Home - Claire Moore - Labor Senator for Queensland

Mr Peter Wood

Senator MOORE (Queensland) (7.21 pm)-

Last week in Toowoomba people gathered to farewell Peter Wood at his very specific request to share in an informal and joyous celebration of his life. In her beautiful eulogy to her father, Stephanie Wood talked about three aspects of his life. The public man was described by Premier Anna Bligh as:
a committed and passionate contributor to the public life of our state whose name is synonymous with making Toowoomba the great regional city that it is today and will be in years to come.

Peter's family has a particular place in Queensland's political history. A strong Labor family, Peter and his twin brother, Bill, both followed their dad, Les, into Queensland parliament-Les and Peter representing the city of Toowoomba under different boundaries and Bill serving as the member for Cook and Barron River in North Queensland and later several years as an MLA in the ACT. That is a total of over 30 years of service in state parliaments, including several years of having twin brothers serving together in the Queensland parliament. This is probably a record unlikely to be beaten.

In his first speech on 23 August 1966 the new member of parliament for Toowoomba East made a confident commencement to a career described by Kerry Shine, the current MP for Toowoomba North, as showing:
... breadth and depth of knowledge, his remarkable intellect, ability to properly deliver and explain his message, his gifted mental agility-
he was quick on his feet-
his consistency for causes that were worthwhile to him, and above all his sincerity.

Peter Wood's first speech noted the election of Vi Jordan of Ipswich as the second woman in Queensland parliament and made a plea for more women in parliament. That was obviously very popular with me, although I was at primary school at the time. He went on to acknowledge the inspiration of his father and a range of important local issues for his electorate: decentralisation, the pain of local people losing their jobs, and the need for the then Darling Downs Institute of Advanced Education, then in construction, to be a full tertiary institution. This new member finalised his speech with an immediate suggestion for a change in parliamentary question procedure. That was a very confident start to his career. When he was in government his real devotion was to his region and to key issues, particularly education because he was trained as a teacher. His strong advocacy for the arts, the Australian Opera Company and the Queensland Art Gallery, were always evident.

Both Peter and Bill Wood were defeated in the 1974 election-not a real good time for the Labor Party in Queensland!-and were unable to work back in the Department of Education, a particular feature of the then Queensland administration. Peter returned to Toowoomba and worked at the DDIAE. He almost immediately began working as a representative with the local council. This part of his career went on for 22 years, including 13 years as deputy mayor. His local government career included a real focus on planning issues and genuine engagement with the local community. The former mayor of Toowoomba Di Thorley sent her message about the value of their working relationship and the capability, loyalty and dedication of Peter Wood.
As a Toowoomba person, I enjoyed the comments that Stephanie made about the way to remember this man of our town:
As you drive through the streets of this city, today, tomorrow and in the weeks ahead, look for a few ... memorials to him-my father's victories. The beautiful Empire Theatre in Neil Street. Daddy campaigned tirelessly for the preservation of the crumbling art deco theatre, a grand relic of the golden age of movies that was seemingly doomed for demolition. It reopened in 1997 and has been at the heart of Toowoomba's culture and community ever since.

Next, The Toowoomba Regional Gallery in Ruthven Street. Housing the significant Lionel Lindsay collection and the city collection, it is considered one of the state's top regional galleries.
And ... the charming heritage streets of the city. In the late 1990s-as in so many parts of our country-old houses and buildings were being demolished at an alarming rate.
He took a really direct approach. He took a group of councillors-maybe not voluntarily-and a heritage architect, put them in a bus and toured them around the city. The tour, and the kind of trapped seminar involved, plus his very strong advocacy, led to a comprehensive heritage action plan in our town, and we all now see the legacy in our place. Peter Wood was recognised for his community service of over 40 years with the Order of Australia and the Centenary Medal, and for his service to the Australian Labor Party by the life membership.

Stephanie Wood went on to describe the family man, the private man, and his warm relationship with his family: a devoted husband to Robin-so much of the memorial service was dedicated to their very special relationship-the loving and caring father to Stephanie and her brother, Peter, and the proud grandfather to Marni and Finn, the children of Peter and Jo. Our sympathies and those wishes of so many people are with you all for the loss of this remarkable man. The third aspect that Stephanie talked of about her dad was something not many people in the wider public knew about. He had a very long and very difficult struggle with clinical depression. This was a story that he really wanted told. For many years he suffered silently and stoically. That battle was also shared by his family. As a man who loved and crafted words, he was a genuine wordsmith. At the service we had some examples of that with some stories he wrote about his time as a regional teacher in the Darling Downs, and they are well worth reading. This man who loved words, during the time when he was struggling with depression-I think after he was able to get some treatment-turned to the internet and worked with an Australian website where people with depression could share and find support and comfort. Stephanie talked about the impact Peter's contribution had on so many other people struggling with the depths of depression. His comments were able to touch others, to offer guidance and to console. At the service, Stephanie was able to quote from some people he had known who talked about the value that her dad gave to their lives and the difference that he made. That work will continue because those people are now able to continue sharing the horror of depression.

Peter Wood will be remembered. There is no doubt about that. His public life was dedicated to community, and we saw that. That has been acknowledged with awards and respect. The celebration of a life that we shared revealed the passion of the man and his love of words, beautiful classical music and his family. I also think that the final words should go to Stephanie, and I want to quote from her eulogy. This is what she said, amongst other things, about her dad:
... I think what I most want to give are insights into the most decent and honourable of men, a man of great dignity, a complex and multi-faceted man who, despite great personal challenges, did his best for his family, his community and for the causes that mattered most to him. And a man of humility, neither puffed-up nor self-interested, a man who never fully recognized his own worth.
He may not have recognised his own worth, but so many people in our community did. At the service in Toowoomba there were representatives from government and local government, people with whom he had worked, people who had known him through many aspects of his career. We will remember Peter Wood, and I am so pleased to know that he came from my town and that we are able to have people like that who can represent Toowoomba and the Darling Downs.