In a historic moment for the NSW Parliament, the late Hon. Virginia Chadwick AO has been immortalised in the Legislative Council chamber, with the unveiling of a marble bust of her likeness on Wednesday 11 May 2022. She becomes the first woman to have a bust in the chamber of the Upper House – and it's the first marble bust to be sculpted for the Parliament in more than a century!
Hailing from Newcastle, Virginia was a woman of firsts during her time at NSW Parliament and beyond.
In 1998, she became the first female President of the NSW Legislative Council, and indeed the first female Presiding Officer of the Parliament. Prior to that, Virginia had been the first Liberal woman to gain a ministerial appointment in a NSW Government, NSW's first female Minister for Education, and the state's first female Opposition Whip.
Throughout her parliamentary career, Virginia had a strong involvement in social and education reforms. As Minister for Education she established the independent Board of Studies and took the state's first steps to address homophobic bullying and violence in schools, and as Minister for Family and Community Services she was instrumental in the restructuring of disability services.
Following her resignation from the Legislative Council, Virginia became the first female chairperson and CEO of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, where she received global recognition for her efforts in environmental conservation. Under her watch, the area of reef declared protected grew from 4.5 to 33 per cent.
Virginia passed away in 2009 at 64 years of age.
The unveiling ceremony was attended by NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet, who said:
"Virginia's record as a member of the NSW Parliament… together with her many other achievements, reflect her unquestioned commitment and service to the people of NSW. The honour being bestowed on Virginia today is much deserved. I offer my congratulations to her family on this historic occasion."
President of the Legislative Council Matthew Mason-Cox had this to say:
"A trailblazer of her time, Virginia achieved many important firsts during her 20-year parliamentary career and beyond – so it is incredibly fitting that a rare honour is added to the list, as her likeness joins fellow august figures from our history along the chamber walls."
Member of the Legislative Council Catherine Cusack moved a motion in the chamber commemorating the unveiling and acknowledging the Virginia Chadwick's contributions:
"This is even bigger than Virginia. It is her emblematic presence, representing and reminding us of the values and aspirations we are trusted in this place to represent. I thank all who are here across party lines for being the true believers in virtuous politics and for honouring Virginia Chadwick, whose gaze will never leave this chamber and whose example will inspire and inform generations of members yet to come."
In the chamber, Leader of the Opposition in the Legislative Council Penny Sharpe also spoke to Virginia's achievements and impacts:
"By the unveiling of this bust, the people of NSW acknowledge and thank the Hon. Virginia Chadwick AO for her service to NSW. We welcome the new silent observer of democracy in the NSW Legislative Council and we look forward to sharing the stories way into the future of how she got there."
Virginia's husband of more than 40 years, Bruce Chadwick, attended the ceremony together with the couple's children and grandchildren. He said:
"Virginia was a tireless and fiercely intelligent woman, who truly believed in helping and serving the community. She wasn't afraid to tackle the big issues, and that's why she was able to leave the mark that she has. Our family is so moved to see her commemorated in this way, and we know she would have loved the idea of watching over the Council chamber in perpetuity."
The full Hansard record of the unveiling ceremony is available in the Hansard record - including the President's introduction and Ms Cusack's motion.
The marble likeness of Virginia was carved by prominent sculptor Peter Schipperheyn from a single block of white Italian 'Statuario' marble. It's the first marble bust to be crafted for the Parliament in 107 years.
The installation of the new bust sees Virginia join seven other people immortalised in marble in the Legislative Council chamber, including former Presidents Sir John Hay, Sir John Lackey, Sir Alfred Stephen and Sir Francis Bathurst Suttor, as well as former members William Bede Dalley, John Blaxland and James Macarthur.
The last bust to be unveiled in the Legislative Council chamber was that of Sir Francis Bathurst Suttor in 1915.