I also rise to support this condolence motion. Following the passing of Jim Simmonds I have been visited by a number of memories of events going back to the early to mid-1980s, when I first arrived in Melbourne and began living in Reservoir.
I remembered my first Reservoir ALP branch meeting in McFadzean Avenue and a whole range of wonderful people who were dedicated to improving the lot of the working class.
The words of Giovanni Sgro at Jim’s funeral last Friday rang so very true to me — that Jim was always Jim, whether he was a metalworker, a parliamentarian, a minister of the state government or selling Australian Labor Party raffle tickets. Jim practised equality. If you saw him up the street he always had time for a chat and time to hear your concerns, and you felt you were chatting to your next-door neighbour. There was nothing pompous about Jim. It was the job ahead that was important, and he knew it was important to embrace people from diverse backgrounds if progress was to be made. A local reading group was set up by a mix of older metalworkers, like Alec Pate and Kevin Hardiman, sole parents, young mums, pensioners, members of different ethnic communities, university students from La Trobe University and, dare I say it, some of us brash feminists. It was all pulled together by Jim to give a voice to residents in Reservoir.
Jim’s beliefs also led him to undertake a number of activities, and we have just heard from Ms Mikakos about the Festival of Labour held down at Edwardes Park Lake every Labour Day weekend. He also started the ALP newspaper, the Labor Star. Bringing people together and creating space for discussion and debate were actively pursued by Jim. Even in retirement Jim Simmonds continued to make this place a better world. The Friends of Fred dinners are held each year and continue to be iconic.
They have included the special speeches of Fred himself and speeches from Frank Hardy, Gabi and Jim, as well as the phantom Melbourne Cup race calls, the constant reminders of the Collingwood Football Club and the magnificently executed charity auction led by the Treasurer, John Brumby. I am sure Jim Simmonds would want more than ever for the Friends of Fred Hollows dinners to continue and grow stronger.
I simply wish to thank Jim for his commitment to pushing ahead with the changes that needed to be made in the northern suburbs. I also wish to thank him for the apprenticeship system and in particular for stopping employers, who wished to avoid paying public holiday rates, from indiscriminately laying off workers in the period leading up to public holidays. As we have heard, Jim Simmonds made many other enormous contributions, but none of them would have been brought to fruition without the support of his family. It was a team approach by Jim’s wife, Shirley, and his two daughters.
Today we recognise the whole family and we thank them and wish them well during this very sad time.