Eulogy – Noeline Ikin
21st February 2017 – International Club Mareeba
As delivered: Senator Ian Macdonald
On behalf of everyone here and the hundreds who couldn’t be, can I offer personal and very heartfelt condolences to Noeline’s Family – to Noeline’s wonderful daughters Kirralee, Gabriella and Tabitha, Mitch & Jay and to Harper, to her best friend and devoted husband, Trevor to her mother Julie and brother Warren who have suffered so much is these last couple of years, and Mickey.
Our condolences also to Noeline’s very extensive extended family who have supported her so much. You know, Noeline always would joke with me in an electoral context and say if all of her and Trevor’s families voted for her she would win by a country mile - and they did – and she did! I know there are many of them here today and our thoughts are with you
The family particularly, and all of us, have lost a wonderful and caring person who has touched us all in different ways. Noeline also had other families who knew, respected and indeed loved her as much as her own family and I will return to mention these shortly.
But, for the moment, can I share a brief snapshot of Noeline’s life that her family have helped me put together.
Noeline was born on the 18th of May 1969. A beloved daughter of Noel and Julie Ikin, and a precious sister for Warren Ikin.
Her early childhood was spent in Mareeba, where her passion for animals evolved. Her dogs wore human clothes, the horse’s manes were always decorated, and all the poultry had names.
In her teenage years she met her best friends Jayne Hogarth and Jill Cowie, at Mareeba State School. At school Noeline loved her sports. She represented Mareeba high school in softball, indoor cricket and vigoro.
Whilst at high school Noeline was keen to become a vetinary nurse, and volunteered with Dr David Gilchrist. It was he, who encouraged her to gain a university degree, which she completed at James Cook University. Whilst at university, she did volunteer work for a wild-life sanctuary, and would sneak orphan possums into her campus dorm to care for them.
After finishing her bachelors of science degree, she married Peter Gross, and had Tabitha in 1991. When Tabitha was 5 months old, they relocated to Adelaide where Noeline worked at the Cudlee Creek Wildlife Park and Zoo.
But, the bush called her back, and they returned to Mareeba, where she became the curator of the Kuranda Noctarium. She then gave birth to Gabriella in 1993. Mossman was their next abode, where Noeline was employed at the Habitat in Port Douglas. After Kiralee was born in 1996, Noeline moved on to her next big project, which cultivated her enduring passion for landcare/management, the Mareeba Wetlands. There she met many lifetime friends through the Savannah Guides.
After sometime, her first marriage ended, and she relocated to Georgetown, where she worked for the Northern Gulf Resource Management Group. This career choice, exemplified her passion for conservation, and her care for community. She was involved in a great number of projects, including the ghost nets project, wild river legislation, natural disaster response and recovery arrangements, farm management deposits, rural debt reduction, business improvement packages, grass roots innovations, uranium mining, and the gulf horizons foundation.
During this time, she lived for her children. She was a mother, a teacher, a handyman, a best friend, a mentor, a landscaper, a chef (though according to her daughters some nights this one is debatable), a nurse, and she was their biggest role model and inspiration. During her time in Georgetown she met her current husband Trevor Arnett. After some attempts at courting her, with roses in shoe boxes, they were married in October 2010. It was a marriage filled with love and devotion. Their wedding cake stated ‘today I marry my best friend’. That is a true reflection of what their marriage has been.
Through Noeline’s hard work ethic, she became the CEO of the Northern Gulf Resource Management Group. But over time, the frustration of red tape, and a desire to do more, led her to new pursuits. She began as a councillor for the Etheridge Shire. Then she ran for the seat of Kennedy in 2013. This was a whirlwind campaign filled with lots of laughter, some drunk dancing on pool tables, relationships with a significant number of people she admired (including many of you here today) and some of her fondest memories. Whilst she won the election on primary votes, the secondaries unfortunately just put her under the line.
This did not dampen her desire to help her community. Despite not being elected, she continued to work hard for her community. She became involved in a number of projects such as crazy ants, and the Mission Beach Aquatic Centre.
In the 2016 election, she was predicted to win. But, her campaign was cut short, as she was diagnosed with a stage four brain tumour. After her diagnosis, she decided to fight, as Noeline does best. Whatever obstacle was sent her way, she thwarted them with her never-ending positivity. She spent this time with her family, and they have assured me that not one day went past that she didn’t have a laugh. Not a day went by that she wasn’t filled with love.
