Legislative Council: Tuesday, May 30, 2023



Evans, Dr A.L.

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (14:20): By leave, I move:

That the Legislative Council expresses its deep regret at the recent death of Dr Andrew Lee Evans OAM, former member of the Legislative Council, and places on record its appreciation of his distinguished public service, and that as a mark of respect to his memory the sitting of the council be suspended until the ringing of the bells.

In speaking to the motion, Dr Andrew Lee Evans was born on 17 June 1935 in India to parents Tom and Stella, who were working there as missionaries at the time. He lived there for the first 11 years of his life before returning to South Australia to complete primary school at Wallaroo Primary School and then moving on to Woodville High School, which he attended until leaving school to undertake a carpentry apprenticeship.

Whilst an apprentice, Dr Evans joined his union. This experience provided him with a great respect for the union movement, as he outlined in his first speech to this place. Dr Evans made the decision to attend night school and to complete the equivalent of his high schooling and, upon completion, joined the commonwealth Public Service, where I am informed he thought he would work until retirement.

Instead, in his early adulthood, Dr Evans followed his life calling and went to Brisbane to study Christian Ministry at the Assemblies of God Commonwealth Bible College. There, he graduated with a Diploma in Theology before being ordained to the ministry in 1963. Dr Evans served seven years as a missionary in the remote East Sepik province of Papua New Guinea. He started a number of literacy schools in the area, as well as parental clinics.

Upon his return to Australia, Dr Evans served as senior pastor of what was then the Klemzig Assembly of God church. The church grew exponentially under his leadership, prompting the church to move from Klemzig to a purpose-built venue in Paradise with a capacity of some 3½ thousand people. His leadership was recognised in 1977 when he was appointed as Australia's national Superintendent of the Assemblies of God ministry.

Dr Evans retired from Paradise Community Church in the year 2000 and, despite having many lifetimes of community service under his belt already at that point, his next chapter of public service was about to begin. Dr Evans founded the Family First Party in 2001 and was elected to this place at the 2002 election. During his time here, he advocated for better education and health care, to give a voice to victims of child sexual abuse, and for many other groups in society.

In 2003, he was awarded an Order of Australia Medal for his services to the church. Dr Evans retired from politics (from this place) in 2008. The Family First Party has since given a platform to several members in this chamber. The party gave rise to the political career of the Hon. Dennis Hood, who sits opposite the government today, and rebirthed the career of the Hon. Robert Brokenshire, who once sat as a Liberal member in the other place. The contributions of these individuals to public life all form part of Dr Evans' considerable legacy.

Dr Evans sadly lost his wife, Lorraine, to cancer in 2011, after many decades of marriage. He then married Del in 2013. Dr Evans also leaves behind two children and five grandchildren. Whilst we, on a number of issues, sat on the opposite side of the political spectrum, Dr Evans is owed a great deal of respect for his many years of service to the public and his firm commitment to the values that he held dear. On behalf of the government, I extend my sympathies to his family, who will, I am sure, be remembering a life well lived. I commend the motion to the council.

The Hon. N.J. CENTOFANTI (Leader of the Opposition) (14:23): The Hon. Dr Pastor Andrew Lee Evans MLC is indeed worthy of the motion put forward by my honourable colleague the Attorney-General. Let me begin by expressing, on behalf of my team, condolences to Pastor Andrew's family. To his children, Ashleigh and Russell, his grandchildren and to his wife, Del, you have the warmest sympathies from the Liberal Party of South Australia.

Born in the Poona District of India to missionary parents in 1935, Pastor Andrew lived his life with mission and purpose. Richard Nixon was once told by his spiritual adviser, 'How little the mightiest of us can hope to accomplish and how much we have to leave to God.' He was attempting to aphorise a lesson from Rabbi Tarfon, a first-century sage from Judea, who taught, 'Do not flinch from a task which by its nature can never be complete.'

