It was pleasing that such a large number of people attended Australia Day Ceremonies yesterday.  These increasingly large attendances are a sign that we place increasing value on the nature of the celebration.

Australia Day means many things to different people but for me more than anything, it is a celebration of who and what we are, where we have been, and where we are going.

Thank you to all the local councils and organising committees for staging such wonderful events around the electorate. Congratulations to our newest Australian citizens and all those who were recognised for their special contribution to our community.

Next week Parliament will resume and I’ll be heading back down to Canberra.
The Parliament always sits about one third of each year and usually for two weeks at a time.  In 2016 Members will spend 5 weeks of February/ March in Canberra, 5 weeks in May/ June, 3 weeks in August/ September, 5 weeks in October/ November and 1 day in December. 
You will notice that the Parliament does not sit at all in April.  This is a period in which Ministers will be busy framing the budget which will be delivered on May 10, 2016.
The House of Representatives sits Monday to Thursday for at least 45 hours (often many more).
Committees are also operating while the House is sitting as well as before and after the House meets.
Most members fly to Canberra late on Sunday night and fly home Friday morning.  It is not possible to remain in Canberra over the weekend of a two-week session because Members have meetings, community functions etc to attend in their electorates, not to mention the need to see one’s family.  In addition, a week’s worth of mail and a queue of appointments are awaiting the member on his or her return on Friday.
The balance of the year is spent working in the electorate assisting constituents, attending meetings, community functions and writing correspondence and submissions.  As my own electorate stretches from Maitland to out west at Rylstone and Kandos, travel between meetings and functions is also time consuming.
In addition, most Members have political party meetings and commitments on a regular basis.  Further, Members also attend committee meetings in non-sitting weeks.
So you see it’s a busy life but one I still love and appreciate
The Country Education Foundation's 2016 University Survival Guide is now available to download.

The 2016 University Survival Guide is packed with practical tips and advice to support students in their transition to independent living and learning.

The free Guide provides advice on everything from moving out of home and managing a budget to balancing study with part-time work and social activities.

The 2016 University Survival Guide can be downloaded from www.cef.org.au.

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To contact the office, phone 1300 301 753, visit www.joelfitzgibbon.com or by post 3 Edward Street, (PO Box 526) Cessnock, 2325.

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