She started by joking that colleagues were betting how long it would take for her to cry, and within seconds Jenny Macklin was in tears as she gave her final speech in Parliament.
She went on to deliver a powerful speech on inequality being behind much of the division occurring in our society.
It was a speech to close 23 years in Parliament, with her three adult children watching on from the public gallery.
And she could point to some significant change during that period, including that there were just four Labor women in Parliament when she joined, now the Labor party is almost 50 per cent female.
But she also noted the work to do.
Macklin started by discussing Indigenous Australians, saying “a lot has changed, but too much has not.”
She said we should be “determined to do more and do better”
“A good education is vital, so is healthcare, housing, employment, but so is pride in yourself, power in your own life, a sense of belonging and respect. That’s what the Indigenous voice to Parliament is all about.
“This could be a powerful, unifying new institution for our country. Something all of us can be proud of so, let’s get on with it.”
Macklin said that to everyday people, Canberra can seem a world away, and that Australians are losing faith in the institutions and systems that they have been told are there to protect them.
“The system is rigged. The powerful people can do what they want, take what they want … There is one Australia for the few and another for the rest,” she said.
“I believe there is a common cause to the divisions and exclusions that exist in our society, it’s inequality.”
She said it’s the disadvantage gap, the opportunity gap and the “poverty of hope that inequality breeds”.
And she spoke of the “giant chasm” between the lives most Australians are living, and the lives of those in the institutions that are serving them.
“It’s bad enough for Australians to lose faith in us, it’s worse if they give up on us. We can not allow that to happen,” she said.
Macklin, who shared some of her highlights in government — including the passage of paid parental leave, the NDIS, the national apology and working with Kevin Rudd and Wayne Swan during the global financial crisis — also conceded that she had arrived in parliament “a little naive.”
She said the hardest thing about political life had been the time she missed with her children. She pointed to her three adult children in the gallery, and spoke about her grandchildren.
“I do recall being in a Cabinet meeting, only to be called by one of the boys that they couldn’t find their football ball boots. Whatever I was doing at the time was irrelevant.”
She also spoke about the “great gift of love and friendship” over 40 years with her partner Ross.
She pointed to Julie Bishop opposite, suggesting they had both “shared a a lot of instability in their political careers” that they didn’t anticipate.
Macklin said Anthony Albanese had her back for 23 years, that Linda Burney has “the biggest heart of all” and noted her friendship with Tanya Plibersek.
“I have enormous faith that the next Labor government will be a progressive, reforming government.”