Legislative Council: Wednesday, September 13, 2023


Rawinski, Ms P.

The Hon. E.S. BOURKE (15:34): So many words have been written in newspapers and spoken on radio and television, and indeed in this parliament, about the triumph of the Matildas. Australia was rightfully captivated by our champion women footballers, their skills, their tenacity and their determination. We were glued to our television screens—my family was amongst them.

However, there are so many local sporting success stories that also deserve our accolades. They are stories that do not often make it to the pages or the screens of our news outlets. They are stories of our quiet and humble athletes who dedicate years so that they, too, can pull on the green and gold colours to represent their country. Today, I am giving airtime so we can capture such a story forever in the pages of our state's history book, Hansard.

To help celebrate this South Australian and Australian athlete, I will use the words of her biggest fans, her children, Blair and Alex. Blair is eight and was nervous about his mum flying to the other side of the world to represent Australia at the Gaelic World Games in Ireland, particularly because this would be the longest they had ever been apart. But Blair thought it was a massive achievement that his mum was picked out of the entire country. Alex, who is six, was also sad when her mum left but feels she knows exactly why she was picked: 'She's so strong! Her legs are so muscly, they are like a footy player's'—no wiser words than those of a literal six year old.

Alex's mum is one of the strongest and most humble people that I know, and I may very well challenge Blair and Alex in being her number one fan. If she knew I was giving this speech, she would have deployed all means possible to prevent me from getting to the chamber today. I know I am not alone in wanting to share her success. Her colleagues at Annesley College want the story of their much-loved PE teacher also forever remembered in Hansard.

Sharyn, from the school's leadership team, was the first to admit that Penny Rawinski went about representing her country with few knowing. But what Penny does not know is that it is her story that has inspired so many around her. Penny may have thought her colleagues had not noticed in the lead-up to the Gaelic World Games that she was the first to arrive at school; that her class was first to be set up and ready to go by 7.30am; that she was squeezing in morning training sessions with her two biggest fans, Alex and Blair, dressed in their Annesley school uniform, cheering their mum on as she pushed herself to represent her country; that she would be on her feet the entire day to teach seven lessons of PE; and, of course, during the lunch break Penny was out running three to five kilometres. All of this prep happened quietly without many knowing, but it inspired those around her.

As Kin, the school's PE coordinator, mentioned, to be an elite athlete, on your feet to teach seven lessons of PE, only to go home and be a mum, is honestly inspirational. All that quiet prep had a similar ending to the Matilda's season. The Australasia team made it to the semifinals of the Gaelic World Games. They fell short by one point to America, ranking them third in the world—an incredible achievement.

While I know Penny is disappointed with this result, just like the Matildas, she has inspired many around her through her tenacity on the field and also in the classroom. Penny is a role model. As Sharyn rightfully highlighted, when students know they are being taught by a PE teacher who lives and breathes sport at an elite level, it is very powerful for them. As a fellow PE teacher, Kin knows you need to have a good mindset and a smile permanently on your face when teaching PE. That is Penny, and the students feed off it.

As Kin mentioned, Penny's approach to giving agency to all kids to participate so no child is left behind is a refreshing quality for PE teachers. Penny has moved mountains to give students who may have come last in a race or have anxiety about sports day the opportunity to participate. I will use her husband Paul's words to close:

Penny is not just an incredible mum, but a positive role model for our kids. She's such a humble person, but that does not make us any less proud of her tremendous achievements. She absolutely makes me [a better person].