Pastor Andrew understood well that his work would never be finished. There would be no tick of the box, no mission complete, and yet he persisted with diligence and perseverance. He had an unshakable faith in theBible and it would be his guide for life. As a co-founder of the Family First party, he sought to return the family to the centre of public policy. While he endeavoured to affirm the values of a Judeo-Christian informed moral compass, Pastor Andrew recognised that many faith groups shared similar values and concerns that much of modern politics attempts to pull us away from our democratic equity.

He also understood that every Australian, religious or not, has a right to our basic democratic freedoms. I personally share his beliefs that healthy families make for healthy communities. To paraphrase Pastor Andrew, he believed that when families do well, individuals thrive and society thrives. He had strong stances on child protection and tough prosecution of offenders, on advocating that homeless shelters are connected to secure housing services and programs, on a school curriculum based on reading, writing and arithmetic, and to resourcing our palliative care programs. These issues are continuous, and I repeat, 'Do not flinch from a task which by its nature can never be complete.' Society will always need strong voices like those of Pastor Andrew.

Pastor Andrew graduated from the California Graduate School of Theology in 1981 and later, in 1994, was awarded a Doctor of Ministries from the School of Theology, also in California. Pastor Andrew was awarded the Order of Australia Medal in January 2003 for his service to the Christian church and for further services to the community through welfare services, teaching, training and leadership of not-for-profit organisations. His colleagues and peers often noted that he worked beyond the call of duty, consistently giving his all to build a strong social fabric with families at the core.

I believe one of his greatest achievements was starting a new political party from scratch, in his lounge room, with, again, the tenacity and perseverance for which he was renowned. He was the co-founder of the Family First Party, an elected member of the Legislative Council of South Australia from 2002 until 2008. The bulk of his efforts was investigating, critiquing, and pulling apart legislation that he believed posed a detriment to South Australians.

Pastor Andrew believed his job was to defend families from legislation that eroded our society's culture, values and freedoms. He believed, as I do, that institutions established by faith should be able to hire people of that faith. He believed, as I do, that families are core and the family unit must be protected, and he believed, as I do, that we are stewards of the world and should protect our lands and waters. Pastor Andrew was a man of conviction, a man of principle, and one who did not flinch from a task no matter how enduring. I am honoured that the South Australian Liberal Party has been a stable for his protégé, my friend and colleague, the Hon. Dennis Hood MLC.

I, along with my colleagues, acknowledge the great loss Pastor Andrew's passing brings to the Australian Christian Churches (ACC) movement. His 30 years of continuous ministry and leadership at the Paradise Community Church led to the largest gathering of faith in Adelaide. Our spiritual landscape has been made forever stronger by his work, both locally and apostolically, throughout South Australia.

I will be proud to vote in support of the motion of condolence for the Hon. Andrew Evans MLC, known as Pastor Andrew to thousands. I finish with a verse from theBible, John, chapter 14, verse 27:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

The Hon. D.G.E. HOOD (14:29): I rise to support the motion and I start by thanking the Leader of the Government and the Leader of the Opposition for their excellent contributions regarding my dear friend Andrew, who I will very sorely miss. My contribution will focus more on my relationship with him and maybe a few anecdotes that people would not be aware of in this chamber, rather than the achievements of his life, although there were many, because, as I expected, the Leader of the Government and the Leader of the Opposition have done a pretty good job of outlining those. There will be a little bit of repeating, so forgive me for that.

As was said, he was born in India, which is unique in itself for an Australian parliamentarian, in a place called Kirkee in the Poona district in India and he was born into what we would consider today almost abject poverty. His parents were Christian missionaries, as was indicated by one of the previous speakers, and they literally lived hand to mouth. They did not have an income of sorts. They farmed their own food, as such, and relied on the generosity of the churches around them.

Because of that, his upbringing was what we would consider very simple today. He went to eight different schools in two countries over his life. Not many kids could say that today. I was the son of a military man. When I tallied it up, I went to six different schools in one country, so eight different schools in two countries is significant as well.

