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The Hon. (Beryl) Beryl Alice Evans

The Hon. Beryl Alice EVANS, B.Ec. (1922 - 2006)

Member Photo
Date of Birth: 25/02/1922
Place of Birth: Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Date of Death: 16/05/2006
Place of Death: Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Parliamentary Service
Position Start End Period Notes
Member of the NSW Legislative Council 30 Apr 1984 03 Mar 1995 10 years 10 months 3 days A Member of the directly elected Legislative Council. Date of Election 24 March 1984. Granted Retention of 'Honourable' for Life.
Joint Standing Committee on Road Safety (STAYSAFE) 01 Jan 1988 01 Jan 1995 7 years 1 day
Political Party Activity
President of Gwydir Federal Electorate Conference. Vice President Women's Council. Past Member State Executive. State Vice President 1981-1982 and 1983-1984. Candidate for State electorate of Burrendong 1973.
Community Activity
Member Coolah Shire Council 1962-1971. Civil Defence Controller 1962-1973. Delegate Ulan County Council 1968-1971. Member Kandos Returned Serviceman's Leagues; Rylstone Club; Henbury Golf Club (Secretary and Director 1982-1984). Associate Member of the Union Club (Sydney).
Qualifications, occupations and interests
Farmer and grazier. Educated at Methodist Ladies College, Burwood and University of New England in 1981. B.Ec. Government representative of Board of University of New England 1989 - 1993. Australia representative of Executive Commonwealth Parliamentary Association 1992 - 1995. Recreational interests included tennis, golf and swimming. Her main political interests were women's health and seniors' issues.
Military Service
Royal Australian Air Force (Women's Auxiliary Australian Air Force) 1942-1945 (Section Officer). Joined the Royal Auxiliary Australian Air Force on 12 November 1942. Served as a drill instructor and physical training instructor before obtaining the ranks of corporal and sergeant before being commissioned in 1944. Discharged on 25 September 1945 with the rank of section officer. became president of WAAAF Branch of the RAAF Association of New South Wales Division on 25 March 1997. Is a vice president of the RAAF Association, a member of the Council and executive and national executive representative to Australian Veteran Defence Services Council.
Honours Received
Membership of other Parliaments & Offices Held
Local Government Activity
Member of Coolah Shire Council 1962-1971. Civil Defence Controller 1962-1973. Delegate of Ulan County Council 1968-1971.
Daughter of David Reginald Williams and Mabel Lawson. Married (1) Kenneth Graham Bowman in 1944 and had issue, 2 sons. Married (2) Richard Kelynack Evans on 30 July 1976 , former Liberal Member of Legislative Council.
Additional Information
Eulogies by her son Christopher Bowman; and her colleague the Hon. Brian Pezzutti: Eulogy by Christopher Bowman: The Hon Beryl Alice Evans OAM Beryl was born at Rockdale on 25th Feb in a year I can’t divulge the year but she was reputedly 84 years of age!! Her parents were David Reginald Williams and Mabel Lawson. She was the first of 3 children being joined later by her brothers Bill and Bevan. Her father was a partner in P&R Williams, the Morris agents in Australia. Subsequently he was in motorcycle retailing in Parramatta. Her father was also one of Australia’s first pilots. He held the second commercial pilots licence in Australia, was a member of the Royal Flying Corps during WWI, and became the last surviving participant in the famous London/Sydney Air Race of 1919. Mum was raised in Strathfield, Springwood and Beecroft. She went to a number of primary schools as her parents moved around to find a better climate for brother Bill’s asthma. Bill is with us today. Her secondary schooling was at MLC, Burwood, with which she retained links until the end of her life. It was an extraordinarily happy and full childhood spent in a loving family who remained close all their lives. Her cousins Pat and Doug are here today. As a sign of things to come, her schooling was not just about the 3 R’s but was full of extra curricula activities including tennis, debating, singing, piano and ballet. She was good at them all. And she was good at making friends and retained many from school all her life, some of whom are here today to say farewell, including her dear friends Madge Collinson, June Simpson, Alma Linquist and Clare Dowell. Her schooling ended just as the war commenced. She wanted to do Medicine, but a poor result in Latin precluded immediate University entrance. Reg her father would not allow her to repeat the subject, saying that it was too much of a challenge for a girl to do Medicine in those days and he would not support her. Nursing would be a better profession he thought and she subsequently became a dental nurse for a period in Tamworth. In later life, Reg had a conscience about limiting her career aspirations and on his deathbed apologised to Mum saying that he had since realised she had such determination to succeed that she would have been successful at absolutely anything she turned her hand to! The war profoundly affected her life as it did everybody in her generation. Her father rejoined the Airforce and as an older Officer served as a Base Commander around Australia, including at Richmond and Tamworth. In this environment it was not surprising that she joined the Women’s Auxiliary Australian Air Force and to talk about this period of her life let me hand over to Betty Cameron. Betty will also cover her more recent involvement with the Women’s Air Force Association. While in the WAAAF Mum met and married in 1944 my father Ken Bowman who was a flight commander at Central