11 October 2023

 Earlier this year the Minister for Climate Change, Minister for Energy, Minister for the Environment, and Minister for Heritage appointed me as her Parliamentary Secretary, a role I am incredibly honoured to fulfill and one I feel is befitting of an elected representative from a World Heritage listed region, the unique Blue Mountains. Our environment needs our attention and care more than ever. Government cannot fix it all, but we acknowledge the critical role that we do play in working alongside industry and community to tackle challenges head on. The impacts of climate change are indiscriminate and our goal in government is to find equitable solutions that leave no‑one behind.

Since my appointment as Parliamentary Secretary, I have met with a diverse and inspiring range of people and organisations. Some have grand visions; others, simpler ones. But all have expressed a heartfelt commitment to our environment and a genuine desire for a positive, sustainable movement centred on the betterment and rectification of our human impacts on the planet. I take this time to mention some of the people I have had the great privilege of meeting with in recent months and to speak briefly about their work. In June I met with Professor Belinda Medlyn, on behalf of Western Sydney University professor Brendan Choat. We discussed their plans for a Blue Mountains hub for ecology and conservation to extend the monitoring of vegetation and species that exist within critically important, fragile ecosystems. Their work may not be in the spotlight but it is vital nonetheless, and I felt privileged to have caught a glimpse into it.

I also met with Blue Mountains resident Robin Murray and the Knitting Nannas. I applaud them for their ongoing, unwavering advocacy for koalas and, more broadly, our environment. The Nannas bring with them a wisdom that comes from lived experience and a deep knowledge of the frightening trajectory of the demise of our climate in just one generation. In July I engaged in a thought‑provoking conversation with Dr Bronwyn McDonald and Dr Shaun Watson from Healthy Futures. They have identified one key New South Wales hospital to trial moving away from natural gas, a model project with prospects of being replicated across the State. Their vision reminds us of the need for a cross‑portfolio lens to ensure that the climate challenges we face are approached in a holistic way.

My conversations with the healthcare sector continued a month later when I met Kaitlyn Cooke from Ecodefend. Kaitlyn is a young registered nurse who struggled to reconcile the amount of waste being produced during the pandemic. Whilst acknowledging the necessity of personal protective equipment, she felt in her heart that there was a better way. Years and many dollars later, Kaitlyn has created a 100 per cent biodegradable disposable face mask that could, along with other biodegradable products she is developing, quite literally revolutionise the amount of waste that makes its way from our hospitals to landfill. In August I attended an insightful seminar hosted by the Australian British Chamber of Commerce. I found myself amongst industry, business and banks discussing the investment realities and potential of renewable energy. The panel discussion was illuminating.

We cannot have conversations about the current and future state of our environment without engaging our young people, because they are the ones who have the most at stake and their voices must be heard. In August I met with students from Kindlehill School in the Blue Mountains to discuss their project to support cafes in Katoomba to transition to bulk milk supplies that use 80 per cent less plastic than the containers currently used. I also attended two compelling events in Sydney: the Risk and Dare conference in North Sydney, as well as the Orbispace Initiative Pitch for the Planet event at the Sydney Startup Hub. On both occasions I sat transfixed as I listened to school students and young activists put forward their ideas and visions for the future.

I met with Workways and Envite Environment, which is engaging community and restoring the natural environment, with a focus on teaching the skills necessary for our future workforce to effectively combat the impacts of climate change, both environmentally and socially. I enjoyed hearing from members of the Australian Marine Conservation Society, a passionate and informed group that cares deeply about our marine environments, the crucial role they play in our broader biodiversity and the necessity for their protection and preservation. More recently, I met with a company called ResourceCo and toured its facility at Wetherill Park. It was uplifting to see firsthand that its processes of waste recovery and re‑manufacturing are making sizeable reductions in the amount of primary resources going into landfill. Barack Obama once said:

One voice can change a room, and if one voice can change a room, then it can change a city, and if it can change a city, it can change a state, and if it change a state, it can change a nation, and if it can change a nation, it can change the world.

I feel proud, hopeful and inspired to be working in this role, knowing that we are listening to those voices. Individually and collectively, they are changing the world.