FAMILY and friends are mourning the death of former member for Bendigo Steve Gibbons, who passed away earlier this week aged 72.
It marks the end of an extraordinary life served in business, the union movement and the halls of Australian parliament.
Mr Gibbons is survived by his wife Diane, his constant companion since he was 17-years-old.
He married Diane on September 4, 1976, the day after he joined the Labor Party.
"It was Labor's opposition to the war in Vietnam and particularly the influence of the late Dr Jim Cairns that guided me into ... party membership and resulted in my election to this place," he said in his 2013 valedictory speech to parliament.
Mr Gibbons was elected to parliament in 1998 as a member of the Australian Labor Party and stood down in 2013 as the longest serving Bendigo MP since federation.
"I am extremely proud of what we have been able to achieve since that date, and when I say 'we' I am talking about my office and the people associated with it," he said in 2013.
His many achievements included a successful four-year fight to make sure the Calder Highway was duplicated, significant funding for the La Trobe University's Rural Health School and a Bendigo GP superclinic.
Other accomplishments included securing bipartisan support for Maryborough's printing industry, helping to keep jobs in the region for longer, and he was pivotal to lobbying efforts to keep more than one hundred defence mapping roles in the region.
Mr Gibbons played a key role in the early 2000s when the Coalition government revealed plans to cancel Bendigo's Bushmaster armoured vehicle contracts.
He and his team successfully lobbied to keep the vehicles despite opposition from senior army and Defence figures, who preferred equipment built overseas.
Mr Gibbons and his team later argued passionately for manufacturer Thales to build the smaller armoured Hawkeis in Bendigo.
Mr Gibbons left a strong legacy for his successor Lisa Chesters, who paid tribute to a man she said lived up to his pugnacious tagline "fighting for Bendigo".
"If he was in your corner, you knew you had a good chance," she said.
People who knew Mr Gibbons also genuinely enjoyed his company and would fondly remember nights spent at the Rifle Brigade, where he eventually made the 100 Pint Club honour board multiple times, Ms Chesters said.
She said Mr Gibbons' accomplishments played a vital role in her own election to parliament.
Before him, the seat had normally swung between Labor and the Coalition. His work helped shore up the seat for the party, Ms Chesters said.
"He set up some great foundations for me to come through, on issues I am still advocating for today," she said.
Just this week, Ms Chesters was taking Ukraine's ambassador and Australia's new defence industries minister on a tour of Thales' site to show them the latest on Bushmasters and Hawkeis.
Victoria's now deputy premier Jacinta Allan worked for Mr Gibbons on his 1998 campaign for Bendigo and then during his first year as a member of parliament.
"I've pretty much known Steve my entire life," she said.
"My father and grandfather were involved with the Bendigo Trades Hall and so was Steve."
Ms Allan saw firsthand how hard he fought for people in those early days, including to keep Telstra jobs in Bendigo and Bushmasters.
"He worked his guts out and he was incredibly successful," she said.
Mr Gibbons' drive came from growing up in Bendigo and being a worker himself, Ms Allan said.
"He understood the importance of a job, of a secure source of employment, and what that meant for supporting your family and community," she said.
"He had very strong Labor values around taking collective action to support Bendigo workers and their jobs."
Ms Allan said she learned a lot from Mr Gibbons' passion for the region, and how to put up a good fight.
"If you put up a good argument you can be successful, even if you are on the opposition benches as he was for the first half of his time in parliament."
Mr Gibbons won his chance to be part of a governing party when Kevin Rudd was elected in 2007 and was deeply proud of the legacy that and following Labor governments left.
"I had to defend some very narrow margins in the Bendigo electorate, especially during the early years," he said in his 2013 valedictory speech.
"And I could not see any point in being away from the electorate to the extent required to manage a portfolio and then losing the seat as a result."
Mr Gibbons proudly boasted, when talk turned to factional politics, of being a sub-faction of one who made his own way.
As he retired from parliament, Mr Gibbons warned his elected colleagues about issues as pressing today as they were in 2013.
The first of these is climate change," he said in his valedictory speech.
"Scientists tell us that the actions that the world takes in the next decade will be critical; critical to whether we manage to slow the effects of man-made global warming during the 21st century, or whether we leave our children and grandchildren to contend with potentially catastrophic changes to their way of life."
The other issue was the economic rise of Asia.
"[That] will be a defining feature of the 21st century," he said in 2013.
Mr Gibbons urged fellow parliamentarians to look to countries like Indonesia, not just China and India, but said far more engagement was needed to understand the complex region.
"I leave this House optimistic about our nation's future; optimistic that we will be able to deal with the major challenges and take advantage of the opportunities that we face in the 21st century," he said.
Mr Gibbons family will hold a private funeral at a later date.
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