Flying School at Tamworth. No sooner were they married than Dad was sent on operations in SEA as a Liberator Captain. It must have been a trying time, but fortunately they both survived the war and returned to Dad’s family property “Wargundy”, Craboon to settle. There a new chapter of Mum’s life began. She was different – a high energy city girl in what I would call the old country. In the 1940’s our father’s family had already been in the Talbragar Valley for 4 generations and life followed a set pattern. There was a firm hierarchy which was to be respected. This did not auger well for her fitting in smoothly, as she was never one to accept the status quo especially when she could see a better way. And she ruffled a few feathers. Soon she had two sons. I was first in 1947 and my brother Gawain in 1949. She was a wonderful and supportive mother and as a result we had the most fantastic childhood. To this day I and Gawain look back on those years as amongst the happiest of our lives. In the mid-50’s Mum faced two very significant family health challenges. In 1955 Gawain got Polio, sadly one of the last people to contract this disease before the Salk vaccine was released, and she devoted herself to his recovery in Sydney for 9 months. No sooner had she returned home than her father got cancer and she was required again to provide intense support. Without hesitation she took Reg to the UK for 6 months of pioneering but successful ray treatment. During this period her energy and devotion, two of her strongest and most endearing characteristics, did much to ensure that both Reg and Gawain came through their medical trials. After these challenges her high energy meant that she had time to do other things and here her great organisational abilities came to the fore. First she turned to community activities in our local town Dunedoo. She became an original member of the committee to promote the construction of a town hall. Raising funds for this facility became her focus and amongst other things she organised a series of variety shows in Dunedoo consisting of skits and acts featuring many of the districts farmers and business people along with a few of her city cousins. A memory of these events that lingers with me to this day is of my farmer uncles and Hilton Ewin, the districts large gruff earth moving contractor dressed in female ballet costumes dancing, if it could be called that, before the Dunedoo community. They were hilarious. Of course this act was followed by her doing a classical and superb rendition of one of the passages from “Swan Lake”. Not only did she choreograph all the acts for these shows. She also sewed all the costumes and made many of our clothes for she was a very good seamstress. The Dunedoo variety shows were great events and did much to bring the town together. The funds were raised and the Jubilee Memorial Hall built and opened in 1957 with a grand “Opening Ball”, naturally organised by Mum. Her next challenge was the construction of a swimming pool in Dunedoo. As Chairman of the Pool Committee she led a successful deputation to Government which promised ₤10,000 if the Dunedoo community raised the first ₤10,000. There were more variety shows and in due course a Swimming Pool was constructed. This community involvement led in 1962 to Mum being elected the first woman Councillor of the Coolah Shire, a position she held for 9 years. She was also appointed the first woman delegate to the Ulan County Council, was Civil Defence Controller for the Shire, Vice President of the Central West Tourist Association and of the Macquarie Regional Development Committee. I understand that one of the first challenges she faces on the Council was to get a women’s toilet installed in Chambers! Mum’s community activities continued unabated for the rest of her life and reading over her involvements leaves me amazed at her energy. She was the driving force behind the expansion of the Dunedoo Central School into delivering secondary education and the building program implemented in 1970 costing $350,000 in 1970 dollars. She was behind the commencement of technical courses in Dunedoo, she conducted keep fit classes, trained debutants and was involved in the car club and painting groups. She initiated the Young Peoples Club in Dunedoo in the early 60’s encouraging young people to organise their own entertainment. In the 1970s differences between my mother and father sadly came to a head and they divorced. It was typical of both my mother and father that their caring concern for their children came first. To us our family was always the happiest place and their separation did not occur until both Gawain and I were mature and independent. In 1976, Mum married Dick Evans of “Dabee” Rylstone, a happy marriage that lasted until her death last week. Dick and Mum were made for each other. They had common interests in so many areas – the Air Force, politics, music, rural communities and much more. Both were members of the NSW Legislative Council. Life at “Dabee” for them was full and varied and they developed a wide community of friends, in town and country. Typically, Mum was soon embroiled in community activities in Rylstone and Kandos, the towns closest to “Dabee”. She re-established a Chamber of Commerce that covered both towns to attract tourism and business to the district. Christmas Street Carnivals were organised on alternate years in each town, the towns were entered in the Keep Australia Beautiful competition, with Rylstone winning the “Best Street”, Kandos “The Most Attractive Preschool” and even the Kandos Cement Works was chosen as “The Most Successful Improvement to the Environment”. All this was driven by Mum’s charm