DEATH OF THE HONOURABLE VIRGINIA ANNE CHADWICK, AO, A FORMER MEMBER OF THE LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL, A FORMER MINISTER OF THE CROWN AND A FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL
I report the death on 18 September 2009 of the Hon. Virginia Anne Chadwick, aged 64 years, a former President and member of this House from 1978 to 1999. On behalf of the House I have extended to her family the deep sympathy of the Legislative Council in the loss sustained.
Members and officers of the House stood in their places as a mark of respect
The Hon. TONY KELLY
(Minister for Lands) [2.33 p.m.]: I move:
1. That this House expresses and places on record its deep sense of loss sustained by the State by the death on 18 September 2009 of the Hon. Virginia Chadwick, a member of this House from 1979 to 1999, a former President of the House and Minister of the Crown.
2. That this resolution be communicated by the President to the family.
The New South Wales people have lost a strong representative with the passing last Saturday of the Hon. Virginia Chadwick at the age of 64. The term "trendsetter" was never more appropriate to describe anyone as it was to describe for Virginia. She was the first female Liberal Minister in New South Wales, the first female Opposition Whip and, very importantly, she was the first female President of the Legislative Council.
As Minister, Virginia took responsibility for some tough portfolios and handled each with integrity and determination. She was well regarded as a politician and as a colleague by many of us on both sides of the House. A Newcastle girl born and bred, she was educated at Newcastle Girls High School and the University of Newcastle, where she continued to work as a teacher before entering the world of politics. Virginia was a very true and strong Novocastrian. Virginia also had a long-standing association with the ethnic communities of New South Wales. For several years she served as trustee of the Ethnic Communities Council of NSW as also served as a member of the council.
As I have mentioned, Virginia was the first female Minister for the Liberal Party in New South Wales. But that was only one of her many achievements. She played an integral part in ensuring that disability services became a separate portfolio. Not only was Virginia the first female President of the Legislative Council; she was also the first female President not to wear the wig and gown. She remarked to the Clerk at the time that she would receive enormous pleasure if the Clerks no longer wore the traditional wigs and gowns. The very next day not one of the Clerks wore a wig or gown. Virginia was indeed a trendsetter.
There were some reports recently in the media about the use of long bell in this place. It was suggested that it had not been used since 1888, or thereabouts. But I can remember in my time here the long bell being used on three occasions, and the most memorable was when Virginia Chadwick was President of this House. Current members who were in the House at that time will recall that the Leader of Government Business in this House at that time, the Hon. Jeff Shaw, wandered outside the Chamber to talk to his staff. Virginia, ensuring that the rules of the House were adhered to, stood up and ordered the bell to be rung and said, before proceeding to the President's chamber, that she would return when there was a Minister in the House. Jeff Shaw was a bit put out and refused to come back into the Chamber. We had a bit of a problem, firstly, trying to get him to come back into the Chamber and, secondly, convincing Virginia to resume the Chair. She was a stickler for the rules but in a very amicable way.
After leaving politics, in 1999 Virginia moved to Queensland to take up the position of Chief Executive and Chair of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. Upon her retirement she moved with her husband, Bruce, back to the Newcastle area, the place where her journey began. The passing of Virginia Chadwick should serve as a reminder to all of us, both as politicians and as citizens who genuinely care about the community, that excellence is only achieved through hard work, that the provision of services to the people of New South Wales is our primary focus and that it is possible to be fierce in politics whilst still having an open heart. Virginia was a true friend to many of us here. On behalf of the House I extend condolences to all of Virginia's family and friends. She was an example for us all.
The Hon. MICHAEL GALLACHER
(Leader of the Opposition) [2.38 p.m.]: As Leader of the Opposition in this House I pay tribute to the Hon. Virginia Chadwick, who passed away from this world on 18 September 2009 at the age of 64. I extend my personal heartfelt condolences to her husband, Bruce, to Amanda and David and to her grandchildren. Virginia was a Novocastrian through and through—the first Liberal woman of Newcastle. Born in Newcastle in 1944 she returned from a short stay in the United Kingdom to attend Newcastle Technical College and gain her Bachelor of Arts and Diploma of Education at the University of Newcastle. She went on to teach in our high schools before entering the Legislative Council in November 1978.
Virginia served this House well for the next 20 years, 3 months and 28 days before retiring at the 1999 State election. She was a true pioneer, not only for this side of politics but also for women in Parliament. Virginia was the first Opposition Whip and the first female President of this House, in which position she was succeeded by another female. Prior to her appointment as President of the Legislative Council she was the first New South Wales female Minister for Education, between July 1990 and April 1995. Her first and hardest task was to broker a peace settlement with the Teachers Federation over a long-running pay dispute.
Virginia was New South Wales's first Liberal female Minister when she was appointed the Minister for Family and Community Services in the Greiner Government, a position she held from March 1988 to July 1990. After retiring—if one could call it that—from public life in 1999, Virginia accepted a request from the Federal Minister for the Environment Robert Hill to take up the position of Chair and Chief Executive Officer of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, a position she held until 2007. Virginia Chadwick was appointed an officer of the Order of Australia in the 2005 Queen's Birthday Honours. The honour bestowed upon her was for services to conservation and the environment through management of environmental heritage and economic sustainability issues affecting the Great Barrier Reef and to the New South Wales Parliament, particularly in the areas of child welfare and education.
Shortly after joining the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority in 1999 Virginia was back into the swing of politics, facing questioning by yet another ABC radio journalist, this time Gerald Tooth, who was doing a major report on the protection of the Great Barrier Reef. Virginia had been tasked by Robert Hill to lead the negotiations between all three levels of government, fishers, farmers and tourist operators to protect the reef. In classic style, Virginia faced the ABC radio national interview head on. The transcript of that interview reads as follows:
Gerald Tooth: We're at the headquarters of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority in Townsville, to talk with the newly installed head of the organisation, Virginia Chadwick.
She was hardened in the arts of political battle after serving in New South Wales Liberal governments in the late '80s and early '90s as both Education and Tourism Minister. Now she's running an area the size of a State, in fact the a size of Victoria and Tasmania combined, and is dealing with some very sensitive political issues, such as advising Robert Hill if he should use his World Heritage powers.
Virginia Chadwick: Well that's not a matter for me to comment on, it's a matter that you should ask Minister Hill.
Gerald Tooth: But you will be advising the Minister on that, won't you? I mean, that's part of your charter.
Chadwick: I can give the Minister advice on any matter that relates to the Heritage area or the Marine Park; what he determines to do with that advice to him is my business and his business. But it's entirely up to him what he does with that advice.
Tooth: You don't want to say whether you would advise the Minister to invoke those powers?
Chadwick: I most certainly would not be telling you whether I'd advise the Minister to do that or anything else.
Tooth: Why not?
Chadwick: Because it's a matter between me and the Minister.
Tooth: Could you say at what point Federal government intervention would be justified?
Later in the interview Tooth said:
Virginia Chadwick does not have any background in environmental issues. I asked her if Robert Hill has appointed her to the position because of her political skills, in expectation of a showdown with Queensland.
Chadwick: Oh my goodness. That certainly wasn't written into my performance agreement or work contract. I think a strong management focus and someone who is very clear about what the authority should be trying to project and protect, is probably why Robert Hill appointed me. But in the terms of my appointment he did not tell me that I was girding my loins for any great showdown at OK Corral or the Barrier Reef.
Virginia's obvious political skills served her well during her time at the authority and earned her and the authority well-deserved recognition. In 2004, the authority was awarded the Banksia Environmental Foundation's Banksia Award. Virginia accepted an appointment to the Australian Maritime Safety Authority Committee and was recognised with her appointment to lead the Australian delegation to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Virginia also served on the Pacific Congress on Marine Science and Technology International, the Queensland Fishing Industry Development Council, the International Union
Nature and the Commission on Education and Communication. The respect that Virginia Chadwick gained was more than evident in a press release issued by the World Wildlife Fund on Saturday which stated:
"Virginia was a great Australian whose legacy to the Reef will live on" said Mr Nick Heath, WWF's Reef Program Leader.
