Death of Mr Mark D'arney, Parliamentary Library Systems Officer

About this Item
SubjectsParliament: New South Wales; Obituaries; Libraries and archives
SpeakersCusack The Hon Catherine; Macdonald The Hon Ian

Page: 7281

    The Hon. CATHERINE CUSACK [9.47 p.m.], by leave: I am deeply honoured by this opportunity to reflect upon and give thanks for the contribution made to this Parliament by Mr Mark D'Arney, a highly valued member and colleague of the New South Wales Parliamentary Library. I thank the Government for its courtesy in arranging this opportunity. I feel that this is an occasion to give credit where it is due. I therefore begin by giving credit to Anita Gylseth, a member of the staff of the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries, who has initiated and arranged this unusual moment in procedure. It has been a difficult thing to do and it is a credit to her feeling for Mark D'Arney and this Parliament. We are a better place because of it. I thank the Minister and his office.

    This is an all-too-rare moment for all of us as members to reflect soberly and truthfully upon the fact that each of us who stands here stands on the shoulders of others. There are many tall shoulders, but Mark D'Arney stood with the tallest. As a member of the staff of the Parliamentary Library, he and his colleagues chose what I regard, without qualification, as the noblest and most decent profession in our community. Any person who is surprised by such a statement is simply a person who has not thought about it. There are many things I could speak of tonight, but I think it is fair to say that Mark was most famous in the Parliament for three things, the first being his electorate profile research papers which date back to 1996. They were genuinely innovative in their methodology, and nationally acclaimed within his profession. I am sure I am not the only member who has a full set of Mark's papers at home and at work. Indeed, it is a well-travelled collection which has accompanied me and my family on holidays. Individual papers are frequently found on my bedside table.

    Mark created the profiles by taking the raw Australian Bureau of Statistics data and cobbling together available technology, such as Microsoft Excel—which was not designed for the purpose, but then nothing ever was designed for such a purpose—to generate electoral comparisons of key demographic areas in his series of library background papers. This work was undertaken with Kate Curr, who I know, together with his colleague Melinda McIntyre, has an intense sense of the loss of Mark tonight. Mark was also famous for running the Australian Football League tipping competition. Although I was never brave enough to venture my own hand at the competition, I had complete empathy with his choice of code. I know that many people, including the Hon. Jennifer Gardiner, participated and looked forward to it each year. It was one of the too-few levellers in this Parliament in which members and staff across the parties and professions could engage and share a great Australian pastime. The tipping competition will be sorely missed. Its absence will be a keen reminder of Mark's absence.

    Many honourable members may not be aware of what I came to realise was Mark's pseudonym—Library E-Clips. As a new member, I was fascinated by this service¯an automated email that arrived at all hours of the day and night on really interesting and useful topics. Indeed, it seemed to be reading my mind as to what I wanted to know. Nothing arrived that was not urgent, or interesting, or important. This was not at all consistent with my experience of the Internet and so I chanced my hand one Sunday afternoon and sent a reply email to Library E-Clips. I received a speedy response, from Mark D'Arney. He explained the system and my profile, and asked whether he could do anything to improve the service. That was typical of Mark's commitment to service. It was that commitment, combined with his intellect, that made him a potent talent in his chosen profession.

    What set Mark apart, however, was the rare ability to set his own standards of professionalism and achievement. His standards, which were set in a futuristic area of library service, were without precedent and without peer. Tragically, Mark was just 36 when he passed away. He was at the forefront of a trailblazing generation. When one thinks about it, our great library tradition is steeped in history; it is an activity in conservation in many respects. Francis Bacon said:

    Libraries are as the shrines where all the relics of the ancient saints, full of true virtue, and that without delusion or imposture, are preserved and reposed.

    I have also heard it eloquently said, although I regret I cannot attribute it, that "When I walk into a library it is as if all history unfolds before me." Mark was a man dedicated to the great tradition of libraries, the custodians of ideas and knowledge and freedom for civilised people throughout the ages. But as a modern man he was a pioneer in his great profession, which is crossing a huge threshold from custodians of knowledge to what he called a new additional role as "online traffic cops". I refer honourable members to a paper Mark wrote in 1999 entitled "A Library's Approach to Online Government Information". Fittingly, it can be found on the Internet, and it is an important paper. It shows the sympathy and understanding he had for us, his clients, who I would have speculated might have been rather difficult customers. It did not come across that way at all in the way Mark discussed us.

