Hank van Stuivenberg and Australia Day Awards

Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (16:49): We returned to parliament after the Christmas period. I know many of us in our communities will have had the opportunity to celebrate with locals who received awards around the Australia Day events. Also we've clearly lost people in our communities. I want to acknowledge the many beautiful tributes to Michael Gordon, a member of this community in this place. In that spirit I would like today to put on the nation's record another wonderful local, an Illawarra Mercury snapper who we very sadly lost over the break. Illawarra Mercury photographer Hank Van Stuivenberg was known to his colleagues as 'Honky' or 'Sensational Hank' because he had a very regular big smile and because he replied, 'Sensational!' whenever anyone asked how he was. A beautiful tribute was paid to Hank by his boss of many years, Kirk Gilmour, in the paper. These are Kirk's words:

The Sensational Hank Van Stuivenberg was a much loved and well respected member of the Illawarra Mercury and its photographic department.

In the Merc's photographic department Hank was our elder statesman and Kid Eager rolled into one.

Possessing an amazing news sense, Hank was always keen to get out the door to take pictures. Countless times arriving at breaking news events before the emergency services.

Hank possessed the ability to communicate with anyone from any walk of life. Politicians, academics, the well heeled or the famous were equal to emotionally broken victims of crimes or people doing it tough on struggle street in Hank's eyes. Hank could strike up a chat and have a conversation with anyone.

Hank was an awesome work colleague and a dear friend. His lost has impacted on many in the Illawarra community. He just had such a positive outlook on life.

I regularly met Hank even after he left the Mercury at events with the Bellambi surf club where Hank was a well-loved and respected life member. He'd given years of service to the movement.

Sadly, Hank's long battle with cancer overcame him on 24 January, and his family asked those who were able to attend his funeral to donate to the Australian Cancer Research Foundation. My personal condolences are extended to his wife, Eva, and his children and grandchildren. These are Eva's own words to the Illawarra Mercury, with which I profoundly agree:

He gave so unconditionally of himself to people. He didn't judge people. And time for friendship was a huge thing for Hank. He was 'what you see is what you get'.

Our community was the richer for Hank's work and his volunteer activities, and we will miss him as we extend our love and support to his family and his very many friends.

I have to acknowledge that there were also many locals celebrated in the Australia Day awards. Six local people were recognised in the national awards this year. They all made a wide and varied contribution to our community and nation, and I congratulate them all. Today I’d like to share a wonderful story of one of those honoured: George Bartolo. I've known George a very long time as he is a life member of the Australian Labor Party. George's dedication to his beloved party is a reflection of his strong commitment to taking responsibility for helping out wherever he sees people in need.

George received the Medal of the Order of Australia for service to the Maltese and multicultural communities of New South Wales. The award comes on top of many years of awards recognising George's tireless efforts on behalf of his community. I am always happy to see George's smiling face at Multicultural Communities Council of Illawarra functions. George has been a founding member since 1975, a senior vice-chairman since 2004 and a life member since 2005. He's also been a much-valued and active member of the Illawarra Dog Training Club, the Wollongong Agricultural, Horticultural and Industrial Society, and the George Cross Falcons Club. George is one of those wonderful but humble people that keep our communities going. He told the Illawarra Mercury:

I mean, you don't go out of your way to do things so you'll get recognised and get a reward. It's not like that at all. You do it because you like to do it and you want to work with the community, whether it is the Maltese community or the community in general. You just want to help.

Well, George, we are all so happy you got on that boat in 1959 and came to make Wollongong your home, and we, like your family, are so proud of your well-earned Australia Day award.

I haven't got much time left, so finally, I'd just like to congratulate all the winners of the City of Wollongong's Australia Day awards who also exemplified the community spirit and selfless volunteerism we take such pride in in our city.