"Ms Chadwick's legacy is an inspiring example of the difference one person can make. All Australians can be immensely proud of what she has achieved," said former WWF employee, Ms Imogen Zethoven, who led WWF Australia's Great Barrier Reef campaign during this period.
"Without Ms Chadwick's extraordinary leadership, judgement and people management skills, the protection of one-third of the Reef from fishing would not have happened" Ms Zethoven said.
"The thoughts of all WWF staff—both past and present—are with Ms Chadwick's family. Inspired by her, they will continue her work to protect the Reef from harm" said Mr Heath.
Earlier this year James Cook University announced that Virginia would receive doctorate at the university's graduation ceremony on 28 March. The announcement said:
Ms Chadwick, who served as NSW Education Minister from 1990-1995 and Tourism Minister from 1993-1995, will be recognised for her outstanding service to the North Queensland community and for her commitment to the conservation of the Great Barrier Reef with an Honorary Doctorate of Science.
When I first arrived in this Parliament in 1996, I had the pleasure of sitting on the backbench with the likes of Charlie Lynn, Mark Kersten and Virginia Chadwick. It was an interesting crew of people to be introduced to as a new member. Like many others in this place, I knew of Virginia's reputation, her wit and her intellect. I also knew that she was a true lady. The way that she would engage Ministers across the table, particularly Ron Dyer, was incredibly memorable. This House and the gallery would be packed and Ron would get to his feet to answer a question and all of a sudden Virginia would start. She would put her head to one side, smile and then interject. It would not be a loud interjection, but all would hear it. It was as though the Chamber was all but empty. The dialogue between Ron Dyer and Virginia, Michael Egan and Virginia or Jeff Shaw and Virginia was most memorable. She commanded respect and caution from all members on the Government benches and, I am sure, from members of the crossbench. No-one took anything she said for granted. She knew her stuff and was always ahead of the game. All members respected her contributions to debates, and particularly her interjections during question time. And when she interjected everyone knew that she was absolutely spot on.
Virginia was also a great storyteller. The Hon. Charlie Lynn and I would sit on the back bench and listen to her stories about a place called "1770". I had never been there and until then had not heard much about it. She would describe her property in this far-flung part of North Queensland and I could imagine her out clearing the property of weeds and facing all the difficulties that came with realising her great dreams for it. As she described it we could feel ourselves being transported there. It seemed appropriate to me that when some time later Robert Hill was looking to appoint someone with great passion for that part of Australia and its coast that Virginia was appointed.
Like many members, I knew that Virginia had been ill and I took the time to write to her to express not only my respect for her but also my gratitude to her for taking the time to teach me so many things when I first arrived in this place and also when I was Leader of the Opposition during her term as President of the Legislative Council.
I am pleased that John Ryan is in the gallery because he was sitting beside me on the day that we heard that a member on our side of the House had decided not to remain a member of the Coalition and was seeking the presidency of the House without the support of the party members. Mr President, no-one will convince me—not you nor Michael Egan, the former leader of the Government—that your absence was anything less than connived. It was most certainly well thought through. It was great to be in this place when the announcement was made that Virginia Chadwick would become the first female President of the Legislative Council.
It was a great day not only for the Liberal and National parties; I believe it was a great day for Parliament. Virginia was elected President at a time of some difficulty for the Legislative Council. There had been considerable effort by people outside this House to run down the role and responsibilities of the Legislative Council, and Virginia was prepared to stand for the position. Not only did she stand for and win the position; she did the House proud in the role she played, displaying great wit and intellect in the knowledge that she could do the job, and do it incredibly well.
It was a sad day when Virginia left the House in 1999, as it was a sad day last Friday when she left this world, but she could be proud of the job she did in her role as a Minister looking after, particularly, young children. I first met her as a young detective when she visited Gosford in her role in community services. She was very passionate about her job and believed in what she was doing. She displayed that same passion in every task that was given her—right to the very end. I would like to think that she lifted the standard for all of us and helped us to believe that we can do anything well provided we have the same work ethic, commitment and passion as that which Virginia Chadwick displayed. Of course, Virginia took over from Max Willis in the role of President of the Legislative Council. The words of Max Willis on 29 June 1998 are as fitting today as they were in 1998. The Hon. Max Willis quoted Tennyson and said:
"The old order changeth, yielding place to the new,
And God fulfils himself in many ways,
Lest one good custom should corrupt world."
If thou shouldst never see my face again,
Pray for my soul. More things are wrought by prayer
Than this world dreams of.
The Hon. DUNCAN GAY (Deputy Leader of the Opposition) [2.52 p.m.]: I acknowledge our friend and colleague Virginia Chadwick—Ginny. I acknowledge former President Max Willis, former Leader of the Opposition John Hannaford, my great friend Patricia Forsythe and John Ryan, amongst others in the gallery. It is a sad day in many ways, but it is worth reflecting on a woman who was truly a Liberal's liberal. She epitomised that degree of liberalism espoused by Bob Menzies, with compassion, caring and strength. She was a fearsome and fearless operator in the House. The many current members who served with Virginia in this House will recall that she took no prisoners when it came to a matter she believed in. Yet, she had great compassion, and that was how she was able to perform so well in her many roles.
She had a long list of firsts as a woman, but all were deserved because of her unbelievable ability rated against anyone. She came to the role of education Minister at a time when the Parliament had just witnessed its greatest protest. Members on the Government side well remember the recent homage to Michael Costa and other eminent Labor colleagues, all of which packed in the protesters in front of Parliament House. But the education protest saw double those numbers—at the front of Parliament House and out the back! Shortly after that protest Virginia took on the role of education Minister. Without totally changing policy and by engaging with and talking to people to better articulate our arguments, she was able to negate the public angst. She went on to become a great education Minister and a great Minister for Family and Community Services.
I served as Virginia's deputy when she was President of this House. It was hardly an onerous job; there was not a lot to do while she was President. Everything ticked along pretty well. My first experience of Virginia was in 1987 when I visited this Chamber, also for the first time, with Peter Cochrane, who later became the member for Monaro. I was running Peter's campaign and we had organised for Virginia to ask Jack Hallam a question on forests. When we arrived and sat in the visitors gallery Peter Cochrane, in his inimitable style—he was a mountain horseman, a Vietnam veteran, a good knockabout bloke and a gutsy defender of his area and his people—said, "We are wasting our time. Why in the hell would we want to be up here with that lot?" We watched Virginia ask her question of Jack Hallam, who was not shy of spirit, mind or voice by any stretch of the imagination. Jack pinned his ears back attacked her like you would not believe. Well, Virginia came straight back at him on a subject she knew absolutely nothing about—the question was handed to her as she walked in the door. She tackled Jack Hallam and beat him. From that day on Peter Cochrane had a huge respect for Virginia Chadwick, as I did.
Virginia was a terrific person. We will miss her. She was a good friend. We enjoyed her company not only in the House debating politics, but also during a talk and while having a drink afterwards. On behalf of The Nationals I offer condolences to Bruce and family.
The Hon. CATHERINE CUSACK
[2.57 p.m.]: Virginia Chadwick was born Virginia Walls and was first and foremost a proud and parochial Novocastrian. She loved her humble Newcastle roots and friends. She handed out flyers for the New State Movement at the 1967 referendum, which was narrowly defeated. She was forever grateful for her educational opportunities at Newcastle Girls High, which she regarded as having opened the door to everything else that happened in her life. The closure of that school—when specialist schools fell out of favour—and, as she described it, metaphoric bulldozing by the Labor Party, profoundly influenced her political sympathies. She was determined throughout her career to re-establish selective education for students in the Hunter, and she accomplished this and much more.
