Indi is a Federation seat, and there have been many, many members for Indi. As the current member for Indi, I acknowledge what an enormous privilege it is, and I stand on the shoulders of those who went before me. Today I rise to offer my respect, my thoughts and my condolences to the family and friends of one former member for Indi, the Hon. Lou Lieberman AM, who passed away on 17 May in Wodonga. Lou was a much respected, active member of our border community. Prior to entering politics, he worked as a solicitor and barrister and was part of the local consultative council for the development of Albury-Wodonga National Growth Centre’s decentralisation plan. More recently, Lou served as chair of Albury Wodonga Health from 2014 to 2018.

I first met Lou when I was a young matron at the Chiltern Bush Nursing Hospital in the 1980s, where he was attending a community meeting. He was the local state member, and I remember Lou there as constructive, kind and compassionate. Lou was elected to the Victorian Legislative Assembly as the member for Benambra from 1976 to 1992. Under the Victorian premierships of Rupert Hamer and Lindsay Thompson, Lou served as minister in the portfolios of local government, planning, mines, and minerals and energy, and as Assistant Minister for Health. He resigned from state politics to contest the 1993 federal election. Lou was elected the member for Indi for the Liberal Party in 1993 and re-elected in 1996 and 1998, before retiring ahead of the 2001 election. In this place, Lou was a member of the House of Representatives Privileges Committee; the Industry, Science and Technology Committee; the Family and Community Affairs Committee; and the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade. He served as chair of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs Committee and the Publications Committee.

In 2016, Lou was awarded a Member of the Order of Australia for significant service to the parliaments of Australia and Victoria through a range of portfolio responsibilities and to the community of Albury-Wodonga, who loved him dearly. Thank you, Lou, for the significant contribution you made to public life and your dedication to the development to our border communities. I also wish to thank Lou’s family, particularly his loving wife, Marj, for the love and support provided to Lou in his service to our community.

I also have the thoughtful comments from another former member for Indi, Cathy McGowan, which I’d like to share today. Lou Lieberman played a significant role in Cathy’s life, and she’s grateful to have had the opportunity to know him and benefit from his wisdom and experience. Lou offered Cathy career advice and would always ask her about her family. Lou’s and Cathy’s professional paths crossed many times, first when Cathy was working as a research assistant for the then member for Indi, Ewen Cameron. At the time, Lou was state member for Benambra. They met later, when Cathy was working as a rural community consultant and Lou was the federal member for Indi. They met often to discuss local issues, agriculture, the future of rural communities and the importance of community leadership.

When Cathy was considering running as an independent in the 2013 election, Lou was generous with his knowledge, sharing his experience of being a representative. Lou’s advice to Cathy was to remember to always put the constituent first and not get carried away by the ‘big theatre’ in Canberra. What good advice! I could not agree with him more. He was also very explicit, telling Cathy that electoral competition is important for a healthy democracy but stressing that he could never vote for Cathy because his loyalty would always be to the Liberal Party. It’s a shame about that, Lou.

As the member for Indi, Cathy would occasionally run into Lou in Wodonga—Lou out for a walk and Cathy connecting with constituents and business owners in the main street. The interaction between the two would draw a crowd of people who, in turn, would reminisce with Lou, before turning to Cathy and telling her that she had big shoes to fill. Generously, Lou would reply that they didn’t need to worry because Cathy was doing a good job. Such was the man. That praise meant a great deal to Cathy. She remembers so clearly Lou’s care for people and how he put the needs of constituents first.

Among his many qualities, Cathy found Lou to be a good and gentle man, and I would agree. I know, as Cathy did then, that our border community is all the better for Lou’s work, his contribution, his generosity and his kindness. Vale, Lou Lieberman. May your legacy continue.

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