, Community Development, Aboriginal Affairs and Climate Change - a position she held until 2014.

With Cassy as minister, the public housing waiting list became the lowest in a decade; the notorious Stainforth Court was reborn as the new Queens Walk Apartments; and 9500 energy-efficiency upgrades were provided to low income households.

Her staunch commitment to Tasmanians joining the NDIS saw an estimated 10 600 Tasmanians become eligible in the early round.

Cassy introduced Tasmania's first Working with Vulnerable People legislation, which she was particularly proud of.

She introduced lutruwita's dual naming policy and tried to return Rebecca Creek and larapuna to the original owners but was blocked by the other place, unfortunately.

Cassy commissioned Tasmania's first study into the value of the carbon held in this island's forest and she was a key driver of the Tasmanian Forest Agreement, which saw over 170 000 hectares added to the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area - forests that are protected forever.

Most Tasmanians will know Cassy as a tenacious and strong champion for lutruwita and its people. She was a formidable parliamentary performer by anyone's standard and, as the Greens leader, respected across the community and across politics. It is that respect that helped her work across the Chamber to make real change for this island. She did that through the actions she showed as leader. We have amended the Births, Deaths and Marriages Act to recognise transgender and intersex people. She worked with now Premier, Jeremy Rockliff, to make Tasmania the first parliament in the country to recognise and support marriage equality. Following the national live baiting scandal, it was Cassy's inquiry into greyhound racing that forced through animal welfare reforms, which still need to be completed, ending the free for all killing of dogs, and unmuzzled rescue greyhounds.

Cassy continued the Greens' strong legislative campaign for voluntary assisted dying and the restoration of the House of Assembly to its original size. Both of these have now been passed thanks to her very substantial contributions.

She was catalytic in helping to expose the brutality of Ashley Youth Detention Centre long before the commission of inquiry process. She championed the importance of shining a light on children in detention. She was one of the first people to call for an inquiry into child sex abuse in state institutions. That went on to become the commission of inquiry which is just about to complete its findings.

Over her 15 years in the House of Assembly, Cassy has been a champion for climate action, for a fair society, for a prosperous low carbon economy, and the protection of forests and wilderness. She came here on Valentine's Day 1989 and has given her heart to the island ever since.

As well as her activities as the Leader of the Greens, prior to that she worked in journalism and was a political adviser prior to entering government. She gave up journalism after having kids and after running for the Greens, but she always remained a story-teller and was amazing at weaving stories of people's experiences and their concerns.

It was when she walked into a community meeting about a Gold Coast-esque canal estate development in Ralphs Bay that she led the path to activism and ultimately into parliament. In 2004 she became the public face of Save Ralphs Bay. It was a community campaign that ultimately stopped Walker Corporation's planned development under a project of state significance, one of the only two that have been formally rejected under that process. It has forever protected the sand flats at Lauderdale as the Ralphs Bay Conservation Area, formally declared in 2010.

Cassy served the people of Clark and her beautiful electorate that sits between kunanyi/ Mt Wellington and timtumili minanya, the River Derwent, tirelessly. The Greens are enormously proud to have had Cassy at the helm for the last eight years. She has been a strong, whip-smart and deeply empathetic leader.

Personally, it has been an incredible privilege to have sat beside her in parliament for the last eight years. It has been a great honour and continues to be an honour to call her one of my very dear friends. The future political aspirations of Cassy are on public record and whatever the future holds, I am very confident that lutruwita/Tasmania is a better place for having a still committed, wild green heart in Cassy O'Connor. I salute the legacy that she has given, not only the Greens, but the people of Tasmania.

Mr Bayley - Hear, hear.