13 September 2023
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (15:48): I rise to speak about Sophie Trevitt, a former colleague and Greens comrade who passed away on 27 July after a nine-month battle with brain cancer, a heroic battle because she was only 32. The death of any young person is tragic but particularly when that young person was making such an enormous contribution and who had so much more to give to the world.
Sophie was a big part of our Greens family, having been a former convener of the ACT Greens and a long-time parliamentary staffer. She was someone who was integral to the rise of our movement and the fact that so many of my colleagues around the country have spoken about Sophie in their respective chambers really reflects the impact that she had.
Sophie was born on 28 February 1991 in Sydney. She became involved with the Oaktree Foundation at high school, with a passion against injustice that led her to study arts law at Sydney University. In 2013, Sophie moved to the ACT to continue her studies at the ANU and at just 21 she became involved with the ACT Greens on her first election campaign.
I first met Sophie during my time in federal parliament, back in 2015. She was working then for Senator Richard Di Natale, having also been a staffer to his predecessor, Christine Milne. I was only 13 when I went into the federal parliament and was very nervous about my new job.
The Hon. T.A. Franks: How old?
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: Sorry, 31.
The PRESIDENT: You are amazing!
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I might only look 13 sometimes, Mr President. I was very nervous about the job, particularly being only 13, but I met Sophie when she was in her early 20s and I really remember her kindness. She was level-headed, she had a great sense of humour, a great wisdom beyond her years, she genuinely believed in the power of politics to change things for the better and she brought that passion and optimism to everything she did. She cared about the parliament, and she saw its capacity to do good work. Her office was just around the corner from the party room, so I would often pop in for a chat and I really enjoyed our conversations about politics.
Sophie was one of those people working in the political field who cared deeply about people, and we saw this in her years of advocacy work. After finishing at the office of Richard Di Natale in 2016, Sophie moved on to work for the ACT Greens leader, Shane Rattenbury, and she made an instant impact in that role, managing a team of seven and overseeing policy and media and communication strategy.
From there, she went on to work as a solicitor for the North Aboriginal Justice Agency for three years before joining Change the Record. It was through this campaign that we had an opportunity to work together again. She had been following the situation in South Australia, and of course across the country, very closely.
Sophie was a powerhouse campaigner for human rights and for social justice. It was her work on the campaign to raise the age of criminal responsibility that was rightly celebrated. In 2020, she was awarded the ACT Youth Coalition Award and in 2023 she received Liberty Victoria's Voltaire Award for Human Rights. We Greens will certainly continue to pursue that campaign.
While Sophie's time with us was cut tragically short, I know that her legacy will live on. My thoughts are with her partner, Tom, and with her family and friends. In the days after her death, Sophie's partner, climate change strategist Tom Swann, Christine Milne, Cheryl Axelby and Antoinette Braybrook—co-chairs of Change the Record—wrote a moving tribute in The Guardian, and I think it is appropriate that I read their words into Hansard as I conclude this speech. It reads:
Sophie's wish was for her story to inspire others to make a difference in the world. She urged us to be kind, brave and to fight for justice and the safety of all people.
So: be kind, be brave. Fight for justice. Fight to make people safe. Expect better from those in power. Today and all tomorrows, ask yourself: what would Sophie do?
Sophie's legacy is something I know all Greens will continue to draw inspiration from. A life cut way too short. Rest in peace.