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
Mr JOHN AQUILINA
(Riverstone—Parliamentary Secretary) [3.39 p.m.]: I move:
That this House extends to Mr Chadwick and family the deep sympathy of members of the Legislative Assembly in the loss sustained by the death on 18 September 2009 of the Hon. Virginia Anne Chadwick, AO, a former Minister of the Crown and President of the Legislative Council.
Many words have already been spoken in this Parliament about the outstanding contribution that Virginia Chadwick has made to the Parliament, the State and the nation. If one goes through the speeches committed to her in the Legislative Council—and particularly the booklet entitled "The Hon. Virginia Chadwick AO: Speeches & Tributes"—one can see great commendations, which one would expect from Liberal Party members, but also from Labor Party members and crossbench members. Last Wednesday in the Parliament a public tribute to Virginia Chadwick was held in the Strangers Dining Room. People came from all over the nation to attend. In a number of speeches, led by the Hon. Nick Greiner, we heard about another aspect of Virginia Chadwick about which many of us were probably unaware.
Virginia Chadwick made a great contribution to Australia as the Chairperson of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. She made a wonderful contribution to environmental protection of the Great Barrier Reef and in the substantial expansion of the marine park. She received recognition around the world for her work as chairperson of that authority. I was moved when listening to those speeches because I had little knowledge of that aspect of her great contribution to the public.
Virginia Chadwick was elected to the Parliament in 1978 and I have been a member of this place since 1981, so I am aware of the detail of her contribution to New South Wales in a number of capacities, but her contribution to the environment and the Great Barrier Reef during her time in Queensland is not well known to people in New South Wales and it should be. I am pleased to have the opportunity to place on record her wonderful commitment to and her role as champion for the environment, champion for the Great Barrier Reef and champion for Australia.
Others in the Chamber are better able than I am to give a detailed account of her many achievements as a pioneer parliamentarian, a trailblazer for legislation, and a social and educational reformer. She was the first female education Minister in this State and the first female President of the Legislative Council. I am sure the Leader of the Opposition and members opposite will speak at length about her wonderful achievements within the Liberal Party and the other many firsts she was able to achieve.
I take this opportunity to place on record my long interaction with her on a professional and personal basis. It is a matter of public record that from July 1986 to April 1988 I was the Minister for Youth and Community Services in this State. This is and always has been a very difficult portfolio. Community Services is never easy, whatever one's political persuasion. It touches many lives and involves many issues and problems. In those days the Community Services portfolio was very large, encompassing youth and community services, juvenile justice, disabilities and mental health. It also had an adoptions branch. Local and overseas adoptions were still very popular in this State; in fact, in excess of 40 people worked in the adoptions branch.
During this period—July 1986 to April 1988—the plight of young people at the hands of paedophiles was coming to the fore. Prior to this, the subject had been taboo; no-one spoke about these matters and very little legislation was in place. In fact, a program called Stranger Danger, which was quite erroneous, was run. In our limited knowledge of the circumstances, the program highlighted the problems that young people faced at the hands of strangers. Today we know that the greater danger quite often comes from people who are known by and often close to the children.
Virginia Chadwick was the shadow Minister during that period. Although her performance was always testing and detailed, she acted with the utmost professionalism at all times. She always tackled the issues, the policies and the processes; she never played the person. I can say with all sincerity that she never once caused me personal embarrassment, even though I was quite a young Minister at the time. I admired her for that. Leading into the 1988 election my director general was Vern Dalton. At that time he was a close friend and remains a close friend. Virginia Chadwick inherited Vern Dalton as director general of the department and kept him on in that role. Indeed, she established a close working and personal relationship with him. I know Vern Dalton remained a close friend of Virginia Chadwick right up until the end. It says something about the woman that she was able to take on a director general who was a close friend of mine and establish a very close personal and friendly working relationship with him.
Leading into the 1988 election and throughout the period I was Minister for Youth and Community Services, Joe Kowalewski was my media officer. He had been the editor of the Blacktown Advocate
and he became a close friend. In fact, I am godfather to both his children, Lachlan and Gabrielle. It is unheard of on a change of government for an incoming Minister to retain the media officer of the former Minister. Virginia Chadwick did just that. She knew that Joe could not return to being editor of the Blacktown Advocate
and she knew that because he did not have a political career as a media officer he would not be able to find a job. She kept him on and formed a strong personal relationship with him as well. That speaks volumes about her capacity to see beyond the political advantages.
In my long career in politics I have never heard of an incoming Minister taking on the media adviser of the former Minister and that person successfully making the transition. Indeed, Joe remained Virginia's media officer during the entire period that she was the Minister for Family and Community Services. It was only following the demise of Terry Metherell as the Minister for Education and Youth Affairs, after which Virginia Chadwick became the Minister for School Education and Youth Affairs that Joe said he did not think it could work anymore and he took up his present job. Our roles were reversed and I became the shadow Minister to Virginia Chadwick.
Virginia Chadwick then took on Ken Boston as director general. He had an extensive reputation in public education in Victoria and was the Director-General of Education in South Australia. Ken Boston came to New South Wales with a lot of fan-fair and an extremely high reputation. I was the shadow Minister and I can recall looking to the future and wanting to make a good impression. So, quite unprecedented, I invited him to come in for a briefing. I sought the permission of the Hon. Virginia Chadwick, the education Minister at that time, for the director general to have a briefing with the shadow Minister. To my surprise, Virginia Chadwick had no hesitation in allowing him to do so. Ken Boston came in with a couple of senior officers of the Department of Education, and we had a very long afternoon going through all sorts of issues and through a number of policies.