    Mark talks about how the library can now supply access to resources that never have been and never will be physically contained in the library. Mark recognised the new frontier; he embraced it, and we are all deeply in his debt for his achievements in conquering it. I emphasise that Mark was amongst the leading figures in Australia in bridging the tradition, the future, the possible and the practical. Mark was a popular member of the New South Wales parliamentary family for nearly 10 years. Today I heard stories of how he would phone the children of library staff members and pretend to be Santa Claus; it absolutely thrilled and amazed them that Santa Claus knew so much about them individually.

    Mark had a wry and wonderful sense of humour. Mark was husband to Michelle and father to Valerie Pearl, who turns three in April. The thoughts of all members tonight are particularly with Mark's mother, father and sister. We feel deeply for the staff of the Parliamentary Library; they are at the core of what we do, and we do not thank them enough. Mark's passing is a painful moment, because I fear he may not have realised the extent of our appreciation and sense of loss at his passing. It was once said of a great man who loved his library, "Thou canst not die. Here thou art more than safe. Where every book is thy epitaph." Vale, Mark, and thank you from all of us.

    The Hon. IAN MACDONALD (Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries) [9.53 p.m.]: I join with the Hon. Catherine Cusack in paying tribute to Mark D'Arney, the Parliamentary Library Systems Officer, who tragically died last week. Mark James D'Arney was born on 1 September 1967. He achieved a Master of Arts degree majoring in politics from Macquarie University and a Graduate Diploma of Applied Science with a focus on information from the University of Technology, Sydney. Mark has been in the Parliamentary Library since 1994 as the Systems Librarian. He believed he had the perfect job, never wanting to leave, as he was as close to politics as he could get without having to be involved in the cut and thrust of being a member of Parliament. Mark played a pivotal role as part of the process in developing the Parliamentary Library home page. When he was younger and a keen budding musician, he and his great mate Cameron Morley, formerly of the Parliamentary Library and now working at the State Library of New South Wales, formed their own band and named themselves Dangerbird after the Neil Young song.

    Mark was a loyal Newtown Jets supporter. He had the luxury of his house backing onto Henson Park. At every home game, Mark and his friends, all of whom were musicians, would jump his back fence into the ground and set up their musical instruments and play the Wing's hit Jet whenever the Newtown Jets scored. For refreshments, Mark's wife, Michelle, would pass the beers over the fence. However, when Mark found out the Jets were in financial trouble he made everyone become members and pay to get in and buy their beer from the Jets. Another terrific story, as mentioned by the Hon. Catherine Cusack, was related to me by his friend and work colleague, Mark Sheehan. Mark D'Arney would ring children and pretend that he was Santa Claus calling from the North Pole and he would chat to them about what they wanted from Santa and would suss out if they had been good. The kids loved it. These are just a few of examples of what a very special person he was.

    Mark was a passionate Sydney Swans supporter and one of the highlights of 2003 was when he and his mates were caught on film famously whooping it up after a Barry Hall goal—such a legendary footy moment made it onto The Panel, and was shown in great detail at the football show that is run at the end of each season when prizes are presented for the parliamentary footy tipping competition. Mark, Phil Dixon and Rachel Simpson took over the running of the AFL parliamentary footy tipping competition from my office in 1999. Apologies to Paul Mullins missing out on a cash reward in 1998, but the glory of his name has been etched on the perpetual trophy. From then on the competition was Internet driven, receiving tips via email, fax, phone and scribbled notes, from as far afield as Kakadu and even South Africa. Nearly 100 people, from the library and their friends, joined up.

    Mark updated information on the custom-built footy tipping web site, with his characteristic humour, visuals, trivia and essential links. It was quite amazing to see. I suggest the aforementioned perpetual trophy, which is in the House, should be renamed in Mark's honour, and referred to hereafter as the Mark D'Arney Perpetual Memorial Trophy. I know that everyone in Parliament is feeling immense stress at Mark's passing, and I was absolutely dumbstruck when I heard the news on Thursday afternoon. Mark leaves behind his wife, Michelle, and his much-loved two-year-old daughter, Valerie Pearl, his parents, Mea and John, and sister, Kaylie. He will be greatly missed.

    Motion agreed to.
    The House adjourned at 9.58 p.m. until Wednesday 17 March 2004 at 11.00 a.m.