As the Leader of the Government said, he came back to South Australia to do year 7 at Wallaroo Primary School, which is true, but I think the significant thing is that his parents returned to India to continue their missionary work and he was left here in care. It is a very significant thing to leave one's own children at that tender age. He went on to go to Woodville High School, a local school that has become quite a famous school. Some other members of this place went to Woodville High School. I think the picture that should be painted is that these were public schools. There was certainly no wealth in this family. It was a very humble beginning.

As I think the Leader of the Government said, he started an apprenticeship as a carpenter. He said, 'If Jesus was a carpenter, it is good enough for me.' He was always talking about his carpentry skills, sometimes even as I sat in that chair over there in this chamber. Then he went on to a significant thing, as I think the Leader of the Government said: he went to work in the commonwealth Public Service, and he genuinely did expect that was going to be his career forever. He said he had a good job for life and that is what he was going to do with it. He had no inclination that he would work in the church or found a church at all. In fact, I think he even said to me that because of his experiences growing up that was something furthest from his mind at this relatively young age.

But something changed in the early fifties and that was that he joined the Salvation Army—quite by accident. He befriended somebody who was a part of the Salvation Army, and he started going along to their social groups and youth groups. He was of that age, and it was not uncommon at that time for people to be involved in a church social group. He became absorbed with it and said it was really just for the friendships. If you think about it, he was away from his family, so it was a really good way for him to engage with people and to have people around him, and he loved it.

He turned to music. He started learning several different instruments and would call them the Oompa-Loompas as they would pound along, playing their Salvation Army band music. He learnt a whole lot of instruments and was actually quite gifted musically, which some people may not know. Later in that decade, his faith started taking on more seriousness and in 1957 he made what he considered a decision to commit to the Christian faith, which in itself is unique because of course he was brought up in that environment and, in his own words, had not really committed in a formal way or deeply, if you like, until then.

He then went to theological college, as the Leader of the Government mentioned, in Queensland. It was during that time that he began to question his faith and people may be surprised to hear that. He began to question the legitimacy of his faith. I remember having this conversation with him. He decided to look at it from a purely factual point of view: what can he learn about this faith compared to other faiths? How can he compare them to determine which one he believed to be the right one, as I do? He firmly centred on Christianity, as his life clearly shows, but I think it is important to acknowledge that there was a period of questioning for him and, rather than spiritual matters, he turned to matters of fact that he could ascertain were true.

It was then that he really decided that he was going to work in the church, become a pastor and build a church, so he tried that. As I said, he went to college in Queensland. He started a small church in Brisbane, and it was moderately successful. He was enjoying the work, but life was not changing, and then he felt a sense to move to Adelaide. He could not really explain it. He would describe it as a call, if you like, and he moved to Adelaide and lived at Elizabeth.

He would have been in his—I hope I get this right—late 20s-ish at this stage. I am piecing this together from stories he told me over many years. He started a church there that just a handful of people attended—literally half a dozen or so people. In fact, he said on some Sundays it was him and Lorraine, his wife, so it was not exactly changing the world.

He thought he had to get more people in there—otherwise, he would not have anything to do on a Sunday—so he went around doorknocking in his neighbourhood. He produced some little flyers and put them in letterboxes and just went around doorknocking, saying, 'Look, I run a church down the road. We would love you to come. If you're free, please do.' He figured if he knocked on enough doors there would be enough people who said yes, and eventually they did. That church grew to have a couple of hundred people, I understand, over a few years. It was a method that worked, but still on a relatively small scale.

Then there was a sense, as I think the Leader of the Opposition mentioned or maybe the Leader of the Government, that he had work to do in Papua New Guinea, so he did that. He took his wife, Lorraine, and himself over to Papua New Guinea where, again, they lived in very difficult circumstances. It was very remote, actually, this particular region of Papua New Guinea.

When he got there he realised pretty quickly that none of the people, or almost none of them, could read or write their own language, let alone English, so he decided to teach them. He had to learn those skills himself, get the people in to help, and they did. So he would have a class of 100 at a time, in each class, trying to learn how to read. That in itself would be incredibly difficult, you would imagine, but they persisted with that for a number of years and literacy rates in the area exploded. All of a sudden people could read and write in that area, almost solely because of the work that he and his small group were doing, again just living off small donations and in very humble circumstances.

