MS TIERNEY (Western Victoria – Minister for Training and Skills, Minister for Higher Education) (13:49:28): (By leave) I rise to pay tribute to two valued and very much loved members of the Victorian community in Western Victoria, Ross and Andrew Powell – a father and son who recently lost their lives while attempting to rescue a person in dangerous conditions near Port Campbell.
I also wish to mention Phillip Younis, a long-serving CFA and lifesaving volunteer who was also very seriously injured during the rescue attempt, and I wish Phillip a speedy recovery from the injuries that he sustained.
Andy and Ross were doing what lifesaving volunteers do all the time, using their time and their skills to help others, and while we often speak about the great work that volunteers do, we do not often have such a stark reminder of the biggest risk for volunteers in the emergency services — that is, the risk to their very own lives. Sometimes, despite the best skills and equipment, tragedy strikes and volunteers like Andy and Ross die whilst trying to help others.
As previous speakers have indicated, Andy and Ross were lifelong members of the Port Campbell Surf Life Saving Club and were also involved in the CFA and the SES. Dedication to helping others was second nature to them, and I think there would be lots of people that would argue it was first nature to them.
They were both very innovative dairy farmers, working constantly to improve their farm business through best practice pasture management and using new technology to monitor the health of their herd.
Andy also was passionate about sharing information with other farmers through the Port Campbell discussion group, where experienced farmers could impart their knowledge to new farmers, and he was a great believer in not reinventing the wheel. He also was very much attuned to wanting to teach the next generation of farmers by mentoring young trainees, but he also was heavily involved in TAP, which is the Timboon Agriculture Project, and that is run by the Timboon P–12 School, and I have on a number of occasions gone out to the school oval, where they have been able to demonstrate the various TAP projects that the children, local farmers and local industry and agriculture businesses have worked on in collaboration.
Also of course, as we have heard from Ms Pulford, Andy was named Young Farm Leader of the Year at the Great South West Dairy Awards in 2017 for his extensive community involvement.
The loss of these two outstanding men will be sorely felt in the Port Campbell and the Timboon communities, as well as in the wider Western District. We can never underestimate the enormous strength that is woven into local community organisations and the community more broadly when we have two great local people who have walked tall within those communities and have worked tirelessly amongst us.
The impact of the massive loss of Ross and Andy will be felt in indescribable ways by their families and friends. It will leave a gaping hole in the fabric of these communities for decades to come, but I believe that their spirit will definitely live on, and I am optimistic that their can-do approach will be taken up with vigour by others, and already over 1000 people in the Western District have shown their high regard for these men and their sacrifice by donating to the GoFundMe appeal set up by their friend Emma Halloran. The funds will support Andy’s partner, Amber Griffiths, who is expecting their first child soon.
I would like to express my sincere condolences to Amber Griffiths and to Val Powell, wife of Ross, and to the extended Powell family on their tragic losses.