Cathy McGowan gets a standing ovation in Parliament as she ends her 'crazy' career

The final speech in Parliament from Cathy McGowan started with a standing ovation.

About 200 supporters, most decked out in the Indi MP's iconic orange, travelled to Canberra on Thursday and were very vocal as she was called on to speak.

The emotion was evident in Ms McGowan's voice to start, then she pushed on to thank the people who had supported her during her six years in the job.

"Your belief, your trust and your courage has made this crazy, brave experiment possible. Thank you so much," she said.

"The community took a huge risk in voting for me, not once but twice.

"However today it feels less risky to vote for an independent and more like a sane, sensible alternative."

ORANGE ARMY: Supporters donned their "I'm with Cathy" T-shirts and boarded the bus from Wodonga to Canberra yesterday. Picture: MARK JESSER

ORANGE ARMY: Supporters donned their "I'm with Cathy" T-shirts and boarded the bus from Wodonga to Canberra yesterday. Picture: MARK JESSER

In reflecting on the beginning, back in 2013, Ms McGowan said she felt "nervous, worried and anxious" both when standing as a candidate and then when she won by just 439 votes.

"The expectations were enormous and heavy. I took the responsibility of truly representing my community very seriously. I'm so proud to stand here today and say we have survived the ordeal and hopefully set a benchmark in the process," she said.

"I was determined to deliver. I really wanted to prove that my community had done a good thing and the right thing in backing me.

"It was deeply personal.

"There had been a fierce competition for me to get here and to stay here."

That fierce competition came from Liberal Sophie Mirabella, who was not named in the speech, but certainly referenced.

In her valedictory speech on Thursday, Ms McGowan could include the hospital on her list of funding achievements - pausing with a smile as supporters in the public gallery laughed and cheered.

"And the controversial Wangaratta hospital: $20 million. A special thank you to Dan Andrews and the Victorian government for coming to the party on that one," she said.

"Independents do get things done and anytime one of you says the opposite, the words of rural and regional Australia will remember."

Other achievements on her list were funding for the North East rail line, mobile phone towers, the Albury-Wodonga regional deal and a code of conduct for all members of Parliament.

She made sure to use the term "we" when discussing Indi's achievements, saying they happened with the help of the electorate.

"I'm delighted that the community, and especially our young people, are more engaged. They are signing up, turning up and speaking up in far greater numbers," Ms McGowan said.

"I committed to bring the voices of the community of Indi to Canberra and what greater example of success have you got than today.

"I committed to a vision for a prosperous and caring community where businesses grow, agriculture flourishes and where everyone can reach their potential."

The thank you messages were wide ranging, given to fellow MPs, community groups and her family - including many who made the trip to Canberra.

Ms McGowan gave a special thanks to those she called her "nibblings", the nieces and nephews, praising them for their wisdom and guidance during the marriage equality debate in 2017.

One of her most memorable 525 speeches to Parliament over her six years was in voting "yes" to same-sex marriage, saying the "legislation is not only about same-sex, it's about two people - however they define themselves".

She will leave Parliament with unfinished business, reminding the government they had not taken up the crossbench initiatives for a youth minister or white paper into white paper looking into regional Australia.

"Rural communities are ready to work with government and the government needs to take the time to listen to us," Ms McGowan said.

"Pay attention to these extraordinary people (on the crossbench) and the work done here. Clearly our work is not yet done.

"In giving you my blessing, may you grow and multiply; may you all win your seats with increased margins; may you continue to be the voice of reason, the voice of the marginalised and the voice of the forgotten."

I took the responsibility of truly representing my community very seriously. I’m so proud to stand here today and say we have survived the ordeal and hopefully set a benchmark in the process.

Indi MP Cathy McGowan

Political rivalries were put aside for the day, with Farrer MP Sussan Ley and Senator Bridget McKenzie both warmly embracing Ms McGowan after listening to her speech in the House of Representatives.

Senator McKenzie congratulated her on her political career and acknowledged her dedicated commitment to the North East.

"Cathy was elected on the back of local discontent and is a great reminder that MPs and senators need to continue to put their communities first in parliaments across the nation," she said.

"Cathy brought a positive, community-based approach and Parliament is better for it.

"Over her time as member for Indi, I have come to know Cathy as a person and as a fellow advocate for rural Australia.

"We both want the best for country people, our industries and communities."

Former independent MP Tony Windsor was another one of the visitors to Parliament, congratulating Ms McGowan on her six years in the job.

Her final speech also included an official endorsement of Helen Haines as the person she hopes will succeed her in Indi.

"Helen is a midwife and we know they deliver," Ms McGowan said.

"I'm not going away, I'm merely taking a step back as I pass the baton on, allowing others to step forward."