In September 2012, a 49 year old woman named Vikki Riley died when a car collided with her bicycle on a busy Darwin road. Vikki Riley was known for her fiery passion for refugees and her strong Catholic beliefs. She left behind her son, St Paul’s School student Elijah, 7, and her partner Jimmy Hatton, also aged 49.
Vikki was an Australian artist and activist who supported the people of East Timor and West Papua, and had just organised a successful art exhibition for refugees. She had previously worked as a journalist for ABC Victoria and the Kabul Press.
On 12 September 2012, Senator John Madigan (Democratic Labor Party, Victoria), moved a Condolence Motion in the Senate:
That the Senate—
(a) expresses its condolence at the death of Ms Vikki Riley who passed away on 10 September 2012 and extends this condolence particularly to her partner and son, as well as family, friends and those she campaigned tirelessly for;
(b) notes her advocacy on behalf of refugees and the people of West Papua and East Timor; and
(c) acknowledges her work with refugees and the people of West Papua and East Timor.
Senator Madigan’s condolence motion was co-sponsored by Senator Nick Xenophon (Independent, South Australia).
Senator MADIGAN said: Vikki Riley was a tireless campaigner for those in most need. She campaigned for refugees and oppressed people of other nations. Vikki was a woman of many talents. She worked as a journalist for the ABC Victoria and the Kabul Press.
She was an artist and used her love of painting to organise art workshops to help asylum seekers as they waited for their cases to be processed. Only last month, she organised a successful detainee art exhibition at the Northern Territory Supreme Court. She continued to assist refugees after they were released from detention, helping them to find accommodation and jobs.
Vikki was adopted by Aboriginal parents in Kallista, Victoria. Her adopted parents retained her surname after the adoption. Her partner, Jimmy Hatton, said this situation made her unique. She loved her partner and her son deeply, but she spent enormous time away from her loved ones to help those most in need.
Both the Australian Labor Party and the Liberal-National Coalition opposed this condolence motion because it had the words ‘West Papua’ in it.
Senator Nigel Scullion (Country Liberals, Northern Territory) walked over to Senator Madigan and said that the Liberal-National Coalition would vote in favour of the condolence motion is the words ‘West Papua’ were removed.
Senator Trish Crossin (Labor, Northern Territory) said she extended her personal condolences but that the Australian Labor Party wouldn’t support the condolence motion with the words ‘West Papua’ in it: ‘… the government will not be supporting this motion because of her involvement with West Papua, in that it is in conflict with our foreign policy.’
Senator Richard di Natale (Greens, Victoria) made the following statement:
“I am absolutely staggered that we are going to vote down a condolence motion for a great Australian who has campaigned tirelessly on a number of issues as well as the rights of refugees, somebody who has contributed to the artistic community and who has worked on East Timorese issues—something that Australians should all be proud of. Yet, on the basis of her advocacy for the people of West Papua, who are currently being slaughtered, we are going to vote down a condolence motion. Where is the courage to stand up and say: ‘Well done. You deserve our respect.’ It is appalling. Have we become China, that we cannot celebrate a great Australian citizen who has worked so hard on so many issues and deserves the respect of this parliament? I am absolutely appalled.”
Senator John Madigan refused to remove the words ‘West Papua’ (after consulting with Vikki Riley’s partner, Jimmy Hatton).
He called a division.
When the vote on the condolence motion was held, Senator John Madigan, Senator Nick Xenophon and the Australian Greens voted in favour. The entire Senate opposed the condolence motion because it had the words ‘West Papua.’
Some Senators left the chamber rather than vote.
Only the following Senators votes Yes:
Di Natale, R
Siewert, R (teller)