Virginia met John Carrick when he was secretary of the Liberal Party and she was still a young girl. She joined the Young Liberals in 1960 and always proudly referred to herself as a Carrick Liberal. Sir John would play a second major role in her life when he conducted the most extensive community consultation ever in education and produced the Carrick report, which led to the excellence and equity white paper and was the basis of Chadwick's comprehensive reforms to the education curriculum, including the establishment of an independent Board of Studies, the introduction of key learning areas and the accreditation of vocational studies in schools. Virginia was a Commonwealth scholarship student and the first member of her family to study and achieve a tertiary education. She had many wonderful stories, including one she placed on record when former member Liz Kirkby departed from here. She said:
Remembering student politics in the 60s, as a member of the Liberal Party I would have been considered a very strange student activist. The work of the Hon. Don Chipp in the important area of censorship made me very proud as a Liberal to be able to say that he was a Minister from a party of which I was a member. When Don Chipp came to Newcastle university there was a riot because the engineers, the male engineers, at Newcastle rioted and Mr Chipp and I had to be rescued from the building by the police. The engineers said that he should not let their sisters or mothers read wicked books; it would be the end of society as we knew it. An example of the ludicrous laws that Don Chipp was able to overturn is that when I was an arts student a compulsory component of my course was to read, study and be examined on a book such as Lady Chatterley's Lover. I could not buy the book or borrow it from the university library. The only way that students could read that compulsory text was to take our student cards to the library to prove that we were doing the course and be escorted like pariahs to one end of the library, where we sat with the book.
All the engineers were looking at us because if we read that book it meant that we were loose women. When we had finished reading the book we had to sign it back into the custody of the librarian. I certainly admired Don Chipp
Virginia was very witty. Every election she would hand out for the Liberals in Newcastle and exhorted Liberal voters to say a prayer to St Jude. St Jude, of course, is the patron saint of lost causes. Virginia said the only way to win a seat in Newcastle would be for the Liberals to convince the commissioners to abandon their rigid approach to drawing boundaries according to landmarks and instead draw seats on the basis of topography. She actually drew up such a seat just to prove her point that one could be won in Newcastle.
Each of her seven years as Minister she played an April Fools' Day joke on the department and every year they fell for it. Only one director general failed to see the humour. That year she issued a memorandum expressing her concern that schools were complaining that the head office of the department was out of touch with their needs. To address this perception Chadwick directed that every member of the department senior executive should spend two weeks of work experience in a school. She asked them to please reply by the end of the week, filling in the attached form nominating which school and on what dates. There was, of course, pandemonium throughout the department when the memorandum hit. Just as she expected, nobody noticed the 1 April date. Those eager to impress began faxing in schools and dates. The then director general arrived breathless to clarify that the instruction could not and did not apply to him. Only one wag was clever enough to fax in a nomination form, nominating Lord Howe Island.
Virginia was a sparkling conversationalist and public speaker. She delighted us all with her unique use of language, which was sprinkled with masterful allegories drawn from literature but used in a unique, earthy way. She often called upon Banquo's ghost, a reference to past mistakes coming back to haunt us; or being locked up like Lady Chatterley's lover, as a reference to close supervision. She used to describe her own po-faced expression as being "my best Pollyanna look". She said she always knew when she was in trouble with Vern Dalton because he would put on his Easter Island face. There were a few Winnie the Pooh ones as well. She had a special way with words. She had what Chaucer called true "solace and sentence", that is, wisdom and wit. In her maiden speech Virginia's allegory was taken from Lewis Carroll's Though the Looking Glass
"Well, in our country," said Alice, still panting a little, "you'd generally get to somewhere else—if you ran very fast a long time, as we've been doing." "A slow sort of country!" said the Queen. "Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!"
How true and full of meaning this charming piece of prose selected by Virginia proved to be. For her entire career Virginia had to fight twice as hard as everyone else, and four times harder every step of the way forward. On her last day in Parliament the then Leader of the Liberals, the Hon. John Hannaford, whom I acknowledge in the gallery today, alluded to this saying:
The Hon. Virginia Chadwick fought her way through—I emphasise that she fought her way through—the Liberal Party to achieve preselection. Her victory was sweet for her because at the time she was strongly opposed by organisations within the Liberal Party that did not want someone from the Hunter Valley, let alone Virginia Chadwick, in this House. It is important to recognise Virginia's great role as a Minister in the Greiner and Fahey governments. It is appropriate for me to acknowledge the disappointment that she experienced, but would never publicly acknowledge, in not becoming the Leader of the Opposition in this House. Many honourable members, myself included, acknowledge her disappointment and recognise that perhaps that should have occurred.
Politics was harder for Chadwick than everybody else because she was a reformer. To those of us in the Young Liberals she was more than that: she was a rebel leader, overflowing with grand ideas, brandishing ambitious plans and just causes. She always said that when she retired from politics she wanted to be either a hippy or the governor, and she was not sure which. Sometimes when she returned to the ministerial office from her Baffle Creek holidays with Bruce, covered in rashes from removing lantana from their little patch of rainforest, and sometimes even having cut her own hair, we did wonder whether she had brought forward those much discussed plans to "drop out"! We loved her lateral thinking, her rapier view of what was really going on—so many profound insights, all beginning with the words, "I'm from Newcastle and it looks to me as though ".
As I have said, from day one Chadwick had an intuitive understanding that her life was to be lived through the looking glass. She saw that the real world and politics were two completely separate and at times inverse universes. I venture to say that few politicians ever grasp the difference. There is an old and comfortable expression, "politics is the art of the possible". This never applied to Virginia. For her, politics was the art of the remarkable. She was grateful to have what she self-effacingly called "one shot at making a difference" and, by God, she was not going to waste it. She always knew that this approach would make her own life harder.
The curse carried by many true reformers is, of course, the curse of seeing and knowing too much. Chadwick loved Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" address. It is clear to us in earlier versions of that speech that King could clearly see the personal costs of his activism and knowingly embraced a great personal ordeal. True leadership carries high risks of failure and humiliation, and disturbing the comfortable status quo guarantees one will create bitter and committed enemies, the most dangerous being those who are invisible, whose names one will never know. This is the greatest burden of real leadership. In Virginia's case she had a special power for knowing, for inspiring and for generously leaving the door open for all those who would, as she often put it, "see the light" and join her grand adventure to put things right for our children.
Many people underestimated Virginia. When she moved from Community Services to Education it was like walking into a major disaster zone. There was a huge expectation that Virginia would abandon all the controversial reforms and virtually no appreciation that Virginia herself had been a key architect of our education policies in opposition and there was zero chance of anything being abandoned. I think what did shock her at the time was the extent to which none of the reforms had actually been implemented. She said to me that it was as if Humpty Dumpty had been smashed to pieces and thrown in the air but nothing had been put back together again.
Of course, the department's staff were very pleased and relieved when Virginia arrived. One of them said to her, "We are so glad you are here. We won't have to have any more of those ridiculous pre-dawn meetings." Virginia politely inquired as to what they were. The officer explained that these were meetings between the senior executive and the Minister every Monday morning at 7.30 a.m. The officer said, "We're so very glad to see the end of them." I remember thinking to myself, "Oh dear, that was a silly thing to say to Virginia." The pre-dawn meetings were, of course, continued and many were held at 7.00 a.m. There was too much to do and Chadwick was on a timetable and relentlessly focused on outcomes.
She battled away on an astonishing number of levels and fronts, all the time maintaining a surface appearance of grace, serenity and control. Her so-called charm offensive was her most potent weapon. Those of us who were privy to the intricacies of the battle watched in awe as pieces of the reform puzzle seemed to slide naturally and of their own accord into their proper places. Aside from Premier Nick Greiner himself, Virginia was the most assiduous reformer in two terms of that very busy Liberal-National Government. At the same time she defied Machiavelli's dictums on politics by simultaneously becoming one of the most popular and respected Ministers in the State's history. On the face of it, it makes no sense but it makes perfect sense to those of us privileged to view her accomplishments through the looking glass.