When one thinks of that period of time, it was to Virginia Chadwick's credit that one could see how she absorbed issues. Over the ensuing couple of years, we in the Opposition saw the policy documents we had trotted out and proudly displayed to Ken Boston become the basis of government policy under Virginia Chadwick. She introduced a number of creditable and time-honoured education policies in her own right. They will stand the test of time. They are indeed remarkable policies. However, she was not averse to obtaining policy ideas from other sources. I am sure that when Ken Boston reported back to Virginia Chadwick some of the things he had seen, she would have embraced them warmly. Ken Boston became a very long-term and close friend of the Hon. Virginia Chadwick. When the tables turned again in 1995 and I then became the Minister for Education and Training, Ken Boston came over as my director general. Although I had known him professionally and personally before that time, we again established a strong and friendly personal relationship, which we have maintained to this day even though he is living in the United Kingdom. I know that Ken Boston's close relationship with Virginia Chadwick also continued.
As a number of people are aware, changes of government are very traumatic. They are traumatic not only for the Minister who loses; they are traumatic for the people coming in. Although you think you know what you will be facing, quite often it becomes very much a bright new world. I recall that when we moved into the office of the Minister for Education in Market Street—the department's head office was in Market Street in those days—I and some of the staff I had appointed went there with great expectations. When we walked into the office, the place was like the Sahara Desert: there was absolutely nothing there. Everything had been shredded, even the phonebooks, except for one little item: a post-it note that had been placed on the Minister's chair. In Virginia's unique handwriting it said, "Mr Minister, it's been a hard fight and you won. Congratulations. I know you're going to enjoy being Minister for Education and Training, but expect me to make your job as hard as I possibly can in the future." It was a great tribute, and it was something I really treasured. I rang Virginia and thanked her for that note. In times following we often remarked on it.
Virginia Chadwick was a woman of great capacity, a woman of great human qualities. This is the point I would like to stress: her professional qualities and her professional contribution to this State and nation are a matter of public record. But what is not a matter of public record are the personal anecdotes, the personal interactions, and the personal warmth—personal warmth that I am sure members of the Liberal Party and members of the Coalition will say they experienced because they worked closely with Virginia Chadwick as partisan colleagues on that side. But I was her opponent in many ways. Indeed, I was her opponent through two changes of government. She shadowed me when I was Minister, then I shadowed her when she was Minister: the baton changed hands on two occasions.
Yet, we were still able to maintain a close and personal relationship over a long period. I believe that says a lot about the woman. It says a lot about her personal qualities and it says a lot about the sort of understanding she had. Leaving politics aside, it says a lot about why she was so well fitted to be a Minister in sensitive portfolios, such as Community Services and Education. As we all know, those portfolios affect the lives of hundreds of thousands of people at any one time. The policies that are determined in those portfolios and the way in which the portfolios are administered can have such a great impact, for better or worse, on the lives of the people concerned.
On behalf of the Government and my colleagues, but particularly on my own behalf and on behalf of my family, once again I extend to Bruce, Amanda and David, and to all the family and friends of Virginia Chadwick, our sincere condolences. This State and this nation have lost a great pioneering policymaker, a person of great worth, a person who has been a trailblazer in many, many ways, a person who has been nationally distinguished through the awarding of her Order of Australia in 2005 and through many other awards, such as the Banksia Award by the Banksia Environmental Foundation in 2004 and so many others that are listed.
We very much miss Virginia Chadwick. I miss her as a fellow professional, I miss her as a fellow parliamentarian, and I miss her as a person I respected highly—as I know she respected me, and said so publicly on many occasions. We had a warm relationship, a relationship that went beyond political terms. I think for some of the newer and younger members of Parliament there may be a bit of a lesson in that. At times I think we get a little bit too serious with ourselves in this place. We forget that above the politics come the human qualities, and that the human qualities are very, very important; indeed, they should transcend all other things. Perhaps I will conclude on that note, because of the example Virginia Chadwick provided in that regard.
Mrs JILLIAN SKINNER
(North Shore—Deputy Leader of the Opposition) [3.56 p.m.]: I join with the Leader of the House and at the outset indicate that as the Leader of the Opposition had the opportunity to speak previously he has given me the privilege of speaking first. I also wish to pass on my deepest sympathy to Bruce, who is in the Chamber today with his friend Ted Hayes, and also to David and Amanda, and their children, Elana, Mia and James. I know that Virginia was very much a family woman, a woman who was loved by everybody. My comments are very much personal. Many people have said much about Virginia over the last few weeks, both in this place and at the various memorial services. But my reflection is about my personal relationship with Virginia.
When I was elected to this Parliament in a highly publicised 1994 by-election at a time when the Fahey Coalition governed without an absolute majority, a radio journalist asked me who was the modem politician I most admired. A colleague later told me that my response, Virginia Chadwick, was an inspired choice as I had avoided offending any of my lower House colleagues, all of whom had worked very hard to get me elected. The truth was that it was not an inspired choice designed to avoid offence. It was the truth. My life crossed paths with Virginia's on many occasions and in many guises over the past 26 years. I suspect she never knew how much of a profound impact she made on my life. I admired her greatly, I respected her enormously, I was in awe of her wit, her wisdom and her compassion, and I loved her dearly.
Here was a politician who had devoted her life to making a difference to the lives of people in the various portfolios she had held, including time served as Minister for Family and Community Services, Minister Assisting the Premier on Ageing, Youth Affairs and the Hunter, Minister for School Education and Youth Affairs, Minister for Education, Training and Youth Affairs, and Minister for Tourism. Virginia was the first female Liberal Whip, the first female Liberal Minister in New South Wales, and the first female Presiding Officer when she became President of the Legislative Council on 29 June 1998. I first met Virginia Chadwick in 1983 when I won pre-selection for the 1984 election. On my desk in my electorate office I have a treasured small black and white photo of myself at my first meeting with Virginia—one of those photos that shadow Ministers or Ministers have taken with hopeful candidates that they then use in their campaigning.
