16 June 2021

A few weeks ago, before Victoria went into lockdown, I had the pleasure of visiting TriCare at Stafford Lakes with the shadow minister for senior Australians and aged-care services, the member for Hotham. The purpose of our visit was to speak with the residents to find out what they were looking for from the government's response to the royal commission into aged care and also what they were looking for from the federal government by way of support to fix our aged-care system. I ended up speaking to two women who, I might say—and then I'll put the challenge out there to my constituents—are the most remarkable Lilley locals that I have come across in my time so far. Their names are Marcia and Valda.

Valda, upon approach, was very quiet and little bit shy when I first met her. But, after chatting to her for a good 10 minutes, she warmed up and softly dropped to me that she was the first female commander in the Royal Australian Navy. I asked her what it felt like to be the first female commander in the Navy. I expected to hear stories of hardship or endemic discrimination that she had to overcome, but Velda responded instantly: 'I felt great.'

Valda's friend Marcia was also a wildcard. She has the kind of spunk and charisma that I can only hope to have when I am in my 90s. Marcia herself was recently awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia in recognition of her 70 years of volunteering at Mission to Seafarers. Marcia has an unwavering commitment to the Anglican Church and has been president and secretary of the Mothers Union in Stafford, which were kind enough to host me, Oshy and Dash at their morning tea a few months ago. Marcia herself said that volunteering was all about joy, fun and fellowship. Nowadays Marcia leads the Stafford Lakes TriCare gardening club. She is a militant recruiter, and, from the third degree that I saw her give some of the other residents who had missed the club that morning, I can tell that she rules that show with an iron fist.

But this heartwarming story doesn't stop there. Marcia and Valda actually went to school together at Ithaca Creek Primary School back in the day and ran into each other in the halls of Stafford Lakes TriCare 82 years later. Marcia said to me: 'We had not seen each other in decades and decades, and then we were in the corridor one day, wheeling our walkers past one another. I saw her and I thought, "I know that woman,"' and it was her school friend from primary school 82 years earlier. Thank you, Marcia and Valda, for sharing your stories and for hosting the member for Hotham and I that morning in your beautiful home. I hope to be invited back to your gardening club very soon. Thank you also to the aged-care workers who work at Stafford Lakes nursing home for doing such a good job in looking after national treasures like Marcia and Velda.