In fact, so successful was that episode in Papua New Guinea that the Papua New Guinean government at that time formally accredited him to run a full primary school there, which they did, and for the first time ever, I am informed, kids in that region could go to school. That, in itself, I think, is a significant achievement and it really has changed that region, as I understand it. That school, I understand, was very successful and was able to teach so many people how to read and write and all of the other things that we learn at school.

After a while of living in those difficult circumstances—I am not sure how many years it was, to be honest, but let's say it was about half a dozen or so—things were getting hard. They were living in very basic circumstances and things were hard. Distance was a problem, of course, and then one night a very significant event took place. Lorraine, who was really struggling with the circumstances they were in, woke up one night—they lived in a hut with open rafters—and a huge snake was wrapped around the rafter directly above her bed. Andrew described it to me: the snake would have been as big as your thigh. It was a huge snake wrapped around the rafters.

Lorraine had had enough. She wanted to come back home to Australia and settle down—which does not sound unreasonable, does it?—where they could raise their boys, Ashley and Russell. That is exactly what they did. They came back to Australia. Andrew got a job with what was then Klemzig AOG, which I think the Leader of the Government and the Leader of the Opposition mentioned. At that stage, there was a church of about 200 people, and he said, 'I was incredibly successful, because I turned that 200 people into 150 after the first 12 months.'

It was not good at all, and he started questioning if he was really doing the right thing with his life. He said to me, 'I learnt a couple of things, and one of them was the value of persistence.' So he persisted. He just persisted. He got together with people; they prayed. They knocked on more doors, just like he did in Elizabeth. They just made themselves available.

Andrew's carpentry skills came in handy. He told me a story of how he was walking past a fence in that area in Klemzig that was decrepit and needed repair, and he knocked on the door and said to the lady in the house, 'I'm happy to help. Can I help fix your fence?' She could not believe it. She said, 'Sure, please fix my fence.' She became a member of that church as a result of Andrew's generosity.

That is really what he did; it was as simple as that. Then that church exploded. I have some numbers here. Just through his acts of generosity and loving his community, if I can put it that way, the numbers went from about 150 , which he had got it down to, to about 700 people within about 18 months. Then they were having four services every Sunday with about 700 people attending. So it was really exploding.

They did not have the room for them. They simply did not have the room, and there was pressure on them to find a place for them all to go on Sundays and worship, so they built the Paradise Assemblies of God out at Paradise that I think most of us would know. At that time, that particular building was the biggest single auditorium in South Australia.

The Entertainment Centre did not exist at that stage, so until the Entertainment Centre was built and opened it was the Paradise Assemblies of God church—as it was then known—that was the single biggest auditorium in South Australia. I think it seated about 3½ thousand people but, again, there were multiple services so that you would get many more thousands than that there every single Sunday.

There were other things that people would not know about Andrew. He was also appointed to the world executive of the Pentecostal movement, which is a group of about 500 million people, the second biggest Christian denomination in the world after Catholicism, which has about a billion or so. He was on the board of that 500 million representative group, which is in itself very significant.

It just went from strength to strength. He was invited to speak all over the world and he accepted invitations but, in the end, he said to me, 'I decided not to travel the world and speak', because really he felt that his responsibility was his home church, so he spent much more time there than he did anywhere else. I could talk forever about his church life, but I need to get onto the other stuff otherwise I will be here all day and I do not want to do that.

As was said, he was first elected to this place in 2002 on about 4 per cent of the vote. It was a bit marginal but enough to get elected. It was a complete what he would call 'faith step', in that he did not really know anything about politics. He used to tell me, 'I didn't know anything about politics. I didn't know anything about preferencing. I didn't know how to raise any money. I didn't understand the parliament.' He really did not know what he was doing but he felt a real drive to do it.