Not successful at that election, I continued my work in journalism. In 1985, at the request of then Opposition Leader Nick Greiner, I interviewed and wrote profiles on a number of his shadow Ministers, including Virginia Chadwick. At that time Virginia was the Opposition Whip in the Legislative Council and shadow Minister for Youth and Community Services, and Consumer Affairs. The interview reflected Virginia's interest in social issues and her determination and interest in portfolios to make life better. It tells of her fiercely proud Novocastrian birth—the first in her family to complete school and attend university. It tells of her interest in issues around teaching, childcare and other matters of import. It also tells of her entry into political life because she and her friends in Newcastle were dismayed at the lack of political interest in the area that was considered "safe Labor". I quote from my interview with Virginia:
There were six State Labor Members for the area and three Federal Labor Members. The Labor Party felt it was safe so ignored the area, the Liberals thought there was no point.
Virginia and a group of friends decided to do something about it. Knowing it was unlikely they could win a Lower House seat, a group of six decided to nominate for the Upper House when a vacancy suddenly occurred. They realised the chance of winning was remote, but with six of them making pre-selection speeches based on the problems facing the ignored city, they reckoned they could at least bring Newcastle to Liberal attention.
Virginia was the backroom organiser—
she told me—
urging the group of lobbyists along. Her husband Bruce was one of the nominees who played the game over two pre-selections. When a third opportunity came up the "fellas" decided they'd had enough of making asses of themselves and told Virginia to put her money where her mouth was. She did, and out of a field of 50 came in fifth.
She finally won top spot on the Coalition ticket at the first popular election of the Upper House and in 1978, aged 33 and mother of a six and an eight year old, Virginia Chadwick was sworn in as a Member of the N.S.W. Parliament.
But it is the area of policy direction which Virginia finds most rewarding and for which she is noted.
It takes a lot of time because I really believe that if you are going to change things it is important to have a clear, precise idea of how you are going to do it and how much it is going to cost.
Virginia went to the 1984 State election with nine thoroughly developed policy papers, which had been through several drafts and circulated to people in the field for comment. Virginia said:
Everybody develops policy in their own way, but this is the way I prefer because I feel that you have better policy that is more likely to be implemented if you have got the views of people affected by it.
That is very much a reflection of the way in which the Coalition is going about policy development today and for that I thank Virginia. A couple of years later it came as no real surprise, but a great honour, when Virginia invited me to join a tableful of other women in helping her develop her women's policy prior to the 1988 election. I was a volunteer, along with the others. Ironically the task I was given was to develop policy ideas based on issues identified by women working in the health system. Not surprisingly, perhaps, many of the issues revolved around children and the challenges of women working in the health system while having parenting responsibilities, as well as the concerns they had for the children, and their mothers, they were treating as patients.
Following the 1988 election of the Greiner Government Virginia appointed six women to join six others continuing as members of the New South Wales Women's Advisory Council. The council was chaired by Renata Kaldor, who reminded me at the tribute afternoon held in this Parliament last week of the quite avant-garde directions Virginia set for us as she reformed the way the council addressed women's issues. I was privileged to be one of those six members appointed by Virginia. "Double Disadvantage" had been the mantra until then—implying, of course, that being female was a disadvantage. But it was not for us newcomers—and it certainly was not for Virginia Chadwick.
We maintained an involvement in issues of domestic violence, of those issues confronting women in prisons and of indigenous women trying to get basic living conditions for their families. We established women's health subcommittees where we focused on, among other things, breast cancer screening—then a rarity. We took on issues around women in sport and women in business. Our workshops on finance and how to grow small businesses were standing room only. Hansard
records that on 25 September 1991 the Hon. I. M. Macdonald asked a question about the Women's Advisory Council developing a register of women from which nominations would be made for board vacancies. Ever quick with a witty response, the Hon. Virginia Chadwick replied:
I am surprised at the honourable member's emerging interest in matters of importance to women. I hope he maintains his new-man approach
The work of the Women's Advisory Council under Virginia Chadwick set a new agenda. It was illustrative of her belief in tackling the big issues, taking on new directions and challenging the way it had always been done. It was during a Women's Advisory Council meeting discussing girl's education that I met a senior executive of the Ministry of Education and Youth Affairs. Not long after she contacted me about the position of Director of the Office of Youth Affairs that had been recently advertised. I applied and was appointed to that position in 1989. In July 1990 my path crossed Virginia Chadwick's again when she became the Minister for Education and Youth Affairs. As has been described so eloquently by others in tributes to her, she was inspiring in that role, which she took on after months of upheaval and protest. I refer particularly to the words of the Hon. Catherine Cusack in the other place. Catherine worked with Virginia in many different roles, as did I, and was a personal friend for many years. Catherine captured the essence of Virginia Chadwick perfectly in her words.
Virginia was tireless and worked extremely long hours. She thoroughly read briefs, including all letters before signing them. She demanded much of people she worked closely with, but she was also great fun. She had an absolutely wicked sense of humour. She loved a glass of wine at the end of the day, was always good for a party, and seemed tireless in her interest not only in issues of great political and policy import, but in matters of family—hers and yours. She charmed those who had been trenchant critics and drove reform her way; never compromising on her vision for a revitalised school system with an independent Board of Studies, enhanced selective education, greater autonomy for principals and parent bodies, excellence and equity in education. The Leader of the Opposition reminded me a short time ago that Virginia was passionate about reading recovery—later claimed by a following Premier to be his—in education. Virginia was admired by unionists and respected by the government and non-government education sector, academics and parent bodies.
