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Aug 032012

The following is a speech by Steve Minnikin. Queensland Parliament, 2nd August 2012.

I am pleased to rise to pay homage to a truly remarkable young woman with an inspirational story who is residing in the Chatsworth electorate. She is someone from whom all Australians can learn. I recently had the privilege of meeting Sarah Jambia, a resident of Carina and a refugee from the West African nation of Sierra Leone. Sarah, her mother and three siblings arrived in Australia in August 2009, leaving behind the turmoil and war of the nation’s capital, Freetown, one of the most violent cities on the planet. They left behind a life of fear, witnessing social atrocities like assault, rape and the hacking off of hands and feet. Tragically, Sarah also saw her father shot right in front of her eyes. I really cannot imagine what life must have been like for Sarah and her family living in this state of civil unrest and for the millions of Sierra Leoneans still there today.

It was at this point that Sarah and her family knew they needed to get out. After months of living in a camp in neighbouring Guinea, they made the decision to find a safer life here in Australia. Witnessing first-hand the perils of slow economic growth and a failed political system, Sarah’s thirst for politics is the reason I came to meet this extraordinary young woman. Sarah is the YMCA youth parliament representative for Chatsworth, and I would like to congratulate her for stepping into this role. Sarah and I share the same concern for good governance and participative democracy in Australia.

Hearing Sarah’s story was a sobering reminder that many Australians take democracy for granted. The right to vote and to freely speak our mind are things Australians in 2012 have never really had to fight for, or die for. As Sarah has eloquently observed, ‘it is a great pity’. This august House and institution is greater than any individual member or party. We need to be able to place our trust and faith in our elected representatives to foster and deliver good governance. I urge this house to be reminded that for those of us privileged to have been given our community’s trust on 24 March 2012, our responsibility is great. Sarah told me that in Sierra Leone ‘leaders are masters, rather than servants’ for the people. It is our duty, as elected representatives in a participative democracy to be servants for all people, diverse of cultures, values and opinions.

Today in the House I would like to take this opportunity to again congratulate Sarah on her election to the YMCA youth parliament as the representative for Chatsworth and to thank her for allowing me to share her story. Sarah has indeed a bright future in politics and I hope, as does Sarah, that she may one day return to Sierra Leone and serve her people as a democratically elected servant of the people.

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