Former television newsreader Jo Palmer spoke of how the simplest gesture of kindness can mean so much to somebody in a troubled state in her maiden speech in the Legislative Council on Tuesday.
The newly elected Liberal member for Rosevears spoke of how she was born to a teenage mother in a New Zealand hospital, and despite becoming a household name later in life, did not have a name in her first four weeks.
Ms Palmer was later adopted by an Australian couple – missionaries who wanted to dedicate their lives to working in Africa.
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This ambition was cut short when her father, Donald Dick, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
“During this time, I was unaware of how my father’s body was disintegrating and fading beneath him,” she said
“I thought when he crawled around our small apartment, using his elbows to pull himself along, that he was doing that to be closer to my brother and I.”
Ms Palmer said it was a family effort to care for her father – to bathe him, assist him with the toilet, to turn the pages of books as he read.
She said she would often leave her primary school in Trevallyn, anxious that she was needed at home to help her mother Diane care for Mr Dick.
Ms Palmer said it was through the kindness of a staff member that she was allowed special access to the school’s office to dial home whenever she felt she needed to.
She said her father was eventually placed in institutional care at the age of 44.
Grief-stricken, Ms Palmer said he stopped speaking for a year and once asked his 11-year-old daughter to help him take his own life.
“He had run out of strength and he couldn’t go on anymore,” she said.
“I was a kid and there was no way I could do that because I only ever knew my dad to be sick and I just wanted him to be with me.”
He passed away at the age of 54.
Ms Palmer said it was the kindness of others that help her and her family deal with their struggles.
“We must never forget the incredible power that comes with kindness,” she said.
“You never know when the kindness you show is indeed the miracle that somebody else is waiting for.”
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