It is unreasonable to think any of the rest of us could replicate the likes of Chadwick, but if there is one outstanding lesson for Liberal members it is in her legendary loyalty to the party, which managed to deliver her both the greatest opportunities and the worst experiences of her life. Prior to Nick Greiner's victory in 1988 Virginia spent 10 difficult years in opposition, enduring revolving leadership, embarrassing flip-flops and policies with which she strongly disagreed, such as the reintroduction of corporal punishment in schools. The party completely messed up on its public funding position and I think actually bankrupted itself. Whatever the scenario, Chadwick was a self-described Carrick Liberal, who held her head high for the Liberals, even though I am sure at times she must have been inwardly seething.
To borrow one of her own expressions, Chadwick was as tough as old nails about loyalty and professionalism. She did not complain and could be relied upon to bear her disappointment with complete privacy and dignity. That was not always in her favour given the unique form of what I think of sometimes as the Macquarie Street disease, the industrial deafness that is brought on by the incessant shriek of squeaky wheels. Chadwick was certainly never one of those. She was almost unique in her discipline and focus and her refusal to complain. But those fortunate enough to be part of that special and exhilarating Chadwick circle always knew there was one great rider in our own unwritten contract with Virginia—not doing anything to intentionally cause harm to the reputation of a colleague, the Government, the Liberal Party or the National Party. I spent last weekend, like Tennyson's flawed Sir Bedivere, trawling through my Chadwick memorabilia. I rediscovered a piece of prose that captured the Chadwick ethic wonderfully. It states:
If you work for a man, in heaven's name work for him! If he pays you wages that supply you your bread and butter, work for him—speak well of him, think well of him, stand by him and stand by the institution he represents. I think if I worked for a man I would work for him. I would not work for him a part of the time, and the rest of the time work against him. I would give an undivided service or none. If put to the pinch, an ounce of loyalty is worth a pound of cleverness.
In her more than 20 years as a distinguished member and Minister, Virginia made her way—the right way—towards the eighth square on the chessboard where the Red Queen had gaily promised: "In the Eighth Square we shall be Queens together, and it is all feasting and fun!" In much the same way that liberalism has been criticised for being "all about chasing the carrot but never the eating of it", Virginia did not technically make the eighth square as leader of her party in this House. There was never any "feasting". But, it must be said, such pursuits bored her. But there was always lots of fun—and that pursuit was mandatory. Over the weekend John Fahey described her to me as the most alive and energetic person in his Government. Coming from John, that is a serious compliment!
As a fitting tribute to her career, Virginia was elevated to being President of this Chamber. And in even the short time she held that office she peppered it with reforms and precedents that strengthened the House and its powers. This included aggressively asserting the constitutional rights of Parliament in a momentous dispute with the Executive Government. In many ways, by preserving the ancient power to order the production of papers, Virginia helped save the reputation of the Legislative Council she served so well and with such respect. This power has helped modernise our work and created far greater accountability for Executive Government. Every time that power is exercised I give quiet thanks to Virginia.
Being a Carrick Liberal, Virginia's philosophy in politics imbued her personal values and approach to people. She did not just talk like a Liberal; she walked, breathed and lived liberalism. She spoke exactly the same way to every person she encountered, whether it be the Governor of the State or one of thousands of long-time residents including prisoners of every age she met and spoke with in various State institutions. She broke the mould in so many ways, not only for women but for all engaged in the business of public service. She had charisma and an aura of authority, but not the slightest hint of airs and graces. She was the first Minister in my experience who insisted that every adult and child call her Virginia. And her warmth was such that people found they could actually manage to do this. So much of the handwritten correspondence that poured into the office began with the words "Dear Virginia". It was a lot for the old school in the public service to adapt to. But, as I have said, like so many of Virginia's changes, it was a "nice-but-not-optional change" the departments simply had to make. Notwithstanding such informality, Virginia never referred to the children of New South Wales as "kids"; they were always respectfully referred to as "children", and numerous press releases and speeches had to be amended to conform with this approach.
I do not think any of us can truly plumb the depths of the chasm Virginia's passing has left in our worlds, both our individual worlds and the one we all share. I think of Virginia's family—Bruce, Amanda and David, and their children. We live in a world where we are increasingly thanked for things we have no choice in: your flight is delayed an hour, thank you for your patience; your electricity has temporarily been cut off, thank you for your understanding; your wife and mother was a member of Parliament and Minister of the Crown, thank you for sharing so much of her with us. Our "thanks" seems so inadequate. No matter how great our debt is to her family, I am acutely aware it was Virginia's own love and gratitude that were so profound, and I hope it has meaning for them as they ponder their own sacrifices as a family. No one world was big enough to hold Virginia's boundless spirit and ambition to deploy her formidable gifts for the good of her State and country. I hope the family's pride in Virginia and the gratitude of so many ordinary citizens consoles them in this time of grief.
I have not spoken at length about Virginia's service to the nation in her second career as Chairman and Managing Director of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Authority, but I must briefly refer to it. It was tough, very illustrious in terms of achievement, and the rezoning and increased protection of the reef were internationally acclaimed as the gold standard in reef conservation. It is regarded nationally as Virginia's greatest legacy. As a person close to Virginia, I am somewhat blinded by the enormous personal price she paid, including in terms of her health, during the bitter disputes and negotiations that she successfully concluded to protect the reef. I visited her in Townsville with my family, and there was no question that she was on a mission. She was proud of its significance, and she made it very clear she was immensely grateful to have a second career after serving in the Greiner and Fahey governments—a second chance to make a genuine difference. It was Virginia's way, and there was certainly no stopping her, especially with the suggestion that she needed to have some regard for herself. Albert Pine wrote:
What we do for ourselves dies with us. What we do for others and the world, remains and is immortal.
The loss of Virginia is simply enormous. There are just so many people, from all walks of life and from the astounding number of dimensions in her life who are left behind in deep mourning—so many lives she changed through her reforms and so many lives she changed directly through the force of her personality. I recently met John Tanzer, who was Virginia's deputy at the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, where there is yet another legion of Chadwick followers whose lives have been deeply touched and who are today grieving. Virginia was greatly respected in tourism in Queensland and New South Wales, and she has many friends around the country.
At a personal level, I can say unashamedly that for 27 years I have idolised Virginia Chadwick. She was amazingly generous to our family. As a Young Liberal I wanted to work only for her. In 1986 Virginia introduced me to her great friend Ted Heagney, who on the basis of one meeting advised Virginia that I was a little lamb to the slaughter. It was rare for Virginia to disagree with Ted, but she did comment that she was certain I would toughen up. I was her driver in the 1988 campaign. The muffler on her Mazda completely fell off and we were embarrassed when the smoke literally stopped the traffic on the freeway. "Don't stop," she told me, "we have to keep going." And so we did, although I am sure I was lucky not to have been arrested!
I was with Virginia on day one at Legal and General House when Vern Dalton sent flowers to graciously congratulate her and then promptly offered his resignation. It was the beginning of an incredible friendship between the two. She conspired with Liz Kirkby to marry me off to Armon Hicks—which, as I explained to her at the time, was outrageous, because Armon is like a brother and you cannot marry your brother! Virginia attended my actual wedding to Christopher at my home in Yass. A year later I knew she was wondering what we were doing about children when she planted a life-size photo cut-out of a baby on my desk. When children eventually did arrive, Virginia was duly presented with each of my sons. She also attended my thirtieth birthday, and flew to Sydney from Townsville with Bruce for my fortieth. We in turn stayed with the Chadwicks in Townsville. I have wonderful memories of those times.