As a director of the Office of Youth Affairs, or OYA as she liked to call it, I had the privilege of participating in ministry executive meetings but representing the youth affairs satellite. Virginia was extremely supportive of the work of the small Office of Youth Affairs team. Hansard
records her pride in the work done on behalf of disadvantaged young people who had dropped out of school and were so often represented in the high youth unemployment statistics of the day. She could rattle off the statistics about how many young people had participated in programs such as the Helping Early Leavers program, the Koori Youth program, the Circuit Breaker program and the Youth Arts and Skills Festival. She took delight in reminding Labor members who asked her questions about these programs that they were mostly located in their electorates. Virginia Chadwick was a champion of those who needed one—whether they were unemployed early school leavers who needed help, children who had been victims of abuse, or indigenous women of the Namoi Reserve in Walgett that she asked members of the Women's Advisory Council to assist.
In 1995 when the Coalition returned to Opposition Virginia chose to become a backbencher. She spent much effort thereafter supporting colleagues who would take on new roles—including me. She was a tireless supporter and loyal friend to anybody who needed assistance and, as the Leader of the House has indicated, that applied to people of all political persuasions. Virginia Chadwick was a most remarkable person. She could be cutting with her wit. Nevertheless, she always said it with a smile and no-one could take offence. When she was unexpectedly elected as President of the Legislative Council, an election I watched from the public gallery, the congratulations offered to her from all sides of the political divide reflected the respect and admiration afforded to her by many people of different persuasions.
I will refer briefly to the Great Barrier Reef years. As the Leader of the House said, these are years that not a lot of us knew much about. Many of us who had been in awe of Virginia's political achievements in the New South Wales Parliament only recently have become aware of the enormous impact she had in her later career as the Chief Executive Officer and Chair of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority from 1999 until 2007. In that role she achieved many things, including having 33 per cent of the reef declared protected—rising from a low 4.5 per cent. On her death World Wildlife Fund-Australia distributed a press release headed, "Reef Heroine Remembered", in which it said:
Virginia was a great Australian whose legacy to the Reef will live on.
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.
Without Ms Chadwick's extraordinary leadership, judgment and people management skills, the protection of one-third of the Reef from fishing would not have happened.
In 2005 I travelled to Port Douglas with my daughter, Amy. On that occasion Virginia and her husband, Bruce, flew to Port Douglas to join Amy and me and Catherine Cusack and her husband, Chris, for dinner. What a night! We had pre-dinner drinks at the spectacular hillside home of Quiksilver's Chief Executive Officer, Mike Burgess, who was among the tourism operators and tough fishing fraternity battling the scientists of the reef. Prepared to be a bitter enemy, Burgess told us how his family became devoted Chadwick fans and friends. Her wooing of them was typical of the way she charmed those who had been prepared to be the most trenchant of critics, whether reef opponents or unionists who had been upset by early Greiner Government education reforms. A hilarious dinner followed, with Virginia regaling us with tales of her early days negotiating with the hordes of fishermen and her incredibly clever strategic positioning that brought the ferocious opponents to her side.
Virginia earned many awards throughout her working life. She was awarded a Centenary Medal in 2001 and appointed an officer of the Order of Australia in the 2005 Queen's Birthday honours. She was awarded honorary degrees from three universities and she led high-level overseas visits including the Australian delegation to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Despite these fantastic awards, she did not stand on ceremony. She liked to be called Virginia and many close working colleagues called her Min, as we were reminded last week. She always had her feet on the ground. She was at home doing a beekeeping course at TAFE, I well remember, making her wonderful ceramic teapots, bowls and tiles or attending high-powered conferences. She was the most loyal and supportive friend one could ever wish for. She adored her family, to whom I extend my personal best wishes. To Bruce, Amanda, David and the grandchildren, you can be extremely proud of a wonderful woman who touched many lives in the most positive way. Vale, Virginia.
Ms JODI McKAY
(Newcastle—Minister for Commerce, Minister for Tourism, Minister for the Hunter, and Minister for Science and Medical Research) [4.13 p.m.]: This afternoon I speak with great honour, respect and awe in memory of the life of the Hon. Virginia Chadwick. As Minister for the Hunter, Minister for Tourism and a female parliamentarian, I want to draw attention to the contribution Virginia made to public life in New South Wales and, importantly, the Hunter region. Virginia was a long and loyal resident of the Hunter. She was born in Newcastle and educated at Newcastle Girls School, although she travelled abroad briefly to study in the United Kingdom. She returned to Newcastle where she studied and later entered her political life. I can verify to this place the respect with which Virginia Chadwick is held within the Newcastle and Hunter community.
Much will be said about Virginia Chadwick's proud record as the New South Wales Parliament's first female Presiding Officer with her election as President of the Legislative Council, the first female Opposition Whip and the first woman to gain ministerial appointment in a Liberal Government as Minister for Education. As I am sure many of my fellow female parliamentarians would agree, this House is enriched and strengthened by greater numbers of women taking on roles on the front bench of government. Virginia Chadwick in her 21 years of service to this State was a trailblazer and should be remembered for this. Last week I was fortunate to attend a memorial service for Virginia Chadwick, where I saw a great show of political support for Virginia. The memorial service was opened by Patricia Forsythe, another woman who has dignified herself within this place, who is held in great respect and who has strong connections to the Hunter region.
I draw the attention of the House to Virginia Chadwick's contribution as Minister for Tourism. She had a strong commitment to developing this industry, although not in this State alone. Virginia was the Minister for Tourism from 26 May 1993 to 4 April 1995. I am informed that in this role she carried out her duties with diligence and determination in an industry that was still very much in its infancy. She played a significant role in seeing this industry grow to become what is now a cornerstone of the New South Wales economy, employing 158,000 people and contributing $27 billion to the New South Wales economy. Virginia's commitment to developing tourism is not restricted to her remarkable parliamentary career.
Not content with retirement from serving the public, Virginia continued to be a strong advocate for the tourism industry. She truly raised the bar during her service as the Chief Executive Officer and Chair of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, a position she held for eight years. Her defection to Queensland is forgiven, given the commitment she made to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. During that time Virginia delivered some of the most innovative marine conservation and biodiversity programs ever to occur anywhere in the world. This achievement in itself will help preserve a national landmark for generations to come and is truly a lasting legacy of her work. In addition to tourism, Virginia was Minister Assisting the Premier for the Hunter, a portfolio that I have the great honour to serve in. In this role Virginia would have been acutely aware of how important it is to ensure the needs of the people in the Hunter—a very parochial and passionate region—are addressed.