On the 11th of February, Noeline passed away, but she passed, with the knowledge that she was loved, by her family, and by each and every one of you.
Through this Eulogy, we have heard her story, but through her heart, we will remember who she was.
Can I seek your indulgence to add a few personal reflections.
Rarely have I met a person so dedicated to her family - and her community in the wider sense.
I only came across Noeline in the latter part of her all too short life when she was leading the Northern Gulf NRM group. And from my very first encounter I knew I was with a true leader who was destined to make an impact on public life.
The Northern Gulf, NRM, the people of Georgetown , and the wider Gulf/Northern community was indeed her second family
Her leadership across the Gulf with all stratas of society was legend and this extended to the natural resource management industry across Australia.
Hers was a tough job with limited resources but she achieved so much and encouraged so many people - in work, in play, and in need. I know parents in Canberra whose son had gone off the rails and who was really lost to this world but Noeline and Trevor took him in and changed his life completely. Those parents will never forget Noeline and Trevor.
Listing her achievements is an impossible task although we did mention a few previously. I still continue to be amazed at the way she convinced the Federal Government that Exceptional Circumstances Benefits (which everyone knew to be to help drought affected properties), should be paid out to those in the Gulf who were not affected by drought but inundated by flood waters for months. Her powerful advocacy, with the benefit of her science and research skills, saved many enterprises at that difficult time for many. She had her sights set on the problems of debt ratios in the bush when her illness stuck.
And on that fateful day in my office in Canberra when she had the seizure that was the first sign of the horrors to come, she was in Parliament at her own expense working on a number of issues including her informed advocacy on the yellow crazy ants infestation.
Yet another of Noeline’s families was the political party that she and I, and Warren Entsch, Andrew Cripps, James McGrath, State President Gary Spence, Teresa Craig, Michael Trout, Ewen Jones, Dennis and Robyn Quick, those close to her in my office, and many in this room, share. And it always amazed me of the very high regard in which she was held by many in that family who had only met, or even seen her, once. It was incredible how this little girl from way up there in the bush, captured the hearts and admiration of so many in the hard faced cynical circle of politics.
They could see her role in life.
In my early encounters with Noeline, she shared the common disdain that many hold for politicians and she assured me she was not political and had never followed or even bothered with apparent political machinations. But on what was perhaps the only occasion when I knew more than Noeline, I would tell her that she was a born representative of the people, and would one day lead the Country.
Through frustration with the system and what she saw as the opportunities to make her magnificent vision reality, and chance to really help people and communities, she finally agreed to run for Parliament in the classic contest of David and Goliath. But first we had to counter the entrenched view of party elders that to beat Goliath you needed another big, loud, male who could wear big hats! I knew I had what we really needed –the exact opposite – a sensible, intelligent, caring person who would listen to people and who would fight for their causes without any consideration for herself.
It wasn’t an easy campaign as she rolled the swag and took off to talk to people. But once voters talked to her they knew she was what was needed. We didn’t have a lot of resources but we had a lot of determination to succeed. And along the way we had a lot of fun - and learnt the home and personality of every dog and those 5:00am Mc Muffins at Maccas in Mt Isa were something not to be missed.
But she was an inspiration to be with – always positive, always cheerful and always determined, always helping and always making friends.
The result in that election confounded all of the political pundits with the biggest swing in that election and one of the biggest in federal political history.
I have absolutely no doubt that had not fate intervened, Noeline would have been a leading light in the Federal parliament for many years to come.
Noeline’s passing is a tragedy for her families – all of them – but it also a real tragedy for the bush and indeed for the nation. She would have made such a difference to parliament, to the Nation and perhaps most importantly, to the people she represented. It will be up to one of her daughters to carry on her vison and determination.
We will all have our own memories of this wonderful person. But those of us who had the privilege of meeting with her in recent times, would have seen the courage and determination and thought for others that was the hallmark of her life. Although she knew she had a battle she couldn’t win she wouldn’t let others know of her pain and sadness in what was her typical regard for others before herself. A truly remarkable woman that we have been privileged to know.
Rest in Peace Noeline.