Speech by Hon Kevin Andrews MP

Address at the Quakers Hill Nursing Home


Thank you Gary and Premier O’Farrell for your eloquent remarks.

I’d like to acknowledge my federal colleagues including Shadow Minister Shayne Neumann, the Local Federal Member Michelle Rowland, and Ed Husic.

And my state parliamentary colleagues:

  • Leader of the Opposition John Robertson
  • Minister Brad Hazzard,
  • Andrew Constance
  • Shadow Minister Barbara Perry
  • and Kevin Connolly MP the Member for Riverstone whose electorate encompasses this area.

I’ve been asked by the Prime Minister to convey the following sentiments:

I send my best wishes to the residents and staff of Quakers Hill Nursing Home as it reopens.

The fire at the nursing home was a crime that shocked our nation.

Today we remember Urbana Alipio, Doris Becke, Lola Bennett, Caesar Galea, Reginald Green, Alma Smith, Dorothy Sterling, Neeltje Valkay, Verna Webeck, Ella Wood and Dorothy Wu and as well as those who were injured.

We cannot describe the grief of friends and family who lost loved ones or the pain and suffering of those who were injured.

It has been a long journey for everyone affected by this tragedy.

Today is also a day for healing.

With the strength and support of the community and the commitment of Domain Principle Group, this new building should once again be a place of love, dignity and care.

I pay tribute to all who have made this project possible.

May Quakers Hill Nursing Home again be known as a place of kindness and care.

The Hon Tony Abbott MP
Prime Minister of Australia

On 18 November 2011 the place where we now stand was the site of a terrible crime.

A crime so heinous and horrific that it challenges the bounds of human comprehension.

Nothing can diminish our revulsion at the evil deeds done here by an evil man.

Nor must anything ever be allowed dim the honourable memories of the innocents who perished here

19th Century English Historian Thomas Carlisle wrote:

“adversity is the diamond dust with which Heaven polishes its jewels.”

And in the wake of the Quakers Hill disaster, the character of this community shone with luminous lustre.

We saw over 30 other aged care providers come together with government, families and the Domain Principal Group to find alternative accommodation for Quakers Hill residents.

And we saw Domain Principal remain firm in its resolve to rebuild Quakers Hill into something not only bigger, but better as well.

Earlier this morning we had the opportunity to walk through this magnificent facility.

And it’s taught us all a lesson about what state-of-the-art in aged care really means.

I’m pleased to note that the number of places funded by the Australian Government at the new-and-improved Quakers Hill has increased three-fold to 127.

The dedicated dementia wing will facilitate the provision of high quality clinical care and individual services tailored to personal need.

And the beautiful memorial garden will provide solace to current residents while preserving the spirit of those who died that terrible night in November 2011.

I’m aware that a separate service was conducted in the garden this past Sunday for families who lost a loved one in the fire.

My thoughts and heart go out to them.

That more of us are living longer should be a cause for celebration.

But ever-lengthening average life-spans of Australians bring with them a whole range of challenges.

And amongst the most pressing is the task of crafting a fiscally sustainable system that provides high quality medical treatment and first-rate long-term care to an ever-aging population.

With its increased capacity, the new Quakers Hill will play an invaluable role in the effort to keep pace with the rising demand for aged-care services in Western Sydney.

Also invaluable have been the bitter lessons taught by the tragedy that transpired on this site.

The NSW Government is to be commended for acting on those lessons by mandating the installation of fire-extinguishing sprinkler systems in aged-care homes throughout the state.

Like the Phoenix of ancient Greek mythology, Quakers Hill has risen anew from the ashes.

And today marks the beginning of our transition from heartbreak to hope;

We stand here as witnesses to the transformation of villainy into virtue.

It’s said that the measure of any society is taken in the way it treats its most vulnerable.

And our aged care system must reflect and reaffirm the indefeasible worth of each and every human life.

For regardless of our age, our gender or our socio-economic status;

Regardless of whichever illness might afflict us;

Nothing must ever be allowed to erode – much less eradicate – the essential dignity that is every person’s inalienable birthright.

It was Shakespeare who wrote:

The bird of wonder dies,

the maiden phoenix,

Her ashes new create another heir,

As great in admiration as herself;

So shall she leave her blessedness.”

And the people of Quakers Hill are blessed by virtue of what they do and for whom they do it.

Thank you all for the privilege of spending time with you today.

It’s been a truly uplifting experience.