My contact with Virginia Chadwick was as a young journalist. I watched her perform in her role and represent the people of Newcastle and the Hunter region. She was always dignified, intelligent, empathetic and understanding. For a young female journalist interviewing her, there were times where it was awe inspiring to watch her in action, to know how good she was at her job and how well she represented the people she was elected to serve. I am truly saddened to hear of the passing of Virginia Chadwick and the great loss it represents to the Hunter community. However, I am confident that her contribution to the Hunter region and the New South Wales tourism industry leaves a perpetual legacy of which her family, friends and parliamentary colleagues may be truly proud.
Virginia Chadwick was a woman from Newcastle who was respected by both sides of the House. As the member for Newcastle, I personally have much to aspire to. I thank the House for the opportunity to draw attention to the important contribution that Virginia made as an advocate for the Hunter, a region that we both love. I acknowledge the considerable achievements that Virginia made and I extend my condolences to her husband, Bruce, and her children, Amanda and David, and their families.
Mr GEORGE SOURIS
(Upper Hunter) [4.20 p.m.]: It is with deep regret that I speak on behalf of the Leader of The Nationals and members of The Nationals about our former colleague and dear friend Virginia Chadwick. I was honoured to represent The Nationals at the recent memorial service held in Virginia's honour at Newcastle Cathedral. I noted the great range of people who were present, in particular the people who gave the eulogies, including Vern Dalton; a former Federal member of Parliament, Peter Morris; and her heroic daughter, Amanda.
Virginia Chadwick was the first female Liberal Minister, the first female education Minister, the first female Opposition Whip and the first female President of the Legislative Council. I know that has been said a number of times, but her achievements at that time were quite remarkable. Perhaps such achievements would not be viewed as remarkable nowadays, but in those times it was pioneering. Virginia held many portfolios during her time in Parliament. Of note was when the Greiner Government was elected in 1988 and she assumed the very big and very difficult portfolio of Family and Community Services. I take my hat off to any person who serves as the Minister for that portfolio.
At the time she was also the chairperson of the Hunter Parliamentary Task Force, which was a bipartisan task force of members of Parliament from the Hunter Valley. It was the first time such a format was tried. It was replicated by the incoming Labor administration in 1995 and subsequently. I remember that she was a champion, as was I, of the prospect and potential for the electrification of the Hunter rail line from Newcastle up to the coalfields into the areas of Maitland, Singleton, Muswellbrook and Scone, and perhaps even an extension to the Ulan coalfields when considerable tonnage is hauled down this railway line. It is possibly the most intensively used coal haulage rail line in the world. How visionary that was so many years ago. Extraordinary tonnages are now transported on that line utilising diesel fuel, imported probably from the Middle East, to cart coal to some of the world's biggest power stations and to be loaded onto ships to go to the Middle East to power their electric railways—quite an extraordinary thing to contemplate. How visionary Virginia was at that time.
Virginia was the Minister for Education and Youth Affairs following her time as Minister for Family and Community Services—if the first ministry was not big enough and difficult enough, certainly the next one was. Education is one of the two biggest portfolios in the government of New South Wales both in expenditure and magnitude, with some 80,000 employees and all the schools and the million students—the statistics are quite extraordinary. Yet Virginia took over the portfolio, and at a very troubled time in that area. She restored order, to put it mildly, and regained respect for the portfolio by genuine strong advocacy for teachers, students and schools, including—and only a senior Minister could do this in Cabinet, and I saw it in action—advocacy in Cabinet for teachers salaries. Those who understand what I am talking about would acknowledge the degree of courage that would have taken at that time. I do not know how she and Premier Fahey remained friends.
Virginia was subsequently also Minister for Employment and Training and Minister for Tourism. In her time as education Minister she established the Board of Studies, which gave more structure to the curriculum in New South Wales. Decision-making was handed back to school principals in a number of areas, giving them personal responsibility for their budgets. Virginia ensured that more resources and funding were directed towards selective schools in order to provide more choices for public schooling to people across western Sydney.
Following her stellar parliamentary career, Virginia became the Chairperson and Chief Executive Officer of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, a position she held for eight years. Virginia continued to make tough decisions in her conservation role, increasing the protected zones of the marine park from 4 per cent to 33 per cent. This set international benchmarks in marine conservation. Virginia also put in place measures to provide for and protect the reef's future, ranging from school education programs and tourism industry partnerships to conservation and research. As a result of her good work Virginia became an officer in the General Division of the Order of Australia in the Queen's Birthday 2005 honours list, and she received an honorary doctorate in 2009 at James Cook University in recognition of her significant achievements.
We in Parliament are focused on parliamentary activity, ministerial roles, Cabinet, executive government and so on. Whilst we know Virginia's contribution in that sphere of public life was great, I think equally as great was her contribution subsequent to Parliament in the areas that I have just mentioned. I remember two matters that affected me personally. At one point Virginia Chadwick was the chairperson of the Government Trading Enterprises [GTE] Reform Unit. I had been the chairman of that unit when I was the Minister assisting the Premier, but subsequently, when I became the Minister for Finance, Virginia Chadwick took on that role—a very difficult role indeed.
That time was an era of economic and structural reform in government. I had carriage of a particular bill in this place—Virginia being in another place—to create a structure for corporatised government entities. At that time we had a hung Parliament and the balance of power was held by Clover Moore, John Hatton and Peter Macdonald. Despite our best endeavours, the bill was lost. In those days those three Independents had guaranteed the Government confidence and supply but not any other legislation, and on this occasion that bill was lost. I was very angry and very disappointed, but Virginia Chadwick knocked on my door later to have a little co-commiseration session, after which I believe I was no longer angry but simply disappointed. But that was her way of thinking, that I would be upset, and she made the journey to put me back in order.
