Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin) - I want to pay my respects and tribute to Michael O'Neill from the Huon Valley, who was killed in Ukraine last Wednesday. Michael was in Ukraine in a humanitarian role, helping people defend their land and culture against Russian invasion and domination.
Michael was just 47. He was a truck driver. By his actions obviously a practical and caring man. His family described him as being moved to join a humanitarian organisation in March because he saw the Ukrainian people's desperate need for help.
Many of us have watched on our phones in shock, dismay, anger, and sadness, as we have seen images of this cruel, unprovoked war. It continues. We have seen its brutality. We have seen its violence and the mass upheaval of 44 million women, men, and children. Many of us have watched and felt helpless. Michael O'Neill watched and took action.
His family is very proud of him. He has four brothers and three children. Bernadette Doyle, his sister, said that her brother knew it was dangerous but could see that outside help was desperately needed to assist convoying women and children to safer places. She said Michael became more involved, delivering supplies into the front line, assisting with the retrieval of the injured and deceased. These dangerous and selfless actions to help defenceless people exposed Michael to more danger. He ultimately died along with soldiers and other civilians nearby.
Michael had a strong connection to the southern Tasmanian football community. He was an active sportsman and talented Australian Rules football player in the Huon. He and his brothers last played for the Kermandie Football Club until it closed in 2010. On Sunday, the Cygnet Football Club's under 17 girls' team, the Southern Storm, played a game at the Kermandie Oval and they wore the old Kermandie Football Club jumper in Michael's honour. The Southern Storm side included Michael's three nieces. They wore the colours of his former Kermandie club. I understand that they won by eight goals against Huonville. Michael must have been barracking them along from the sidelines. Go the Storms.
I never knew Michael. I wish I had. I admire his get up and go. His sister describes him as always a larrikin. I know others of Michael's large extended clan across the Huon Valley. My thoughts are with everyone who loved him. Michael O'Neill's actions speak to the man he was: outstandingly courageous, generous and thinking of others to the very end. He saved so many lives. Heroes never die. Vale, Michael O'Neil. I have no doubt your kind and generous spirit will live long in the hearts of those who have been touched by you.