In that first election, Family First ran four Legislative Council candidates and 27 House of Assembly candidates and, by what is almost a miracle, Andrew was elected that very first time on just 4 per cent. Of course, I was fortunate enough to be elected myself, very much following in his footsteps and in the shadow that he cast—the very large shadow that he cast—in 2006. I would say that if it was not for the wonderful generosity of Andrew and his time and care for me that there is no way I would have been in this place. I owe anything that I am to his great generosity and his care for me over those years.

What did he do when he was in this place? I think the Leader of the Government and the Leader of the Opposition have done a good job of outlining that, so I will not dwell on that for very long, but I think it is worth highlighting that he was responsible for moving an amendment to the Criminal Law Consolidation Act which removed the statute of limitations on sexual offences prior to 1982. If you had committed a sexual offence prior to 1982—we had what I think is a ridiculous law—that could not be prosecuted.

Andrew, of course, as a pastor had been involved in counselling people for many years and one of his absolute frustrations was that when he would get a victim in front of him who was saying this is what happened and they had the details to prove it, there was nothing the police could do if it had happened before 1982. So he decided to amend that here. I think to all members' credit at that time the bill passed with unanimous support in the Legislative Council. Indeed, credit to the government of the day as well and the opposition because it passed unanimously in the lower house as well.

I think that is a fine achievement. Many of us will be in this place for many years and never be able to point to an achievement as significant as that. Andrew set up the select committee to examine the status of fatherhood because, again, he saw that as something important: the changing nature of fatherhood in our community. I think as both the opposition leader and the Leader of the Government said, he was awarded an OAM on Australia Day in 2003.

This is a man of achievement, of generosity, but of absolute humility. He was one of the single most humble people I have ever known, which is extraordinary given his achievements. It is unusual to have somebody who is successful in two fields in their life. Often my observation is that it happens, but it is unusual. My observation is that usually people are successful in one field, not often are they successful in two, and yet Andrew was obviously very successful at growing churches—internationally so—but also he started a political party. I do not think anyone else in this room can say that they have started a political party. I am just looking around to make sure, and I am sure of that.

We have all made contributions to our parties, of course, but he started one with Ashley, from scratch, and that in itself is significant, and achieved what Family First set out to achieve: to actually get people elected to parliament. He was also a great husband and father and a loyal and generous friend. He always was a terrific friend. I remember we would drive around during the lead-up to the 2006 election when we were trying to get me elected to the Legislative Council. We would drive all day and all night and if they had an opening of an envelope we would be there. Any possible place they would let us speak we would go there and speak.

They would always let Andrew, but, 'Who's this other bloke with him? I don't know, do we want him or not?', but Andrew would always find a way to make it happen. He would always say to me, 'Dennis, never forget, we've got opponents, we haven't got enemies.' That is something that always stuck with me—his love for people, his real generosity towards people, even when they had absolutely firm disagreements on things.

As I bring this motion to a close, just a few closing thoughts: one thing I will always remember from Greek literature when I was younger was that the Greeks had a very interesting way of judging the life of a man or woman. They would not say, 'How much money did they have?', or, 'How many children did they have?', or, 'What achievements did they make in their life?' They would simply ask one question: did they live with passion? Andrew Evans lived with phenomenal passion; he was passionate about everything he did and never stopped trying and working as hard as he could to achieve what he believed were important objectives for his entire life, and that is admirable in itself. He had an absolute exuding passion, and that was demonstrated in everything he did.

I am so grateful for everything he did for me: he was a mentor, he was a friend, and I will really sadly miss him very much, as I know so many people will. I offer my sincere condolences to his wife, Del, Ashley and Jane, Russell and Samantha, Mark and Lauren, Nathan and Chloe and Benjamin. There are others of course, but I would be here all day.

Just a final thought: the Christian doctrine teaches that no-one is good enough to enter heaven—no-one at all—but we get there by grace. I think Andrew would push that envelope. He was almost good enough in many people's eyes, certainly in my eyes. If I remember him, I remember him as someone who was very kind, very honest and absolutely decent, and my final words to him would be, 'Well done good and faithful servant.'

Motion carried by members standing in their places in silence.

Sitting suspended from 14:47 to 15:00