Parliament - Kimberley Kitching Condolence

Federation Chamber
30 March 2022

I rise to give thanks for and acknowledge the life of Senator Kimberley Jane Elizabeth Kitching. In doing so, I want to place on record my deep sympathies to her husband, Andrew Landeryou, her parents, Bill and Leigh Kitching, and her brother, Ben, who was in my year at high school, and we graduated together in year 12. I knew Kimberley probably longer than most people in this parliament. I want to reflect on the words of the member for Canning, who spoke about Kimberley's wonderful attributes, her values. I want to reflect today about her personal life and her amazing sense of joy and fun, her joie de vivre.

I met Kimberley at university. We were particularly close around 30 years ago. I can remember exactly where we were standing at the University of Queensland refectory, which was where most political wheeling and dealing was done at the time. Kimberley was running for president of the student union, and I was, I guess, the campaign director for the Labor Right ticket. I wasn't particularly successful at university, but I've made up for it in lost time. Senator Murray Watt and Senator Jenny McAllister were running on the broad Left ticket, I guess. It has been said already that the right-wing candidate, or the Young Liberal candidate, for president was the member for Fairfax, Ted O'Brien. From that one political intervention you're seeing the careers of many, many people come to life. I remember signing Kimberley's ALP nomination form when she joined the Labor Party in Queensland, and that she was happy about joining a political party that would affect her life and affect the lives of many of us going forward. At university there was no-one who was more connected into political life on campus, whether it was through the UQLS, the University Queensland Law Society, the reviews that she starred in or the amazing connections she had through so many different cultural and social groups at university. It's not surprising, when we celebrated her life a couple of weeks ago at St Patrick's, that the whole place was full of connections that she'd made right throughout her life.

I want to begin my remarks by reflecting on what an amazing connector Kimberley was in bringing people together. From those humble beginnings, for her political life and her commitment to public service we know that she then left Queensland, and Queensland's loss was Victoria's gain. We then shared a number of intersections in our lives, and I always say that she was a part of my life for 30 years. We both ended up serving in local government as councillors: Kimberley was on the Melbourne City Council and I was on the Brisbane City Council. Her amazing ability to connect and to bring people together as a Melbourne city councillor and bring together those forces and work together across those multiparty and multifactional situations probably put her in very good stead to enter the national stage.

As a unionist through her work in advocating for some of the low-paid workers in this country, through her fierce advocacy to make sure that no-one was left behind, particularly in feminine industries—those industries that desperately needed representation—she was always a proud servant who made sure the little people were never left behind, and that was true of her entire life. Obviously, then with her entering the Senate, we reconnected, and I was so pleased and full of joy when she achieved her goal of recognition from the people of Victoria in serving in the Senate for the last five years. I've said before to a number of our mutual friends, particularly some of her deep, longstanding Queensland friends, that Kimberley was like a good, beautiful glass of champagne—it would have to be French champagne, of course! She was full of effervescence, full of bubbles, full of life, and you really wanted that glass of champagne to be continually filled up. You didn't want it to end; you always wanted to have one more taste.

The member for Canning said that she would always greet people with a kiss, and I counted four occasions in one day that she greeted me with a kiss! Some might think that's too much or a bit over the top. But now I think all of us who knew and loved Kimberley would do anything for one more kiss, one more greeting, because whenever you saw her, her face would be lit up and you would light up as well. She was infectious in terms of her impact in talking to people and meeting people. She had that sense of fun, and that sense of joy—there may have been things going on behind in the background, there may have been things that she carried that many of us didn't see but her close confidents knew—was contagious. With anyone you met, she would make you feel like you were the most important, precious person in the world, and very few people can do that—very few people can do that.

I want to acknowledge all of her friends that are grieving, particularly her close, close friends in Victoria. She and Andrew have an amazing sense of kinship and friendship. When you become friends with Kimberley and Andrew, you have a friend for life. That loyalty is not questioned. People like Bill and Chloe Shorten—and we've spoken about this in the parliament and obviously at her service—I know continue to grieve and will always grieve. The impact, the kindness, the beautiful stories we heard about the member for Canning's children, the attention to detail—I would always call Kimberley one of the one percenters for all the things she would remember; the anecdotes, all of those things, go to the rich tapestry of her life. And I do single out Bill and Chloe, who were probably some of her closest friends, and the amazing bond that she had with their children as well.

The second issue besides the joie de vivre of Kimberley Kitching I want to focus on was her amazing insight into travel, and this sums up a lot about Kimberley. I was privileged to be travelling with her on a number of delegations—and the Leader of the Opposition spoke about our trip to Taiwan, meeting with the President of Taiwan and the foreign minister, all in a day's stride. I was in that delegation, hiding at the back, worried about an international incident that I would cause, trying to lay low. It's hard for me to blend into a crowd, but I was trying to fit in. Kimberley's leading from the front, like she's known these people, and it was such a joy to see.

The other travels we did were to a war zone, and I'd always say, 'If you need to go into a war zone, always travel with Kimberley Kitching.' Travelling to Iraq on the parliamentary ADF trip with the member for Fisher and now Speaker, Andrew Wallace, was probably one of the best things I've done in my life. In giving acknowledgment and recognition to the men and women of the ADF, and, while obviously not from an ADF background, understanding the challenges of the Middle East, once again Kimberley shone in that forum. I pay tribute to the member for Fisher who has been, I know, deeply upset about the loss of his friend. But we will always have those memories that we shared together on those trips as well.

A lot's been said about her passion, her vision and her patriotism, but I wanted to reflect on my friend and the person that had meant so much to me for the last 30 years of my life. I will deeply miss her as a confidant and as someone who I shared a number of years of friendship and camaraderie with, and I will deeply miss her for the rest of my life.