and hard work. As in Dunedoo, she brought the towns together and improved their self-esteem. It is significant that all three towns have not suffered greatly from the very severe pressures in the rural economy. Far from dying as so many rural communities have, their populations have increased and all retain a high level of civic pride to this day. Last night on Radio National was a program on the differences between communities. It reported that academic studies have shown that successful towns welcome diversity, have strong cultural and community activities and emphasise education and training – the three things Mum worked hard at. You will remember her desire to do medicine before the war - tertiary education remained a goal for her that was unfulfilled. This led to her sitting for the Higher School certificate at the age of 53 and then enrolling as an External Student at the University of New England. She graduated with a Bachelor of Economics in 1981 at 59. Now, as if this all were not enough, we should turn to her involvement with the Liberal Party and her membership of the NSW Parliament. For this I am going to hand over to Dr Brian Pezzuti a colleague of hers in the Legislative Council. In spite of all her achievements in an era when woman were often relegated to being a housewife, Beryl did not like being labelled a feminist. She was first and foremost a mother and wife and after that a woman with a career in public life. She didn’t see it as contradictory that she was strong and feisty but also loved pretty clothes and jewellery; or that while working in Parliament she took pride in running her house and garden with great finesse. Who can forget: n The sight of this great grandmother leading the WAAF contingent in the Anzac Day March with her shapely legs and high heels. n Her ability to Chair a meeting tightly to an Agenda and woe betide anyone who stepped out of line. n Her wardrobe of matching clothes and shoes. n Her manicured hands with sparkling rings and her amazing white hair always in place. n Her love of animals and her stories of her pets’ achievements, which came second only to stories of her children’s and grandchildren’s achievements. n Her house always full of fresh flowers. The gardenias and roses in her garden at “Dabee” and on her balcony at Pyrmont. n Her memorable dinner parties that often went into the small hours. As a hostess she was a great cook and she had a special gift for telling a story or a joke. She loved champagne and good company, and a lasting memory for us is her drinking a glass of Veuve Cliquot through a straw with friends and family just two days before she died. These images of Beryl will stay with us forever in our hearts and minds. She will always be an inspiration to us all. Eulogy by Brian Pezzutti Thank you Christopher. I am honoured to be given this opportunity to speak about a dear,dear friend . First the Facts Beryl and her husband, Dick, have both given enormous support to the Liberal Party. Both have served as Liberal Members of the Legislative Council, both served on State Executive and both served as Country Vice Presidents for many years. Beryl was a much loved supporter of the Young Liberals and she served on the 500 Club (a fund raising organization for the Liberal Party.) Beryl was a strong supporter of the Liberal Party Women’s Council and held executive positions on the Council, In 1974 with the support of the Hon Sir Robin Askin she stood as a candidate for the State seat of Burrendong. Carting the boys around in her little car. She was elected to the NSW Legislative Council in 1984 and retired in 1995. Beryl made a very substantial contribution to many, many debates and was most diligent in her service on multiple committees. She served as a member of the State Development Committee and Staysafe Committee from 1988 to1995. She was Chairman of the Privileges Committee for many years. She served as Government Whip in the Legislative Council. She was selected as Acting President of the Legislative Council of New South Wales, the first woman to do so. Noone would have got away with “Sit down Girlie “ with Beryl in the Chair. Beryl served very actively and with great commitment as Legislative Council representative on the Board of University of New England from 1988 to1995. Beryl served as one of three representatives from Australia on the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) Executive. How she got there against the numbers is testament to the high regard in which she was held by all side of politics. She carried out this role to perfection, gaining for Australia much positive comment. Style and substance. She served in senior roles within the CPA Executive. With two other executive members she produced a report on the ‘Barriers to the Participation of Women in Parliament”. She was the first woman to be nominated for the position of Chairman of the Executive committee of the CPA. Her leadership turned good ideas into practical outcomes. Beryl had her own little Nurses and Doctors committee to keep her abreast of health matters. As a consequence , she initiated the Cancer Awareness Week for Women in the Workplace, each year persuading large businesses to allow their female staff to take time out during work to have a “pap smear” and be shown breast self examination for breast cancer. Where needed she arranged clinics in the business houses for the week staffed by the Family Planning Association and lunch time lectures were given by staff from the Cancer Council. In the first year David Jones, Grace Bros IBM and Esso agreed and in following years they were joined by the large insurance Companies, the Banks, the State Rail authority, Hospitals