As you head south towards Wagga Wagga on the Olympic Highway at Brucedale, a forest of splendid gums on your left abuts ordered rows of olive trees while the paddocks opposite burst into brilliant canola yellow as far as the eye can see in spring.
On the second hill is Mary Gilmore Rd named for former local, renowned writer and great-great aunt of Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Further along, on the right, is a quaint stone building - the school she attended in the 1870s.
This is a beautiful, serene part of regional Australia. Sadly, however, this was also the place where in February 1984 a horrific collision occurred which was one of the Riverina's worst road tragedies with four lives taken from the one family.
Then one week later, six people were killed in a crash near Temora.
Ten dead in a week. Eight adults. Two children. And 13 youngsters who would now live their lives having lost a parent or both their mother and father.
I remember the time all too well.
A 19-year-old cadet reporter, I was just finishing my shift at The Daily Advertiser when the newspaper's chief of staff, hearing the Brucedale crash was close to where I lived, asked me to check it out on my way home and phone in with details. There were no mobile phones in those days.
What confronted me was awful. A head-on crash involving a car with a single occupant and a van, carrying a family of six from Victoria.
The parents, both in their early 30s, and their four-year-old daughter, who had been thrown clear of the van, died at the scene whilst a seven-year-old girl succumbed to internal injuries in hospital three days later.
Two children, a 13-year-old girl, who was deaf, and a boy, aged 9, were orphaned. Too tragic for words.
Every road death is the same. Heart-breaking. Terrible. Unnecessary.
Someone's parent ... sister ... brother ... daughter ... son. Someone.
Someone who loved and was loved.
Someone who left us too soon.
I have travelled on that road so many times since and each time I pass that spot I remember. I recall the devastation. The anguish. The frantic yet professional care and support of the first responders. The looks on the faces of the young ones left behind. I often wonder whatever became of them.
I phoned the story through and it made the front page the following day. It was my job then to report the news ... calmly, clinically and accurately. But it is hard not to let that affect you.
Road safety is something about which I am passionate. My Ministerial roles now give me the unique opportunity to do what I can to help reduce road fatalities and trauma as we, as a Government and as a nation, work towards zero.
This is why we are investing heavily into better roads as part of our $110 billion infrastructure roll-out across the nation.
This investment comes in many forms, from large-scale highway upgrades to the Bridges Renewal Program ($676m over eight years) and Heavy Vehicle Safety and Productivity Program ($538m over 10 years).
Roads to Recovery, supporting maintenance of local road infrastructure, is receiving a massive injection of $2.64 billion from 2019-20 to 2023-24. Since this program began in 2001, councils across Australia have used the funding to repair and upgrade at least 60,000 road sites.
And there's much more underway: In Queensland, this year $25.3m is targeting known accident sites under the Black Spot Program - funding safety measures from traffic signals and roundabouts to turning lanes, safety barriers and better lighting.
Up to $522m is available across Queensland under three tranches of the Road Safety Program. Works can include safety treatments such as shoulder sealing and the installation of rumble strips, to support the safe return of vehicles from the shoulder into the travel lane; physical barriers to prevent run off road crashes; and median treatments to prevent head-on vehicle collisions. This is part of the commitment to improving road safety and reducing the number of deaths and serious injuries on our roads; the national Office of Road Safety is supporting our road safety agenda, working closely with states, territories and councils.
Funding under the two Phases of the Local Roads and Community Infrastructure Program is up to $303m across Queensland. Examples of works are a bridge or tunnel, street lighting equipment, traffic signs, traffic control equipment or a facility off the road used by heavy vehicles. It supports councils to deliver priority local road and community infrastructure projects, supporting jobs and the resilience to help communities bounce back from the pandemic.
Vehicles are vastly safer now than in 1970 when the national road toll peaked at 3798. Road safety resources and actions are also more prominent today and rightly so.
Record Federal funding, with State and Local Government contributions, saved lives last year and will continue to do so as we build better, safer roads in the future. Upgrades continue on major Queensland highways and on other busy byways as well as local streets in your neighbourhood. These works are saving lives and avoiding trauma.
But we cannot legislate against stupidity.
As the Courier Mail reported early this month, one of Queensland's top police says drivers need to consider their actions after a "disturbing" trend emerged with road victims not wearing seatbelts. Of those who died on Queensland roads last year, 40 per cent were not wearing a seatbelt. In the words of Acting Assistant Commissioner Ray Rohweder: "What we do need is the people of Queensland ... to take a little step back and think about how they conduct themselves."
Road safety is everyone's issue- let's make it even more so this year.
Deputy PM, Michael McCormack