House debates

Tuesday, 27 March 2018


Staunton, Ms Donna

5:01 pm

Photo of Ms Catherine KingMs Catherine King (Ballarat, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Health and Medicare) Share this | Hansard source

I join the Minister for Health in rising in this condolence debate for the loss of Donna Staunton, a woman who was known well to many of us here. Despite the solemnness of the occasion and the reason we are here, I can't help but think that Donna would have a bit of a wry smile over this—that Greg and I have united, which we don't often do. I'm sure she would have been most amused by that. I do want to add my voice, both in this place and beyond, to those who've conveyed their sadness over the loss of Donna. I too would particularly like to acknowledge the presence of Madeleine, Donna's daughter, and I pass on my condolences to you and to your brother, Jack, for your loss.

Starting her career as a registered nurse, before moving into law, Donna was a strong and successful health advocate working across both the corporate and political spheres, and the not-for-profit sector as well. At various times, Donna held senior roles in a Fortune 500 company, an ASX top 20 company and at the CSIRO. Donna's success was rewarded when she became the first woman to sit on the Business Council of Australia, a major accomplishment. However, it was, of course, through her work in the health sector that I came to know her. As the managing director and one of the founders of The Strategic Counsel, Donna advised companies operating in virtually every segment of the health and medical technologies sectors in Australia by helping them deal with the government and the Australian regulatory system. Without the advice of Donna and her colleagues, these companies would have found it far more difficult to get their technologies and innovations to Australian patients and to improve their lives. She served on the boards of the National Breast Cancer Centre, New South Wales WorkCover, the Global Foundation and the Institute of Public Affairs, and she was the director of both LifeHealthcare group and the Cooperative Research Centre for Mental Health. Donna had been the CEO of both the Hearing Care Industry Association and the National Pharmaceutical Services Association, as well as being the chair of the Medicines Partnership of Australia. I know that, in particular, advocating for those dealing with hearing loss was a priority for Donna. I know that has been taken up by her colleagues at The Strategic Counsel. I know that the pro bono work that she did for this sector in particular was something she was intensely passionate about.

Donna and I may not have always agreed about politics, although sometimes we agreed quite a lot, but her professionalism, her drive for leadership and her unique skill set are talents I certainly will long remember. Listening to and hearing what others have said about Donna, the thing that comes up again and again is trust. People from all sides of politics, and from across both the public and private sectors, all agreed that she had a remarkable talent to engender trust in those she was dealing with. Her rare ability to work with others, to bring those of different opinions and purposes together to seek a common solution, will be sorely missed. She was extremely focused, professional in everything that she did and, as the minister has noted, fearless.

It was with these attributes that Donna became one of the few individuals appointed to senior government boards by both Labor and Liberal governments, such was the high esteem in which she was held. These same attributes are what endeared her to so many and what have led to the flood of tributes that have followed her untimely passing. We know that no-one will miss her more than her family and her friends—I particularly acknowledge the long-term friendship of Dr Michael Wooldridge, who is here in the chamber as well—but she will also be missed by her colleagues, who loved her dearly, and all of us who had the privilege and pleasure of crossing paths with her.

I know she was an intensely private person and that her diagnosis of ovarian cancer was something she was deeply private about. But for those of us in the health space—and I acknowledge the health minister's commitment in this area—who understand the trauma that ovarian cancer reaps on women across our community, Donna's passing hasn't gone unnoticed, and neither has the important work we need to do to increase the survival rates of those with ovarian cancer.


No comments