Former Dubbo mayor and outspoken local lawyer Stephen Lawrence delivered an impassioned inaugural speech as he was sworn in to the NSW Upper House last week.
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As parliament resumed last week, Mr Lawrence - who was voted into the upper house following the March 25 state election - gave his first address as a Member of the Legislative Council while family and friends from Dubbo watched on from the gallery.
Mr Lawrence said standing before his colleagues in parliament to deliver the speech was a "humbling" experience.
"It's a cliche but I felt humbled. By that I mean, I was struck by a deep feeling of my responsibility to live up to the support and the expectations that I have had from so many people," he told the Daily Liberal.
"It's one of those where, it was also really on my mind, that there is all this symbolism and pomp and ceremony, but on a really deep level it doesn't really mean anything unless I actually achieve something.
"So it felt really important in my speech to strike that tone and to talk about some of the things I wanted to do."
"I'll have no compunction in being a strong advocate on issues where there might be a tension between the Labor party position and the interest of residents of western NSW, I think that's a really important thing to be willing to do," he said.
"But, frankly, I don't expect that it will be too much of a problem because the government is very focused on the needs and the interests of NSW [...] we're focused on ensuring that our essential services are properly resourced.
"We introduced legislation last week to decisively move away from politicised discretionary spending and put money back into essential services like health and education."
Mr Lawrence also spoke of his family's history with the Labor party and involvement in the union movement as well as his upbringing in Griffith and south-eastern Sydney - where he spent his formative years working as a paperboy at the Prince Henry Hospital.
He also detailed his career in law and key moments like appearing in the High Court for Wilcannia man William Bugmy and on video link from Dubbo to legalise a mass protest at Sydney's Town Hall on behalf of the Black Lives Matter movement.
His time as a councillor on the Dubbo Regional Council and mayorship in 2021 also garnered a mention.
"I am proud of the achievements of the council on which I served and came to lead in 2021," he said in the speech.
"It did include a mire of controversy, one that Dubbo needed and is much better for having endured. My mate John Ryan and I instigated it for the right reasons."
"As a council, we often took an unorthodox path, especially for a regional council. We spent money on a highly successful campaign for a drug rehab centre, a drug court and a youth Koori court."
It was this passion for social justice issues which led Mr Lawrence to accept the nomination for seventh slot on Labor's upper house ticket, he told the Daily Liberal.
"I got involved in that work in my legal career because I thought it was important and I stayed doing it - for example working at the Aboriginal Legal Service - because I saw that there was important work to be done," he said.
"My involvement in that work is a huge part of the reason I ended up in parliament because it gave me insight and access to these issues - and it also gave me a platform. It was this work which led directly to people suggesting I run as the Labor candidate for Dubbo in 2015.
"And then my political journey has continued in there. It's all a circle that goes back to that."
Although Mr Lawrence will continue pushing for the social justice issues that matter to him and his home community in Dubbo, he said, being in parliament, his advocacy may look a little different to how it has in the past.
"I will keep pushing for change but it won't always be advocacy in the same form that I've been doing it," he said.
"At times I've been a very robust and outspoken public advocate on particular issues - but when you move into a different role you won't always be doing that in the same way.
"But I hope the people that support me and have trust in me will know I will be just as vigorous an advocate even if it's in different forums and not as high-profile as it used to be."
Watching from the gallery as Mr Lawrence delivered his inaugural speech on Wednesday evening were family members and supporters including former federal member for Hughes Robert Tickner, Dubbo councillor Shibli Chowdhury, Bathurst councillor Jess Jennings and Wiradjuri elder Frank Doolan.
"It really lifts you when you see such supportive people and friends who've been there for a long time in your life," he said, asked about what their support meant to him.
"They are the reason you get to this position - you can look at this as some sort of individual achievement but in the real sense it's not, it's an accumulation and combination of all the issues you've worked on and all the people you've worked with along the way."
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