I remember another incident in the township of Merriwa. When Virginia took over the Education portfolio she undertook to carry out whatever ministerial appointments and commitments had been made by the previous Minister. Her first visit to country New South Wales was to the Hunter and to Merriwa on the first or second day after she took over the portfolio. She went to officially open a building at Merriwa Central School, which had been converted to become a new library. We attended the ceremony with several hundred parents, students and staff at a building that used to be called a portable. It was a wooden construction with a veranda and the official speeches were being made from the veranda with the audience on seats on the grass in front. I noticed out of the corner of my eye a person arrive wearing a pair of overalls and holding something. The time came for me to get up on the stage and introduce Virginia Chadwick as the Minister for Education, who was going to officially open the building.
As I was doing so I was handed a note that read, "Keep talking". That was not a problem: I kept talking—I was certainly able to do that! Then another note was handed up to me that read, "Okay now". I introduced Virginia Chadwick and sat down. She stood up, gave her speech, turned around and unveiled a plaque—which was a new plaque hanging on the hinges of the old plaque, which the workman in overalls had unscrewed in front of the audience whilst I was speaking. Everyone could see what was going on except for Virginia, the school principal and me. Her first plaque had her name on it 24 hours after she became Minister for Education through that unbelievable feat of the Department of Public Works. Along with other Nationals members, I extend my personal sympathies to Virginia's husband, Bruce, to her children, Amanda and David, and to the rest of her family. I join with other members in this place in honouring her memory and thanking her for her invaluable contributions to our State.
Mr ANDREW FRASER
(Coffs Harbour) [4.30 p.m.]: First, I offer my condolences to Bruce, David, Amanda and their families. I am sad that I was not able to attend the memorial service held in Newcastle. In true Virginia Chadwick spirit, I was at the year 12 presentation day at the Coffs Harbour education campus. I am sure she would have understood. I have probably known Virginia for as long as, if not longer than, most members. My history with her goes back to the heady days when Whitlam had to go. A friend of mine, Tony Richmond, and his wife, Penny, asked me if I would like to help with a Liberal Party campaign in Newcastle, and I did. The candidate was Arthur Thomas. If folklore is correct, Virginia may have ensured that his name was on a nomination form, but he was not in the country to sign it and, much to his chagrin, he was the declared candidate for the electorate of Newcastle.
Virginia and I met in Arthur's lounge room in Mayfield. We thought we needed some help and I suggested that the League of Rights, which was fairly active in Queensland in those days, should be invited to lend a hand. While I was making the phone call, Virginia unplugged the telephone and said that we would run the campaign and do it well. As a result of working on a booth in Mayfield, which is a Labor stronghold, I developed an interest in, and passion for, politics. It was all because of Virginia. She was a great campaign manager. If my memory serves me correctly, we managed a 7.5 per cent swing against the Joneses, who were legendary in Newcastle. In fact, we had them worried. However, the person most worried was Arthur Thomas, because he thought he might end up in Federal Parliament, which he did not want. We had a lot of fun during that campaign. Later, on a by-election night, we were having a few drinks and laughing in Virginia's office, as we often did, and she said, "I know that laugh. I heard it in Arthur Thomas's lounge room." We went on to work closely while she was in the ministry.
Virginia was a Novocastrian first. She was very proud of Newcastle, as all Novocastrians are. She took over as Minister for Education and Youth Affairs from Terry Metherell when everyone in this State knew that the portfolio was a poisoned chalice. The Teachers Federation was actively working against the Coalition. In fact, the Coalition was hated by the majority of people. I was president of the parents and citizens association at Tyalla when Terry Metherell was Minister and we could not get any answers out of him. When Virginia took over the portfolio not only did she resolve many of the issues with the Teachers Federation but she also gave an assurance to the mums and dads—as we were then with young families—that the Coalition would do a lot of good for education in New South Wales. I ended up as a member of her advisory committee.
The integration of students with disabilities into mainstream schools was extremely high on Virginia's list of priorities. I visited the Frank Partridge VC Public School at Nambucca Heads with Virginia when Nambucca was in my electorate. The school had fully integrated young children with disabilities and that visit highlighted for me the importance of having our young people understand that someone with a disability is not disabled in the true sense of the word. After that we opened a new school with a special unit at Bayldon under Virginia's leadership. We also established another unit at Orara High School. Every time anyone went to Virginia with a problem about teacher aides or whatever her door was always open and she always gave a positive response.
When John Fahey was Premier and Minister for Further Education, Training and Employment he came to Coffs Harbour to turn the sod at the site of a new TAFE college. We told him that we also wanted a university. While we were on the site John asked us if we wanted a line drawn up the middle of the paddock and have the TAFE college on one side and a university on the other. We said yes and he told us to meet with him the next Tuesday. We went to Sydney and I was summoned to a meeting in his office with Virginia and we discussed the structure of the Southern Cross University, as it is now known. We now have one of the greatest education facilities in New South Wales. The site has a senior high school, a TAFE college and a university with cross accreditation. I put that down to the hard work and drive of Virginia Chadwick. Even though the campus concept was great, making it a reality was a bumpy road. I am sure that Bruce heard every night about the problems that Virginia faced with the three disciplines involved. TAFE, the education department and the university perfected jealousies.
Coming from Newcastle, Virginia could use a fairly colourful turn of phrase. They were arguing about the size of workspaces and desks. We were visiting the campus one day and Virginia had had enough and said that she had just the man to fix it. She called in Warren Grimshaw, who was the head of the Board of Studies at the time. I have recounted to the House previously that Warren told me in no uncertain terms when we got to Coffs Harbour that he would not stay long—he would resolve the issue and head back to Sydney. He is now happily retired in Coffs Harbour. Warren also held Virginia in very high regard.
