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Wednesday, 30 March 2022
Full Gospel Family Fellowship Church, Bourke
Her Excellency the Honourable Margaret Beazley AC QC, Governor of New South Wales

I acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the land on which we meet and pay my respects to their Elders past, present and emerging

As your Joint Patrons, Dennis and I are delighted to be part of this historic occasion - the 50th Annual State Conference, here in Bourke, the birthplace of the Isolated Children’s Parents’ Association.  To the members of the Bourke branch, thank you for rolling out the welcome mat and rolling up your sleeves to bring ICPA ‘Back to Bourke’.    

Shortly, it will be my pleasure to unveil a plaque that refers to those 3 historic dates which were the genesis of today’s vibrant association:

  • The forming of the Bourke Branch on 16 April 1971
  • Then of the Federal Council on 2 October of that year and
  • 50 years ago, almost to the day, the forming of the New South Wales State Council on 15 April 1972

This conference binds together a celebration of history, an acknowledgement of achievement and a recognition of the ongoing work needed to ensure “Access to Education” for isolated young people. Your unwavering commitment to and advocacy for the improved educational experience of generations of ‘our kids from the bush’ over these five decades has been pragmatic and life-changing, as I have heard so many times in so many different places by those who have benefitted from your work.   As one family said to me ‘they could not have managed the education their children had, were it not for ICPA-NSW.  

Adding to the nostalgia to say nothing of the pride the ICPA-NSW has in bringing the 50th conference ‘back to Bourke’, delegates have travelled from near and far, although I am not sure what passes for ‘near’ in Bourke, a number founding members are here, including one who made that rather famous road trip to Sydney and Canberra in 1971.  But more of that later.  

A great deal of preparation has gone into this Conference as is obvious from your programme to make it a meaningful and successful one.  In particular, you will be giving your attention to 87 [1] motions ranging from Allowances to Travel which will set the path upon which you will travel in the ensuing years.   Knowing the professionalism and dedication with which you pursue your objectives I could suggest that you could have added to your conference theme an additional point


as I have no doubt will be the case.

I was sworn in as Governor of New South Wales on the 2nd of May 2019. At Governor-handover existing Patronage arrangements cease and organisations, even those with a long history of Vice-Regal connection, who wish to do so need to reapply. Deborah Castle was ahead of the game with a request in April for continuing Vice Regal patronage and Dennis and I happily became your Patrons soon after.

Six months later, we met a number of members, including Irene Lund at Cobar Bowling and Golf Club.   Your publications and annual reports are of an exceptional quality but there is nothing like hearing the stories on the ground to understand the needs of a community and whether and how they are being met.  A few weeks later we met with a number of the executive team at Government House which revealed the focussed and strategic direction of ICPA.  

With your patronage application having been made so efficiently, an informative discussion with members in the regions and a formal round table meeting at Government House, it was obvious that the ICPA was a force to be reckoned with and an honour to be associated with. 

During one of the early lockdowns, when Sydney siders were struggling with the isolation of only leaving their home for essentials, I was reading an edition of Pedals and was struck by the way communities in regional and remote areas of the State live the daily challenges of isolation and do so with a lot of grit and much good humour and such big hearts.  

I was reading another article about the culinary and medicinal virtues of mint, especially mint chocolate biscuits.  The erudite young author was 7!   That really tickled my competitive spirit and spurred me to write another article, this time about Government House’s menus for our Royal visitors.  

Closer to the celebrations today, I penned an article which took me back to the 70’s and those important, formative years of the ICPA and the challenges then for those who live in the Bush: costed telephone calls, internet still a thought bubble, and zooming was something you did when taking a corner. Following hard on the flower power of the late 60’s, fashion had become a schizophrenic choice between a maxi or a mini skirt to say nothing of hot pants.  Men wore paisley prints and flares and got married in purple velvet suits.  

In 2021, with much of NSW not long having come out of serious drought, researching that article made me acutely conscious of the tough cycle of life lived by our regional and remote families.  Going back to the early 70’s NSW and Queensland were again in drought, rural incomes had fallen dramatically and people were leaving country towns in droves.

But as Winston Churchill said in those dim dark years of World War II, ‘never let a good crisis go to waste’, although the crises of the bush tend to be chronic. It was in this environment that that pivotal meeting, held on 16 April 1971 here in Bourke to discuss the closure of a Student Hostel, saw the beginnings of the ICPA.

One of the stories coming out of that time that I particularly love related to your very own Pat Edgley MBE, affectionately known as ‘the Mother of ICPA’.   One senior cabinet Minister described Pat as “abrasive”.[2] My own recollection of that era, when I was beginning my study of law was that men were determined, smart and able and women with the same characteristics, were as that senior Minister would say: ‘abrasive’. But as you know Pat had a knack of wearing away obstacles and opposition.

And if you will indulge me and allow me to tell the story I said I would come back to - the first ICPA delegation car trip to the National Capital.   Pat, Wally Mitchell, here with us today, and Bob Ridge set off at daybreak, doubting whether their car would even make the distance, [3] and encountered their first hurdle at the very first ramp where they literally took out a rather large sheep.  Fortunately for the intrepid trio, they survived, the car survived just  but sadly as I have said, the sheep was no more, but memorialised in ICPA history as the ‘sacrificial lamb’ at the beginning of what turned out to be a highly successful trip.

ICPA commenced as a group of committed volunteers who knew something needed to be done.  For 50 years, ICPA has remained a committed group of volunteers who have steered this little outback organisation to its present position as an organisation which commands attention and respect.  

Understanding only too well that old aphorism ‘out of sight and out of mind’, ICPA through its advocacy, its publications, including Pedals and TopWire, and its responsiveness to changing needs and changing times continues Pat Edgley’s ‘abrasive’ tradition of wearing away obstacles and opposition, to ensure ‘Access to Education’ for our young people in regional and remote areas.

Your 87 Agenda items are testament to the enduring need for your work to continue for generations to come.

Dennis and I are delighted to be your patrons and I am honoured to declare the 50th Annual State Conference of the Isolated Children’s and Parents’ Association of New South Wales – open!

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