I am certainly not alone in my experiences. Those of us who followed her and were honoured to serve her quite simply loved her. We share a special bond of friendship. In her final speech in this Chamber Virginia thanked us for our loyalty, but she said it was more important to be loyal to each other. The people she mentored and helped include the likes of Mark Scott, now General Manager of the ABC; Michael Tidball, Chief Executive Officer of the Law Society; Joan Warner, Chief Executive Officer of Commercial Radio Australia, the industry's peak body; and Jenny Stephenson; Irena White, Company Secretary of Integral Energy; and Di Hindley of the Hunter Water Board and Sydney Water. We all had had a big leg-up from Chadwick.
Many of us have treasured honey pots from Virginia's pottery period. At one time I asked her to make me a few tiles for a splashback in my kitchen. Instead she made me a huge and amazing mural of the 12 days of Christmas—which could not be embedded in a kitchen but was framed and hangs in my home at Lennox. During Virginia's time at Townsville she went through what she called her "water" period and, I believe, made an entire dinner set as a wedding gift for Alexis Lindsay, another former staffer. The generosity of Virginia Chadwick! In the next two weeks we will regroup, as Virginia would expect, and struggle through the sadness of this momentous event in our lives.
Virginia received an Order of Australia and honorary degrees from three universities. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority received 17 awards for the remarkable rezoning. Even so, in my opinion Virginia never received the full accolades in life to which she was entitled—but, it must be said, nor did she seek them, and everything had to be organised sneakily behind her back. She wanted as her legacy that those she had assisted in turn assist others. She told me very sternly, "That is how you can repay me." John Donne wrote:
The Hon. ROBERT BROWN
All mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated.
[3.18 p.m.]: I did not have the privilege of knowing Virginia Chadwick but in one respect I feel I know her because I have heard so much about her. My friend and predecessor, John Tingle, had the highest regard for Mrs Chadwick and spoke of her very often as a remarkable, accomplished person who, he felt, could achieve anything she set out to do. My impression from John is that she was a dedicated, sensible woman of quick intelligence and ideally suited to the role of being a member of Parliament. Knowing the person who made that comment, John Tingle, that is probably a pretty accurate assessment. Other members have outlined Virginia Chadwick's many "firsts". Indeed, her record shows that she set a standard that those of us who are members of this place now can only hope to reach.
John had known her long before he was elected to this Parliament. He interviewed her frequently in her various ministerial portfolios. He has told me she was never fazed and never at a loss when taking calls from listeners. She was always on top of her portfolio, fully briefed and showed a clear understanding of the role of whichever ministry she happened to be in charge of at that time—a salutary standard perhaps to be set for all Ministers and shadow Ministers. Because of her professional background, she revelled in the Education portfolio and introduced many reforms which changed the system for the better. In particular, she set up a groundbreaking body called the Ministerial Advisory Council on Teacher Education and the Quality of Teaching. She did that because she recognised what should have been apparent to everybody, but what had never really been expressed before, that the quality of education given to teachers would directly affect the quality of the education that teachers would in turn be able to offer to the school system.
That council was chaired by the then Director General of Education, Dr Ken Boston, and included some 42 academics and experts in the education field, drawn from university and TAFE campuses all over New South Wales. Incidentally, I am told that there was one slight hiccup when the council was first set up: it was rich with knowledge but it lacked one thing—there was no teacher or worker at the coalface, as it were, on it. When that was pointed out to Mrs Chadwick she, with characteristic swiftness, remedied that shortcoming and the council went on to make very significant recommendations to the Minister to improve the quality of teacher education.
I am also told she was a remarkable and caring person. Soon after the Labor Government was elected and she found herself in opposition Mrs Chadwick did one of those important personal things for which she was very well-known. One morning when she was crossing Macquarie Street she encountered someone who had been a member of her office staff during her time as Minister for Education. Stopping in the middle of the street, she asked the lady whether or not she had a job with the change of government. The woman responded that she was looking for work. Mrs Chadwick then took her firmly by the hand and marched up to the office of John Tingle, who she knew was looking for a researcher. On Mrs Chadwick's strong recommendation, John took the lady on to his staff, where she remained as a valued member for more than 10 years.
When Virginia Chadwick was elected the first woman President of this House the reformer in her came to the fore. She decided to bring the House into the modern era by dispensing with the wig and gown traditionally worn by Presidents and abolishing the gowns and wigs worn by the Clerks of the Parliament. A woman reformer—fantastic! Her death at the early age of 64 has taken from this State, and from this country, someone who is widely recognised as having been one of its most effective and forward-looking legislators. Again, that is perhaps a pointer to us all. She was a person of clear thought and determination but she also had a very rich sense of humour and a limitless humanity. We offer our condolences to her family. She is sadly missed.
Mr IAN COHEN [3.22 p.m.]: On behalf of the Greens I pay my respects in this condolence motion for the Hon. Virginia Chadwick. I knew Virginia from when I was first elected in 1995 until she retired before the 1999 election. Virginia always treated me with friendliness, firmness and respect despite my perceived vast difference of political persuasion. I always felt that she was a Coalition member open to the ideas and perspectives of others. After the stepping down of the previous President, Virginia Chadwick was refreshingly elegant with her soft silk scarves and her impeccable dress sense. From my perspective, this was a welcome change after the formality of the previous President.
Many attempted to make me conform: I was left until last in question time and challenged about my dress sense by parliamentary staff. Of course, I refused the pressure. After all others had failed, Virginia Chadwick touched my heart, if not my dress sense, when she told me one day in her wonderfully formal but friendly manner—and I will never forget this—"Ian, I am going to buy you a tie you will not be able to resist wearing." So she did. I now stand in this House a-tied, so to speak, with great respect to simply say Virginia Chadwick was a wonderful parliamentarian, a reformer and a generous spirit with a fine—perhaps it is more appropriate to say refined—sense of humour.
Virginia has been described as achieving a towering gold standard in her work with the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. There can be no doubt that through her efforts the world's largest network of marine sanctuaries was established. Protection of one-third of the reef from fishing happened under her stewardship of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. She established another inspiring benchmark in her work with people with disabilities. In Parliament, she recognised the plurality of the Legislative Council and generously stated in her final speech to this House:
All members work full-time, are popularly elected and have duty roles across the State. Through crossbenches and a variety of represented interests we provide an accurate and broad representation of community views.
Furthermore, as a Minister and the first woman President of the New South Wales upper House her parliamentary work was inspirational—others have spoken in depth about this—yet to me she talked of her growing of trees with a passion. What more could one ask from an exceptional member of Parliament and one who took the time to also be a friend, obviously, as I feel included, to a broad spectrum of people. Virginia Chadwick, you are an inspiration to many, many people in all walks of life, including Greens and conservationists. We all owe Virginia Chadwick a great deal.
The Hon. IAN MACDONALD
(Minister for Primary Industries, Minister for Mineral Resources, and Minister for State Development) [3.26 p.m.]: I speak to the condolence motion for Virginia Chadwick. I knew Virginia from my early parliamentary days all the way through and she was always an absolutely dominating force in this Chamber. She had the rare ability—and I do not think a lot of us have it—of being able to somehow reach out to the other side. Throughout whatever battles we were having over a couple of bills—and we had plenty of them: in those days when this House really did work we would sit from 2.30 p.m. on one day and, on one occasion, we finished at 5.30 the next day—we would have breakfast together—
The Hon. Duncan Gay:
That was p.m.
The Hon. IAN MACDONALD:
That is correct. That has not happened all that regularly in recent times. Despite the clashes that we used to go through she was always one of the most intelligent, witty, and fun characters of this House. No matter what was going on she was always prepared to have a joke and be friendly to everybody. She was not the exclusive type of person who comes into the House with his or her own agenda and does not reach out to anyone else. That approach made her and a number of others in her group at that time—I will not name them—so special. I found that trait very engaging because I think that is the way I am myself, and I doubt anyone would disagree. From my first moment in this Parliament I got on well with Virginia, despite the fact that she was a small "l" Liberal and I was a leftie internationalist socialist, as I was described in an estimates committee hearing the other day.