and Westfield Shopping centres. She also established a clinic in Parliament House for Members and Staff. No one else but Beryl could have achieved this. No half measures … full on …unstoppable. Magic touch. Beryl continued her interest in Cancer Research as a member Breast Cancer Research Committee under Prof Forbes. I served as a member of the Legislative Council beside Beryl from 1988 to 1995. Prior to that, when I was selected to be the Liberal Candidate for Richmond in 1984, Beryl and Dick were brought to Lismore by Peter Kidman and John Valder to teach my wife and me how to campaign. We all have our stories of when we met Beryl…. Mine was with the couple arriving in their own Plane. Then Dick got out the motorbike and Beryl piled on behind and they arrived at campaign HQ. Beryl removing scarf to display perfectly coiffed halo of silver . She was immaculately attired in Aqua ….and of course the Stillettos! They were very enthusiastic hard working and sincere; great role models. At the time, my wife commented that if I followed Beryl’s example she would be proud to see me as an MP. They showed us how to do the streets. Beryl showed us how to do the clubs… fantastic. And at great speed. They were both clearly enjoying meeting people. Later when I was new to the Parliament and in spite of all her commitments she took the time to sit down on Tuesday nights with Janie Stackpool and me to learn Italian from Father James Murphy. What great times and great fun. We all have our favorite Beryl Stories Beryl was always keen to support and encourage young people and was passionate about the need to plan for the future . Mrs. Evans initiated the Young Peoples Club in Dunedoo in the early sixties encouraging young people to organize their own entertainment. They formed a tennis club and a social club. They held dinners and invited interesting guest speakers. In 2002 these same (no longer) young people organized a comeback at Dunedoo and invited Beryl as their honoured guest. Over 200 people turned up for the weekend celebrations and unveiled a plaque on a rock from her son’s property that had been placed in the main street of Dunedoo The plaque reads: The Hon Beryl Evans /formerly Beryl Bowman in appreciation of your contribution to the community of Dunedoo and district. Erected by the YPC Reunion Committee 13APR2002 . She often reminded me that when Baird became Shadow Minister for Aborigines, he told her he had not even met one, Beryl then took John Hannaford and Bruce on a tour of the Dingo Fence. Brrly had a great ability to draw people together to undertake big tasks and she would follow things through to a successful conclusion all details attended to all the cleaning up done. She was always open and sincere and guarded her reputation for honesty and integrity. She was a fierce campaigner for what she thought was needed to be done and would use her skills of persuasion with passion, but never with malice. She guided me through many a tough patch. I, and many others, was either “my best friend” or “a little bastard”. Fluctuating from time to time. Beryl liked to have fun. I remember the Melbourne Cup Luncheons in some stylish eatery with 30 or so when the shout would go out “Here’s Beryl” at the sound of the stilettos approaching ….clicking quickly. It was not possible to forget the sound of Beryl approaching once heard. Later at the Victoria Street flat the party would continue frequently punctuated by “oh Richard, what absolute nonsense”. The sparkling hostess and the dazzle….. Beryl always carried things out with style as though the world was watching, not through any arrogance but, because she was a firm believer in accountability. Beryl had many friends on all parts of the political landscape. She was admired for her commitment and contribution to the working of the Parliament and the Government. For her grace sensitivity and wise counsel. Beryl always seemed to go the extra yard to get things done properly. She had amazing stamina. Thru to her Air Force days she was an exercise junkie and the results showed. She had the best pair of legs in the parliament and people who saw the famous Bunny Girl at a celebrated fundraiser can attest. She worked very, very hard for the people of NSW. Beryl, Dick, Chris and I continued to be great friends until her death. We were frequent welcomed visitors. We admired how Beryl approached the care for “her man” when his health began to fail. Her selfless attention to his needs was constant and fantastic. She relinquished that role with great reluctance when her own health threatened. Even when she was in the Mater post-op she ensured that Dick could come to see her so she could check on him. Towards the end she employed a personal trainer to help her get fit to lead the RAAF on Anzac Day and her attendance in a chair caused her great disappointment . A lesser mortal would have not gone at all. Beryl lived to go to Government House with all her family to receive her OAM . The Governor was especially gracious to Beryl and commented that no Honour would have been too great for such a fine worker. While the dying was drawn out Beryl was courageous and coped amazingly well with the help of the palliative care team from RPAH. She even had some fun with her children and Grandchildren and friends who dropped in. She died peacefully. I believe that Beryl Evans was worthy of the highest recognition by the Nation for her effective work for others in many fields of community work over a very, very long period. I am sure that many people in Australia and abroad considered that her recognition recently was long overdue. Her contributions continue in so many ways Brigadier the Hon Brian Pezzutti RFD