Linda Burney had had barely a month to begin to absorb the grief of losing her son, Binni, when she rose in Parliament on Tuesday, determined to honour his name.
She wished to explain her long-held support for same-sex marriage.
“I have never had a second thought,” she said.
“It seemed to be so obvious.”
And then, a gear shift: “I support marriage equality as someone who has and has had loved ones who identify as LGBTI”.
Suddenly you knew, watching her, that this was no mere politician giving just another speech. The voice teetered on the edge of breaking before this mother of a lost son willed it back under control
“To them,” she said, “Marriage equality would mean so much.”
Ms Burney looked up from the dispatch box, her eyes seeking the camera that was broadcasting her speech beyond Parliament, making sure no one missed her purpose.
“I honour these people,” she said.
“In particular my late son, Binni.”
And there. She had said it. A few words that meant everything.
In late October, Ms Burney announced she was taking leave from Parliament, and requested privacy “in this dire, grief-stricken time”.
Her 33-year-old son had been found dead, and police had declared there were no suspicious circumstances.
“I wish to advise that my beloved son, Binni Kirkbright-Burney was found dead last night at our family home in Sydney,” she said on October 25, describing him as a “caring and loving man”.
“I returned to Sydney last night to be with him this one last time … He has struggled with mental health and with addiction. He tried so hard to conquer his demons, as I and my family have tried so hard to support him in every way we could.”
And here, eight weeks later, Ms Burney, the Labor opposition’s human services spokeswoman, and a woman who, in 2006, had endured the death by accident of her partner, Rick Farley – a civil rights activist and former head of the National Farmers Federation – had come to the Parliament to speak her son’s name and to honour him.
With visible force of will, she regained her composure, for she had more to say.
A descendant of the Wiradjuri people, Ms Burney declared that she also supported marriage equality “as someone who is a member of a community that has experienced great discrimination and injustice”.
People from such communities, she said, had been taught to understand “what it means to be rejected, to understand what intergenerational trauma feels like and what hurt and distress it does to you”.
The Parliament had rarely seen such a moment.
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.