To be very honest, the relationship between the Teachers Federation and the Government of the day reached a new low after the Cavalier period—which was pretty low—and Terry Metherell. I have nothing against Terry but I remember the educational difficulties of that period very well. Virginia stabilised the situation and was able to resolve some rather difficult disputes. It is a great testament to her ability that she could approach the other side to resolve the situation. She did that throughout her time.
Following a turbulent period for the presidency of this Chamber, Virginia became President of the Legislative Council and restored the prestige of the presidency, which has been a feature of this place ever since. As a small "l" Liberal, she and I had many views in common, as did her group. We were both keen on a number of issues, particularly around individual rights and perspectives on the State doing the right thing by the vast majority of people who need assistance. She did not take the attitude of not wanting to help. I remember debating an education bill in this Chamber to which we moved 80 amendments. We fought it day and night. If I remember rightly, we had 80 divisions—it was a record. We would have 20 minutes of debate and then the bells would ring.
The Hon. Duncan Gay:
That was IR.
The Hon. IAN MACDONALD:
No, the industrial relations bill was as bad, but this education bill was extraordinary. Despite the animus that would have been created by that legislation, no member on any side took it out on Virginia because of her personality and ability to reach out to people from all sides of politics. I learnt of her illness recently. I could not believe that it had progressed so rapidly. The age of 64 is young in this world. We have lost someone who was a titan of this House. For the 11 years I was here and the 21 years Virginia was here, she was an absolute titan. The condolences reflect the broad support and affection that she drew during her period here.
I recall her great achievement in increasing the size of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. She ramped it up from about 4.5 per cent to 33 per cent. I have been the Minister responsible for fisheries for a long time. Virginia set a benchmark that is written in iconic law as the way to create a marine park in this country. It was an awesome decision to take and follow through, with nearly every one of the stakeholders agreeing that it was a great initiative. She could not have a better reference to her ability and talent than that. I wish her family all the best and convey our most heartfelt condolences. I hope in the future that her many achievements will be brought further to the fore by all of us and by our successors.
The Hon. JENNIFER GARDINER
[3.32 p.m.]: I join with colleagues in offering my condolences to the family and loved ones of Virginia Chadwick, AO, the one-time history teacher who became an outstanding Minister for Education and Minister for Family and Community Services and a very impressive President of the Legislative Council. In her first speech she was proud to note that she was one of the first members of this House who was popularly elected. Of course, she talked about Newcastle—her home and the home of her forebears—and her belief that Newcastle one day would achieve a happy marriage of industry and environment. Indeed, it has achieved that state today. Virginia referred fondly to:
that lost tribe—the Liberals of Newcastle. For us, it has been such a long, and often lonely time in the wilderness
Virginia did the Liberal Party proud in lifting the profile of the party in the Hunter Valley. She never let anyone forget where she came from, who she was and her background. As other members have noted, Virginia was an extraordinarily professional operator in the business of politics and helping to run government. She could be, I think, a fairly hard taskmistress, as former Leader of the National Party and Virginia's Parliamentary Secretary for Education the Hon. Rick Bull could testify. In her first speech, not surprisingly, Virginia referred to the importance of the field of education. She said:
Though I applaud the aim of the well-balanced individual, I defy anyone to show me in this complex society a well-adjusted illiterate.
In relation to problems she perceived as afflicting the New South Wales education system at that time, she said:
The answer lies further back along the school chain in an effective learning process tempered with human understanding.
I believe that saturated her philosophy as a Minister. As Minister for Education she set about continuing with a reformist agenda. I recall having a red wine one evening with a National Party colleague and Virginia in her office. It was not an infrequent event. Virginia probably would have been Minister for Education at the time. She told us of the relatively short life expectancy of her forebears and said that any day she lived over a certain age she regarded as a bonus. It was a jolting comment. I imagined that she, as a still youthful woman, had a great comprehension of mortality and of the finiteness of time that one has to do whatever there is to be done. Upon her passing, one of her colleagues at the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority noted that he regarded her as a driven person. And so she was. That exposure to premature death in her family had informed Virginia that she needed to pack so much into whatever time she had on this earth. Poignantly, looking back, Virginia concluded her first speech by saying:
I hope that I may give account of myself in the words of Saint Paul "I have fought the good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.
Indeed, you did, Virginia. And in so doing you inspired so many people in New South Wales and way beyond the bounds of this State.
The Hon. DON HARWIN
[3.36 p.m.]: This afternoon we pay tribute to Virginia Chadwick, who had an outstanding record of service to the people of New South Wales and Australia. But, as will be apparent from the remarks of those who preceded me and served with her and those to whom she was personally close, she was a remarkable and much-loved individual whose passing is felt deeply by all her friends. As many members have mentioned, hers was a career of firsts. Having been number one on the joint Coalition ticket for the Legislative Council in 1978—the first election for this House since responsible government was achieved in 1856—she could claim to be the first member of the Liberal Party declared elected to the Legislative Council by the people of New South Wales. She led the Coalition ticket again in 1988.
Virginia was the first woman from the Liberal Party to hold the position of Whip and is the only woman to have held the position of Opposition Whip. I note that all four of the women to serve as Whips have been from our Chamber. She was the first woman from the Liberal Party in New South Wales to serve as a Minister in either the State or Federal parliaments, having been appointed by Nick Greiner as the Minister for Family and Community Services in 1988. She was also the first woman ever to serve as our State's education Minister. Finally, she was the New South Wales Parliament's first female presiding officer, having served as President of the Legislative Council from 29 June 1998 until 5 March 1999, when she retired.
It is important to note that Virginia was a strong role model for the many Liberal women who have followed and will follow her. But she was so much more. She was, in my view, one of the most effective political operators elected by the New South Wales Liberal Party to serve in the New South Wales Parliament, and respected, as Peter Collins wrote in his memoirs, for her "shrewd political mind". She had a long commitment to the Liberal Party, beginning with the Newcastle Young Liberals and later the Newcastle branch. When preselected, she was the principal organisational player in the Hunter region and a regional president on the State Executive. She impressed everyone with the way she was helping build the party in a traditional Labor area, dealing with a number of organisational challenges along the way.
Virginia cared very deeply about the Hunter, and we had many discussions about how we could possibly find a way of drawing a seat in Newcastle that would be won by the Liberal Party. We decided that the only way to do it was to follow the 100 feet above sea level contour, and we tried very hard to put that in our 1990 submission. She was absolutely delighted to see in the 1988 State election result the fruits of her hard work in the region. I remember her sitting in the other place behind the Speaker's chair weeping tears of joy during George Keegan's maiden speech as the member for Newcastle. That was certainly one of her happiest moments as a member.
Her first ministerial appointment was as Minister for Family and Community Services, and she took on responsibility for the Women's Affairs portfolio as well. Both portfolios were immensely challenging but, as Nick Greiner said in his tribute issued on the weekend, she was an outstanding Minister for Family and Community Services, overseeing the transformation of the department's focus to families in need. Our colleague the Hon. Catherine Cusack spoke eloquently and at length about Virginia's time as the Minister for Education, as have other colleagues. She was tremendous in that area and so much could be said about that time. But perhaps it is best summarised in an explanation she gave as to why she loved the Education portfolio so much. She said:
In education you have the capacity to truly make a difference in your community, to make a difference on the world. And nobody goes into politics, or nobody should go into politics, unless they wish to make a real contribution to the community. And in education what you do and how you do it has a critical importance for the next generation. I find that wonderful, despite the tough weeks I've had. It is the best job.
When she assumed the position of Minister for Education, Virginia stepped into the most contentious position in the Greiner Government. The Government's reforms were fiercely resisted in some quarters and were generating considerable heat in the media. Within two years she had implemented the substantive elements of the Government's reforms. Far from being a poisoned chalice, the Education portfolio enhanced Virginia's standing as a consummate politician and an effective administrator.