Virginia was also Minister for Tourism. I think of her daily because she gave me three little Tourism NSW card wallets. I have the last one—which is very moth-eaten—in my pocket and it is a permanent reminder of her and all the little giveaways. Virginia hated the grey-suited bureaucrats selling tourism. I remember her attending a tourism meeting on the North Coast and on her return to Sydney sending them all brighter ties—if they had to wear ties, at least they should be bright.
Virginia was a great character and was held in extremely high regard. The fact that we are speaking on a condolence motion for a President of the other place demonstrates the regard in which she was held across this State. Those who knew Virginia well know that she loved music. Every Christmas drinks function she held included a rendition of "The Twelve Days of Christmas" by her staff. Each staff member was coerced into performing one chorus, and the performers included Catherine Cusack, who is now a member of the other place, Rebecca Melkman and many others. They were good times, funny days and great memories. I offer my personal condolences to Bruce, Amanda and David, and Virginia's friends.
I hope that Newcastle finds a suitable memorial for Virginia, because she deserves one. We know what she was like and her achievements have been recorded in Hansard
today. It would be appropriate to establish a fitting memorial—the naming of a park or the erection of a statue, although she would probably see that as pretentious. We should do something to immortalise the memory of someone who did so much not simply for New South Wales but specifically for Newcastle and the Hunter.
Ms GLADYS BEREJIKLIAN
(Willoughby) [4.39 p.m.]: It is my honour to participate in the motion today honouring the contribution of an outstanding person who changed the course of New South Wales politics forever. Virginia Chadwick paved the way with many firsts: the first female Opposition Whip, the first female Liberal Minister, the first female education Minister, and the first female President of the Legislative Council. But Virginia's contribution to the betterment of New South Wales went way beyond this string of firsts. She was an individual of the highest calibre and a member of Parliament of incredible integrity, wit and class.
I did not have the privilege to work for or alongside Virginia Chadwick; rather, for me and for successive generations of political aspirants, Virginia was and is an incredible role model, held in great awe. It was great to be an active Young Liberal when Virginia was at her prime in State politics. The generous time she gave to nurture young people who aspired to hold public office one day was unstinting. As a member of Parliament her engaging style, based on intellectual rigour, inclusiveness and focus on outcomes was a standout. She ably demonstrated what could be achieved by combining compassion for the most vulnerable in our society with a practical, fearless, can-do approach. In an occupation often viewed cynically by the broader community, Virginia showed what could be achieved by bringing people of diverse backgrounds together in order to make much-needed reform—whether it was in the area of disability services, community services or education.
As outstanding as Virginia's contribution to Parliament was, it was but one part of a remarkable career in public life, and her legacy continues. Last week during the celebration of her life in this place I was privileged to bump into a gentleman called Leo who introduced himself to me at that celebration. He had never met Virginia and I asked him why he was there. He explained his story. I asked him to put it down on paper so I could include it in Hansard
today. Leo said to me that Virginia made an enormous contribution to the Waverley Action for Youth Services [WAYS], which is where he is involved. Leo informed me that WAYS is a youth organisation and registered charity based in Bondi Beach providing a broad range of services to young people from 11 to 19 in the triangle from La Perouse to Redfern-Waterloo to South Head. It has offices in Bondi Beach, Bondi Junction, Double Bay, Maroubra and Redfern. Leo wrote:
We were previously housed in two down-at-heel terraces in Bondi Junction which were generously provided by Waverley Council but were the worse for wear. Several months before the Mar 1988 NSW election Virginia in her capacity as Shadow Minister for Youth and Community Services visited WAYS and promised us a new youth centre should the Greiner Opposition be elected.
They were in fact elected and Virginia became Minister for Family and Community Services and later also for Youth Affairs. The purpose-built youth centre at Bondi Beach was designed by us in conjunction with the architects and was duly opened in Sep 1992.
No doubt Virginia made many similar promises and decisions throughout the state. The impact of this particular promise by Virginia continues to be felt throughout the South-Eastern and Eastern Suburbs. I never personally met Virginia. I joined the WAYS Management Committee in Sep 1988, after her visit to us. But she changed my life for the better and also that of the thousands of local children who have passed through that youth centre. WAYS has since expanded to our current five offices assisting youth in the electorates of Coogee, Heffron, Maroubra, Sydney and Vaucluse
So Virginia is still fondly remembered and respected in our corner of Sydney. That is why I attended her Memorial Service at Parliament House last week on behalf of WAYS and the young people past, present and future who are better off thanks to Virginia Chadwick.
What a resounding comment. That is one small part of the legacy Virginia Chadwick has left. Her life after politics and, particularly, her role as chair of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority need mention. She has ensured that her lasting legacy goes way beyond the boundaries of our State. Her vigilance in protecting the natural wonder of the Great Barrier Reef is a service she has done for our country and, frankly, the global community. The best we can do to honour her memory in this place, I believe, is to aspire to be as courageous and continue to fight for those most vulnerable in our community.
I take this opportunity to extend my personal condolences to Bruce, to Amanda and David and the rest of the family and to say how proud I am to serve in the same party that Virginia was a member of, and how proud I am of the enormous influence she has had on my career and my life. I know her legacy will continue for successive generations. It is our responsibility to make sure that happens.
Mr ANDREW CONSTANCE
(Bega) [4.44 p.m.]: I also make a contribution to this condolence motion. In doing so I also give my sympathy to Virginia's family, to Bruce and to her friends. I only met Virginia on one occasion. I am speaking today because of the response and feedback I have had from people within the disability sector over the past week. When I spoke to the Hon. Catherine Cusack she indicated to me that Virginia had kept a press release following a decision she had made as Minister in which she was instrumental in the relocation of disability services out of the Department of Health. Apparently she kept this press release in a frame on her desk. It is important to have that noted in the House because that achievement and that decision have left a remarkable legacy for people with disabilities, their carers and their families in New South Wales.
