Pulford brings house to tears with speech on daughter's 'good death' | VIDEO

Agriculture Minister Jaala Pulford speaks about the death of her daughter, Sinead.
Agriculture Minister Jaala Pulford speaks about the death of her daughter, Sinead.

Jaala Pulford's speech for voluntary assisted dying took a little over 12 minutes, roughly one minute for each week between the day her 13-year-old daughter was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer and the day she died.

It was long enough to turn the upper house into an emotional wreck, with MPs on both sides in tears.

Ms Pulford has told the story of Sinead's life and death before; of a vivacious child who dreamed of joining the circus, mastered the unicycle and who died of liver cancer in the same week her mother was named a minister in the new Andrews government in 2014.

She told some of it again on Thursday in a speech that mixed raw emotion with eloquence and an essential optimism about life that was remarkable given the tragedy her family suffered.

"When my beautiful, brilliant, vivacious, unicycle-mad Sinead was diagnosed with cancer we were told they had never seen anything like this before," Ms Pulford said.

"It's not a kid's cancer,' they said."

The family was told Sinead had perhaps nine months to live but the disease took fewer than 12 weeks to take her away.

"Four weeks to get pain management right at hospital and then home to watch Sinead's steady decline," Ms Pulford said.

"It's indescribably difficult to watch the decline and death of someone you love."

Jaala Pulford MP in her daughter Sinead's room, holding Sinead's unicycle.

Jaala Pulford MP in her daughter Sinead's room, holding Sinead's unicycle.

The Minister for Agriculture also neatly wrapped her argument in favour of legalising voluntary assisted dying around personal story, calling out those who have argued the debate is a choice between palliative care and assisted dying.

"The idea of a good death or a bad death is something I'd like to explore," she said.

"I'm perplexed by the argument that this bill represents a choice between voluntary assisted dying and palliative care. To me they are complementary, they can and should co-exist."


Palliative carers had tended to Sinead in her final weeks at home and guided the family through the process of dying.

They helped with everything from assistance with administering medication and bed baths to making cups of tea and selecting jewellery.

Ms Pulford voted against assisted dying when it was debated in Victoria's parliament in 2008, a time when she "knew very little about death".

She found that vote difficult.

But she said she would have no difficulty voting yes to this bill, "having learned more about death and dying than I ever cared to".

"Our parliament has an opportunity to demonstrate compassion for people enduring unendurable suffering," Ms Pulford said.

Victorian MPs have been given a rare conscience vote on the historic legislation, which would make the state the first to adopt assisted dying.

The bill passed the lower house last month by 47 votes to 37, without amendments, but is much more even in the upper house, where 40 MPs will vote.

Nineteen MPs have indicated they will vote yes to the bill and two have said they would be prepared to accept it with amendments.

One MP, Liberal Upper House President Bruce Atkinson, is yet to publicly declare his position.

The debate will continue on Friday.