Virginia was the most popular Minister in the Government, confirmed by published polling, and it was no surprise that a substantial lobby wanted her to take the leadership after the resignation of Nick Greiner. Peter Collins recorded in his memoirs that, had she been willing to contest, both he and fellow contender Bruce Baird would have withdrawn and given her their support. Despite the support of colleagues and the community, Virginia chose not to stand for the leadership of the Liberal Party. She wanted her family to remain in the Hunter region, which had always been her home, and she believed that moving to a lower House seat in order to stand as Premier was impractical in the context of Greiner's resignation at the time. If there had been an orderly transition without the peculiar circumstances of Greiner's resignation, the outcome might have been different.
I think Virginia was probably more surprised than anyone, Mr President, when she ended up in your chair after a controversial 21-19 victory over the Hon. Helen Sham-Ho. The most common recollection is what a good President she was and how much members would have liked her to be in the position even longer. But she had so much more to do, and after she retired from the House in March 1999 it was not long before the Howard Government decided to make use of her talents. In fact, just four months later, in July 1999, Virginia accepted an appointment as chair and chief executive officer of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, a position she held for eight years. She brought her considerable political skills and experience to bear on difficult negotiations with fishermen, tourist operators and government to achieve an increase in highly protected areas on the reef from 4.5 per cent to 33 per cent.
My good friend Trent Zimmerman, who is in the gallery today, as a ministerial adviser to former environment Minister Robert Hill, worked very closely with Virginia during this period and he confirms what others, including the World Wildlife Fund have said: she deserves much personal credit for the outstanding outcome in relation to this important national treasure and for her deft handling of a significant restructure of the authority, which has enhanced its capacity to protect the reef. Other members have noted that in 2005 Virginia was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia, and certainly she was a very worthy recipient of that award.
Virginia Chadwick was a trailblazer for women, one of our Liberal greats and had a public life that exemplified compassion, determination and empathy. She is also remembered by her close friends as a wonderful person with a tremendous capacity for joy and, more than just occasionally, quite a bit of mischief. Amongst her close friends and colleagues she inspired enormous affection and loyalty. There are many people hurting right now and experiencing a huge sense of loss—most of all, her family and friends. I think particularly of our colleague the Hon. Catherine Cusack, who, as I think we all know, revered her as an inspiration and a mentor, but most of all as a friend. I join my colleagues in expressing my support for this motion of condolence before the House this afternoon.
The Hon. GREG PEARCE
[3.45 p.m.]: I join my colleagues in paying tribute to the Hon. Virginia Chadwick, AO. Others have acknowledged her political career. For my part, my association with Virginia began in 1998 when I decided I would seek preselection for the Liberal Party for a position in this House at the 1999 State election. Being the experienced lawyer but the political novice that I was—and perhaps still am—and not being aware of the arcane realities of the Liberal Party, I sought out people of influence, and Virginia was named very quickly to me as one of those people. She was one of the few, though, who actually saw me. Virginia, with her usual directness, greeted me, told me that she had been through my curriculum vitae and what great qualities I had but that she could not support me because she was already supporting some others. However, she told me that she would be prepared to give me advice and assistance. I was very grateful for that, and it was to be the case.
I was successful in that preselection but to an unwinnable spot—the beauties of politics! I was surprised later when Virginia called me to talk about the preselection and other opportunities. Therefore, I saw her as a mentor, as she was to many other people. Not long after, she called me and said that she was extremely pleased to be embarking on her second career and that she would like me to join her in beginning that new career. She asked me whether I would chair the Fisheries Advisory Committee. She said, "It will be the toughest and most frustrating job you will ever do. The participants are a cantankerous group. They have been at loggerheads with each other for decades". I said it was a great idea and off I went to Townsville to conduct my first meeting as chair of that committee. Suffice to say, Virginia's assessment was absolutely accurate: the first meeting was a bit like a Balkans peace meeting in 1914. But I must admit I enjoyed having a glass of red with Virginia after the meeting.
I saw Virginia then manage the beginning of the reform of that authority. One of the things that really stood out, and many others have mentioned this today, was her inclusiveness. She was able to bring all the stakeholders on board and build a common purpose, which had never been achieved before. She gained great respect. Somebody mentioned that she did not have great environmental credentials, but she learnt the science and very quickly became respected as someone with a great understanding of environmental issues and a great ability to manage. It is her legacy. As chair and chief executive officer of the authority she achieved an enormous amount in protecting one of the world's greatest natural wonders. I am pleased that she enjoyed her time in Townsville. She was a gracious, witty and engaging person. As I said, I was astonished at her generosity with her time, spirit and advice. I extend my condolences to her family.
The Hon. MELINDA PAVEY
[3.50 p.m.]: Today I went to a Martin Place florist to buy some flowers for my good friend Catherine, who as we can appreciate is particularly sad this week at the passing of Virginia Chadwick. I chose a beautiful bunch of tulips, peonies and roses. The girl wrapping the flowers asked me whether the bouquet was to celebrate something. I said that it was to commemorate the passing of Virginia Chadwick, a very dear friend of a friend of mine. The young girl, Jo Yarroll, said, "I know that name. I was in year 7 at Chester Hill High School in 1990 and she presented me with an award." She went on to say, "She wasn't like those normal politicians. I really remember her. She was amazing." It is a beautiful story that I thought should be recounted in this place because it encapsulates so much of what people felt when they were touched by Virginia Chadwick. I first met Virginia when I was about 20 and a junior staffer in the Greiner-Murray Government. Unlike so many others, she made you feel that you were important and that you had something to contribute. She rose almost to the top in politics, but she was not like some who reach the top and then pull the ladder up behind them. She looked down and beckoned others up.
I come from Coffs Harbour, and I acknowledge the presence in the gallery of a former member from that area, the Hon. John Hannaford. Our community has much for which to thank Virginia and the Greiner-Murray Government. In 1994, Virginia Chadwick signed a memorandum of understanding that led to the establishment of the Coffs Harbour Education Campus. It is an amazing educational institution, encompassing Southern Cross University, New South Wales TAFE and a senior campus incorporating years 11 and 12. The campus was officially opened in February 1995 and Virginia sent her trusted lieutenant, the then director general of the Department of Education, Warren Grimshaw, to oversee it. As the Hon. Don Harwin rightly pointed out, education is the key to the future and Virginia felt that empowering people and communities was all about enabling them to get an education. Many people in our community are empowered by the fact that they do not have to travel away to university or to a very good TAFE. They can do amazing work at the campus, which includes years 11 and 12 as part of a senior education concept.
Thank you, Virginia, not only for what you have done for the North Coast but also for what you have done for people across this State and the way in which you have touched so many hearts with your warmth, inner and outer beauty, your empathy, your hard work and, most of all, your lack of airs and graces that enabled you to connect with a range of people across the State and beyond.
The Hon. ROBYN PARKER
[3.53 p.m.]: I offer my condolences to the family of the Hon. Virginia Chadwick AO. I do so as a Liberal woman from the Hunter and a member of the Legislative Council. I did not know her as well as other members did, but I do know that she has left a legacy not only to the people of New South Wales but also, in particular, to Liberal women and the people of the Hunter. When I talk about Virginia I do so with a smile. Even though it is a sad time, that is how I remember her. As many have said, she was a trailblazer. She achieved many firsts and is a great role model. I found her inspirational. She established a path for others in the Hunter to follow, particularly Liberal women. Another woman from the Hunter is in the gallery today. I refer to the Hon. Patricia Forsythe, a former member of this place and a former teacher. I am very proud to be a Liberal woman and a former teacher following in the footsteps of another girl from the coalfields, as Virginia often described herself. She frequently started sentences with, "I'm from the Hunter", and she was a passionate advocate for the area.
