Sharon holds a unique place in the history of the Illawarra’s representation in the Federal Parliament.
She is the first woman elected as the Member for Cunningham.
She was the first woman from the Illawarra to be appointed as a Parliamentary Secretary in the Federal Parliament, serving as Parliamentary Secretary for Higher Education and Skills.
She was also the first woman from the Illawarra to serve as a Minister in the Federal Parliament, serving as Minister for Higher Education and Skills, Minister for Regional Development, Minister for Regional Communication and Minister for Road Safety.
Sharon is incredibly well-liked and well-respected locally and in Canberra.
First elected in 2004, she was re-elected five times and her results demonstrating the deep level of support she has in the community.
Sharon has helped deliver around $1 billion worth of spending commitments to the region during her period in office, including securing the Illawarra as an early roll-out region for the National Broadband Network and helping secure the future of our steel industry, improving university, TAFEs, school, health and community facilities.
In her first speech she outlined the need to support regional communities through change and to help provide opportunities for regions to share in the future by providing high quality education training and she has maintained that commitment to supporting workers, families, community groups and local businesses every single day since.
I have known Sharon for more than two decades having helped manage her election campaigns and more recently working together on a range of issues impacting on our shared constituency and I have seen her commitment and the courage that she has displayed in standing up for our region up close.
She is passionate and committed to our region and our region has benefitted from her efforts.
Sharon is a wonderful source of advice and assistance and is a mentor and a mate. I have greatly appreciated the support and assistance she has provided me.
I wish Sharon every success in the next chapter of her life following her retirement from public life at the next election.