I'm very sad to report to the parliament that our region lost a wonderful gentleman, Neil Preston, last week. I got to know Neil very well during his time as Greenacres chief executive. He was a determined and well-respected advocate for people with a disability. His advocacy led to him being named Wollongong Citizen of the Year in 2014 and also earned him an OAM.
When Neil retired in 2011, the member for Whitlam and I hosted then Senator Jan McLucas, who was the Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Carers, on a surprise visit to Neil at work to present him with a certificate of appreciation for his years of public service and advocacy in the disability sector. He had been an engineer, and this was a significant career change for him. He sometimes wondered how he ended up there, but he was an absolute asset to the disability sector and it was great for the sector that he did. Indeed, at the time of his retirement, the current Labor leader, Bill Shorten, who was a minister at that time, send a message of support, as did the Prime Minister at the time, Julia Gillard, because Neil's advocacy was known far and wide.
Greg Ellis of the Illawarra Mercury wrote a beautiful tribute, with reflections on Neil from people like Janine Cullen, who had worked with Neil and is now head of the Illawarra Business Chamber; Greenacres chairman Richard Young; and Neil's long-time friend Susan Burns, on his wonderful legacy. He will be sorely missed.
Watch my speech here.