When I was having difficulties working in the Liberal Party and for preselection, Virginia was always there with words of encouragement. After particularly difficult meetings she would console me. I knew she had been through that and more to get preselected and to become a member of Parliament. When we talk about preselection, I remember her famous response to someone who asked her how she would manage with small children. She said, "Well, I'll tie them to the clothesline and give them a bowl of water." That was a flippant remark, but it said so much more about her and also the difficulties facing members representing a regional area. I complain about travelling down the F3, but it was a much longer journey for Virginia. She had a small family, but she managed them the way she managed everything—efficiently, brilliantly and without complaint. When I visit schools now I hear only positive comments about Virginia Chadwick, and I hear them from people who probably never have voted and never would vote Liberal. However, they appreciate her influence on this State's education system and are grateful for it. One does not often hear those positive comments about Ministers, past or present.
Virginia had a smile and an infectious laugh. We can only aspire to achieving her great integrity. She was known in our house for a long time as the "Bee Lady". We went to visit her house on the water at Bolton Point where she had beehives. The children were told not to go near them, but my son Dylan, who was about seven at the time, managed to convince his young brother Heath, who was about three then, that he should knock on the beehive. Dylan moved upstairs to be well out of harm's way. I can remember Heath coming screaming around the corner with a swarm of bees following him. I can also remember Virginia's reaction. Virginia Chadwick leaves a great legacy. We are very proud of all her achievements. She achieved so many firsts and established a pathway for Hunter women and Liberal women across the board to follow. We will do our best to do her proud.
With the concurrence of the House, I propose to delay the calling on of questions at 4.00 p.m.
Reverend the Hon. Dr GORDON MOYES [3.58 p.m.]: I express my sympathy on the death of Virginia Chadwick. I knew her for more than 30 years and I speak not of her role in this Parliament but in the wider community. She came into this Parliament not long after I became the superintendent of Wesley Mission. In those days I had 250 staff and only one woman in any senior or management position. I indicated that I wanted to start a springboard and mentoring program for women at Wesley Mission. When I looked around for a suitable person to work with some of our younger women I was directed towards Virginia Chadwick, who had newly arrived in this House. Virginia served us faithfully and well, meeting with younger women, including women who were secretaries, and we indicated that we would fund everybody who undertook a course at the Australian Institute of Management or who wanted to go into graduate studies. We sent people down to Mount Eliza, to the administrative staff college with Monash University, and also to the Australian Graduate School of Management.
It was an extremely successful program that ran for more than 25 years so that when I left Wesley Mission we had 3,500 women in positions of management. Virginia Chadwick was one of the regular women assisting that program. I could also mention the name of Franca Arena from this House, whom we also involved, particularly in helping ethnic women to understand how they could come through to positions of leadership and management in spite of some of the difficulties they faced over the years. I also involved her by her coming to Wesley Mission for dinners. I remember once the Hon. Patricia Forsythe did exactly this same thing to meet with senior staff, as well as the Hon. John Hannaford, so that we might learn how to lobby, how we could work with governments in various forms of relationship that a major charity would have with the State Government.
I also had later connections with Virginia through her becoming an officer of the Order of Australia. I had taken as part of my responsibilities of being named a companion of the Order of Australia to write, twice a year, to everybody who received an award. I wrote to Virginia back in 2005. I say for the sake of members that on Thursday of this week, when senior people from the Order of Australia gather—incidentally, in our Strangers dining room—we will be remembering the life and significance of Virginia Chadwick AO. I commend her memory to all members of the House and I thank you, Mr President, for the privilege of saying these few words.
The Hon. MARIE FICARRA
[4.01 p.m.]: Friday 18 September 2009 saw the loss of one of Australia's most influential and finest female parliamentarians—as we have heard from the multitude of speakers before me—the Hon. Virginia Chadwick AO. Virginia was a great pioneer of the Liberal Party and of the New South Wales Parliament. I was fortunate to serve with her for a term between 1995 and 1999, whilst she was President of this House. She was passionate and dedicated not only to her own community but New South Wales and Australia at large. Indeed Virginia Chadwick was a role model for women such as me, encouraging us to get involved with Liberal political representation at the local, State and Federal levels. Virginia was so helpful to me in my preselection for the seat of Georges River and subsequently in my first term in that other place.
Born in Newcastle and educated locally, Virginia joined the Newcastle branch of the New South Wales Young Liberals in 1960 at the early age of 16 and became both an active and constructive member. Graduating from her local high school and progressing to tertiary education, she studied at the University of Newcastle and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts and Graduate Diploma in Education. Virginia became a well-respected local high school teacher and businesswoman, and a popular and proactive member of her community. Recognising her commitment and enthusiasm, her Hunter Liberal Party branches supported her elevation to important positions within the party and eventually she gained support across the New South Wales Division to be elected a member of the executive of the New South Wales Liberal Party.
At the age of 33, in 1978, Virginia was elected to the New South Wales Legislative Council. She served the party and Parliament faithfully and became the first female Opposition Whip. When the Greiner Government swept to power she became the first female New South Wales Liberal Minister and was responsible for family and community services. Bringing her passion and dedication to the job, she was an outstanding Minister and oversaw the transformation of the department's focus to families in need. With her knowledge and experience in the educational sector and her success as Minister for Family and Community Services, Virginia was appointed this State's first female Minister for Education. As we have heard, having been appointed at a time of great instability within the department she became the driving force for reform and through her leadership endeavoured to bring about change in the education sector. Some of her achievements include establishing many selective and specialist schools to provide greater choice in the public education system in western Sydney and successfully establishing the New South Wales Board of Studies.
In 1998, she again made history by becoming the first female to hold the position of President of this House. She will be remembered as a fair and balanced presiding officer. In 1999 she retired from politics and with her husband sought a sea change when she took up the position of chief executive officer of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority in Townsville. She took on this role with the same vigour displayed in her previous positions and brought together the key stakeholders and local, State and Federal governments to achieve remarkable results. She worked hard and, through her leadership, increased the highly protected areas of the marine park from 4.5 per cent to 33 per cent. Recognition of this achievement was gained in 2004 when the Banksia Environmental Foundation presented the authority with a Banksia Award. She was then appointed to the Australian Maritime Safety Authority and led a delegation to the United Nations concerning the International Law of the Sea.
In 2005 she was duly recognised for her achievements and appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia for service to conservation and the environment through management of the environmental, heritage and economic sustainability issues affecting the Great Barrier Reef, and to the New South Wales Parliament, particularly in the areas of child welfare and education. In 2007 she retired back to the Central Coast with her husband, Bruce, to spend time with her children and grandchild, whilst beginning a long battle with cancer. She regretfully lost that battle last Friday. The Hon Virginia Chadwick will be truly missed by all who knew her. She will be remembered by both sides of the House, and by the crossbenchers, as we have heard today, as one of New South Wales' finest and foremost female parliamentarians.
Virginia will be particularly remembered for her passion and dedication to the Liberal Party, commitment to her community and her determination to make New South Wales and Australia a better place for all. My colleagues and I extend to Virginia's husband, Bruce, and her family our heartfelt and deepest sympathy. It is not how a person dies but how they lived that will be remembered. Virginia Chadwick certainly lived her life to the fullest and, most importantly, to the benefit of the citizens of New South Wales and Australia, for which we are all indebted.
Reverend the Hon. FRED NILE
[4.07 p.m.]: I support the condolence motion in memory of the Hon. Virginia Chadwick, who served in many outstanding roles—as the first female President of the Legislative Council, the first female Opposition Whip, the first female Liberal Minister, and the first female education Minister. All of those roles are outstanding, when one takes into account what is very much a male-dominated area of politics. Virginia was also instrumental in restructuring disability services, moving them from under the umbrella of Health and ultimately into a separate portfolio. She had an outstanding period of service after serving in this Council, as the chief executive officer and chairwoman of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Authority until 2007. I express my deep sympathy to her husband, Bruce, to her daughter, Amanda, and to her son, David.
I take the opportunity to express my wholehearted support for the motion before the House and to extend my condolences to Virginia's family.
Question—That the motion be agreed to—put and resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to.
Members and officers of the House stood in their places as a mark of respect