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Motion: Condolence Motion for Rosemary Lester

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (16:31): I rise to support this motion of condolence, and to take a moment here in this council to honour the contribution and the life and work of Rosemary Lester, who will after this be Kunmanara Lester. She was an advocate, a leader and I believe a soft but strong voice for justice. I knew her well and I knew her from my time in this place. I met her first in the Balcony Room of this parliament, where she and her family came down for an event with regard to that legacy of the black mist, that legacy that is this parliament's shame. She herself has left a proud legacy, and, living through those memories of all of those who knew her, that legacy will shine.

The contributions she made not only to our country but to the global and broader world for a world free of nuclear weapons was extraordinary. Born a Yankunytjatjara Anangu woman, and the daughter of a prominent antinuclear campaigner, Yami Lester, Rosemary and her sister Karina worked closely with the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN). She was driven by the experience and stories of her father and other family members and herself. She taught the power of lived experience of those who were directly affected by the nuclear testing at Maralinga.

When she spoke, most notably at the launch of the iconic mural on Wurundjeri country, which commemorates her father, she noted how the courage of her family members gave her courage and strength and gave her strength and provided her great lessons in life. Like her father and her sister, it was her vision and advocacy that helped develop understandings of the impact of those who were impacted by the testing of nuclear weapons on a national and international scale. She took on that battle that her father left behind.

Rosemary and her sister Karina also helped ICAN win a Nobel peace prize. Her powerful testimony at the Black Mist White Rain speaking tour in April 2016 demonstrated her intelligence and the influence that her words can have on the triumph of cultural survival. Her story was painful but fundamental in nuclear justice and allowed her to be a very forceful voice during that South Australian royal commission into the nuclear fuel cycle and, of course, the subsequent citizens' jury back in 2016. I commend that video to those in this place who wish to learn more.

She was not only a vital advocate in her campaign to ban nuclear weapons but also, as has been mentioned, involved in the wonderful Paper Tracker. It was a program that was launched in mid-2007 to monitor the promises that this state government of all colours made to the Anangu. It was implemented to improve the lives of South Australia's remote Aboriginal communities through the timely delivery of key infrastructure, services and programs.

As we know, politicians make many promises, but Paper Tracker held those politicians' promises to account. The main objective of Paper Tracker was for First Nations to receive information in their first language, to be able to talk with governments as equal partners and make decisions from a position of knowledge and strength and more equal power, to participate in the broader debates and to participate in creating their future.

I fondly remember many times going in to talk to Paper Tracker with whoever the host was. At one point it was Jonathan Nicholls who was well known to many in this council, but, with her skills in language, it was with Rosemary as well. My fondest memory is when they asked me to play a song and I picked Eminem. I do not think Rosemary was up for translating Lose Yourself, but I like to think that Eminem transcends all language.

Unfortunately, Paper Tracker lost its funding, and in June 2020 it was announced by Uniting Communities that they would step out of that advocacy work in that particular role. That does not take away from their role in supporting Aboriginal communities. Indeed, Rosemary's continuance to do that work and her courage and determination in the face of adversity is what will certainly shine through, not just through that work but in her broader contribution.

Our state's community and all South Australians will rarely have in their midst a gentler, kinder or more patient soul, certainly in my experience of her. On behalf of the South Australian Greens, I extend my condolences to her family and all those who loved her. May she rest in peace now after a life of goodwill and love, born of pain and trauma, and may we carry that lasting legacy of her work in our lives.

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