House debates

Tuesday, 27 March 2018


Staunton, Ms Donna

4:56 pm

Photo of Greg HuntGreg Hunt (Flinders, Liberal Party, Minister for Health) Share this | Hansard source

On indulgence, I wish to join with the opposition in extending our condolences to the friends and, in particular, the family of Donna Staunton. I particularly want to thank the opposition for extending the courtesy of joining us in this motion. In turning to Donna, I reflect on the lives of one of Australia's great health policy professionals and advocates, and we're joined by her daughter, Madeleine, here in the chamber today, representing the whole family, along with friends and family, including Dr Michael Wooldridge. Donna was one of Australia's great health policy professionals and advocates.

I briefly want to reflect on three things: Donna through the eyes of her family; Donna in terms of her professional achievements; and Donna through somebody who knew her as a friend. I can start in no stronger place than through the words of her daughter, Madeleine, and the opening words of the oration on her loss. She said the words that I think every parent would hope to have said about them. She began with the phrase:

I am proud to be my mother's daughter.

That is as high an accolade as any parent could ever ask for and any parent could ever be given. I think, Madeleine, you may be proud to be your mother's daughter, but she would be proud of the daughter that you have become, and the same for your brother, her son. Maddie went on to say, and I think all who know Donna would agree with this:

… I think we could unanimously agree that mum was an inspiration to us all. She was strong willed, yet empathetic and personable. She connected with everyone, and she was both respectful and fiercely loyal.

I would add to that that she was a fierce advocate, as well. I think both Catherine and I and all who've dealt with her knew that she represented the things that she believed in with great force and great vigour but with a great sense of fairness. As a person, that is the mark of her.

As a professional, of course, her achievements were legion. Amongst many other things, she had appointments to the Hearing Care Industry Association; the National Breast Cancer Centre; New South Wales WorkCover, one of her great passions; the Cooperative Research Centre, or CRC, for Mental Health; the National Pharmaceutical Services Association; the Medicines Partnership of Australia; and the LifeHealthcare Group. What a range of organisations she represented and she worked on. I worked with her and Mike Wooldridge, a former health minister, on many issues about improving health cover, but she worked across parties over many years and with many different ministers at federal and state level, and she worked with an almost unique level of skill and decency and professionalism. Above all else, her goals were always: what will give better access to patients, what will give better treatment for patients and what will give better medical outcomes? That's a really rare combination of skills and decency and integrity.

I also note, on a personal level—it wasn't that long ago; it was less than 12 months ago—I was at an event with her and with Mike Wooldridge, and during the course of the evening Mike served one of his vintage ports. He is very proud of his vintage ports. The waiter brought them along—I will, just for the record, note that I was maintaining my professional abstinence—and tripped. Most of these wines fell over Donna, and the vintage port was all over her beautiful evening gown. Mike, as he so often did, leapt to the cause and made sure that the last two glasses were preserved! It was only afterwards that he turned to Donna to ensure that she was okay. But she brushed it off. She followed through with the rest of the evening. She was worried that she'd be arrested for D and D when she went for a taxi. But what was interesting was the sanguineness, the generosity of spirit and the sense of humour with which she approached this little vignette.

Her life was one of warmth, one of family and one which made a difference. When you boil it all down, there can be no greater tribute than the one that Maddie gave, which was: 'I am proud to be my mother's daughter.' That is as much as any of us can ever hope for. She aspired to that, she lived that and she embodied that. We will miss her.


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