Tribute to Dean Mercer and Bill Seay OAM

MS BIRD (CUNNINGHAM) (16:49): Last Monday was a very sad day for my electorate. On that day we lost two wonderful people—one who'd grown up as a young man and then left our region to go onto the national stage, and the other who came to our region as a young man and then stayed for his lifetime, contributing to our local community. Both were extremely important to the surf lifesaving movement of the Illawarra.

The first, of course, is Dean Mercer.

Early on the day it was quite tragic to hear the news of the accident and his death, and I want to extend my own—and I know that people in the local area very much want to extend their—love and support to his family, to his wife, Reen, and their four boys, Brayden, Rory, Lachlan and Joshua. He was only 47, and we remember epic performances by Dean, often racing against his older brother Darren and other greats such as Trevor Hendy and Guy Leech. Dean started his career in the Austinmer-Thirroul area, and, as I've said, then went on to compete and to live across the country. He represented both New South Wales and Queensland and, of course, wore the green and gold for Australia. A fond memory for many locals is the 1995 Australian Ironman final when he beat Trevor Hendy, and of course he added other major achievements to the story of his competition. Beyond that, he also continued, after retiring, to be very heavily involved in the sport, coaching Nippers at the Gold Coast Kurrawa club and being inducted into its Hall of Fame in 2014. So Dean's loss was sad news.

And then, in a doubly tragic occurrence, later that day we lost a wonderful local man, Bill Seay. Bill was 88 years old. I want to extend my sympathies—and I attended his funeral on Friday, and I know a huge number of the local community were there to extend their sympathies—to his daughters, Louise and Carolyn, and their families. He was a life member of the Port Kembla surf life saving club, a life member of Surf Life Saving Illawarra, and a life member of Surf Life Saving New South Wales, having come to our area and joined the Port Kembla club in 1949, where he had followed his lovely wife, Sylvia, who, sadly, passed away some time ago. He held executive positions for 38 years, as president, secretary and treasurer. He was also a founding member of the Wollongong Whales Winter Swimming Club, which shows you his resilience. He was awarded an OAM in 2002. He was a true gentleman of that generation and will be sadly missed in our community, too.

Watch my speech here.