TRIBUTE TO MRS VAL BUSWELL, OAM
The Hon. JAN BURNSWOODS [6.03 p.m.]: Tonight I would like to pay tribute to Val Buswell, OAM, who died on 8 May this year. Many members of this House will have spoken to and seen Val because she was often in these precincts as a consummate lobbyist and organiser for all sorts of good causes. I knew Val particularly through the Ryde-Hunters Hill branch of Business and Professional Women, of which I am a member. Val had been a member of that organisation since 1960. Val was 83 years of age when she died.
I would like to say a little about the history of this quite remarkable woman. There was a tribute to Val in one of this week's local papers. It is headed "A battler dies: she fought for equal pay for women". I suspect Val would have thought that a very appropriate headline and one that she would have liked. Her battle for various things relating to women began when she was a WAAF during the war. After the war she became head buyer at Beard Watsons, a well-known company that some of us may remember. Val knew that in the services women received only two-thirds of a man's pay. She tolerated that during the war. But in the business world she did not believe it should be tolerated. In the article in the local paper by Gaye Carson, who is President of the Ryde-Hunters Hill branch of Business and Professional Women, Gaye said:
Val rebelled against men with less responsible jobs earning more, just because they were male.
Val fought, along with a variety of other women, for 40 or 50 years for equal rights for women in a number of areas. She was very much involved in the equal pay and pay equity cases over the past 30 years or so that I know of. But she was involved also in other battles, both locally and generally. For instance, very few people will know of the fight, in which Val was involved, that went on to have women employed at polling booths on election days—a position that used to be restricted to men. She also was part of the group of women who lobbied the government of the day to set up the first women's refuge in the whole of the North Shore area.
At the local level, she organised a large number of seminars, and fought for women to be more involved in local government, in which she helped play a mentoring role. She was at different times a member of the National Women's Consultative Council and the Ministerial Advisory Council on Veterans Issues. As an ex-WAAF, she involved herself in lobbying on behalf of all those wonderful women who served during the war but were often neglected, and she played a major role in getting the Defence Services Homes Act amended to allow ex-servicewomen access to defence service home loans.
I was sad that I was unable to attend Val's funeral and join with the many members of Parliament and representatives of so many organisations, particularly women's organisations, who were there on the day. I was unable to attend as I had to leave Sydney because of the death of my mother just a few days before Val's passing. One of the things that struck me as I talked to my mother's friends and acquaintances was how much we owe a whole generation of women, survivors of whom are now in their mid-eighties, who worked so hard in so many different ways. In the case of my mother and friends, for instance, I thought of women who had been in the services, women who had been widowed during the war and had gone on to set up businesses, and women who had had to work for all those years to support themselves on two-thirds of a male wage. They belonged to a generation of women of whom, unfortunately, we are now seeing the last.
I salute women like Val and others who have given so much—another striking quality of that generation. I salute, too, those who are still living and in many ways are serving the communities and organisations of which they are part. Farewell to Val Buswell, and farewell and a tribute to the many women who have not been remembered as Val has.