When disability services were housed within the Department of Health people with disabilities were concerned that they were perceived to be unwell, they were perceived to be sick. The move was an important step, not only in the functions of government but also in the culture and the mindset of people with disabilities. When disability services were within the Department of Health people with disabilities were not getting the necessary focus and attention to their needs. Of course, a lot of the health budget was not directed towards the services that people with disabilities require. It was Virginia Chadwick who changed that, and that change led to disability services being transferred to the Department of Family and Community Services and ultimately to a stand-alone department, and that has served people with disabilities in a way that has made an enormous difference to thousands upon thousands of people.
Virginia Chadwick recognised that people with a disability were not sick and they deserved the focus of a dedicated department. As a result of that we have now seen services and support being provided to people with disabilities in a way that was unimaginable 20-plus years ago. I thought it was important to put that on the public record this afternoon. As a progressive Liberal I share many of the same ideals that Virginia had, and the influence that Virginia has had on the Liberal party is something I aspire to. I share her goals and aspirations for the people of New South Wales, particularly our most vulnerable in the community. I felt it important to recognise that part of her contribution, an important contribution that has affected thousands of people with disabilities, their carers and families. It has left a legacy that will remain forever.
Mr BRAD HAZZARD
(Wakehurst) [4.48 p.m.]: I also express my condolences, my sympathy, particularly to Bruce, who is in the Chamber today, and to David and Amanda and their children—David's children Mia and James, and Amanda's daughter, Alana. I met Virginia Chadwick when I was contemplating entering Parliament but I got to know her a lot better after being elected into this place in 1991. By that stage she had already served a number of years as the Minister for Family and Community Services. Of the Ministers at the time—and there were some very competent Ministers—Virginia Chadwick stood out for qualities that go beyond politics.
Virginia had a presence, a demeanour that was engaging. She spoke sincerely about issues. People who heard her speak understood that her comments came from somewhere deep within. That was not often seen in life generally; certainly not in politics. She did not take a superficial approach to life or to her role in Parliament; she took a substantive approach. As a new member of Parliament I felt I could look to her for advice. Indeed, I regarded her as a role model. Virginia became a member of the Legislative Council on 6 November 1978. She spoke for the first time a few weeks later, on 21 November 1978. Her engaging sense of humour was reflected at the beginning of her speech, which I place on the record:
Just three years ago when speaking to a senior parliamentarian of my desire to enter Parliament his advice to me was, "Go home and forget it", because in his words I was, "The wrong age, the wrong sex, from the wrong place".
Virginia showed clearly that she was the right age, the right sex and from the right place and that she had much to contribute to this place in her time in the Parliament. She went on to quote Lewis Carroll's observations in Through the Looking Glass
. She said:
"Well, in our country", said Alice, "you'd generally get to somewhere else if you ran very fast for 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".
Virginia spent her time in this place in major portfolios running at least twice as fast as was necessary to achieve great outcomes. She was an extraordinarily good Minister because she engaged with her constituency. She engaged broadly with those who needed it in order to support the best outcomes for those in the family and community services area and later in the education and youth affairs area. I understand from my electorate officer that she was extremely well regarded by the staff in her ministerial offices. My electorate officer, who has worked with me for more than 18 years, actually came to me direct from Virginia Chadwick's office. Noelene Barrell worked within Virginia's ministerial office as an administrative officer under Mark Scott at the time. Catherine Cusack was a policy adviser there. I asked Noelene what she thought about Virginia. She responded, "A really lovely lady, an excellent Minister for education; great empathy with young people; had a great working relationship with the ministerial staff." After noting that Mark Scott was director of media and Catherine Cusack was policy adviser, she said, "What else can I say? It was fun working in her office."
Virginia was a source of great wisdom to me with the portfolios I have held in opposition, particularly Community Services and Education. This was not necessarily in a partisan political way; it was her depth of understanding of the portfolios. I remember seeing Virginia down in the car park towards the end of my tenure as shadow community services Minister. They were pretty torrid times for the families involved with the department. I was involved with families who had babies that were suffering and young children who had died. It was very difficult and traumatic. Virginia spoke to me sincerely about those issues but as she walked away she had a little twinkle in her eye and said, "Whatever you have suffered, don't forget it is a lot worse if you end up being the Minister." That reminded me that if one day I was offered the position of Minister for Community Services, it might be an idea to refuse it.
Virginia contributed so much in this place that it is hard to go back over it. The tributes have given much of the detail and I do not propose to repeat it. I apologise to you, Bruce, that I was not able to be part of the service as I was overseas at the time. However, I thought of you all on the day and continue to do so. Members on both sides of the House, particularly, John Aquilina, the Leader of the House, have demonstrated our depth of feeling for Virginia. Many Opposition members also have expressed that here today. Virginia has left a lasting legacy for us all.
However, on a personal level, none of us can begin to know how you, Bruce, or your family are feeling. We want you to know we understand that but we also want you to know that our feelings are very much with you, David and Amanda. Bruce, you supported Virginia in becoming a member of Parliament. That is a challenge for a spouse. Most members know that quite often it is a challenge for their spouse when they enter Parliament: The transition is difficult; the period in here is difficult and I understand leaving is difficult. Bruce, you were part and parcel of that and you supported Virginia through those challenging periods. On behalf of everyone in the Parliament, particularly the State Liberal and National parties, I thank you for your contribution and I thank your family for allowing Virginia to share her time with the State of New South Wales, with the people of New South Wales and with us, as a political group, trying to bring better things to the people of New South Wales. Again, my condolences go to you and your family.
Order! I am sure members join with those who have spoken in offering our condolences to Bruce, Amanda, David and other members of the family.
Members and officers of the House stood in their places as a mark of respect