Thursday, 4 December 2014
Southcott, Mrs Heather, AM
I would like to express my condolences at the recent death of Mrs Heather Southcott AM, who was a former member of the South Australian House of Assembly in the seat of Mitcham. Heather was my great aunt. I thank the South Australian members of parliament who have spoken on the condolence motion in the Legislative Council and those who will speak on the condolence motion in the House of Assembly today.
Heather was born in 1928 and was the daughter of a bank manager and a community-minded homemaker and was raised in the tradition of the Scots Free Church. Her father encouraged her to believe that she could do anything. She studied pharmacy at the University of Adelaide and was one of only four women in her year. She met her husband Ron Southcott, my great uncle, when they both worked at the Daw Park Repatriation Hospital and married in 1952. At that time, the marriage bar required Heather to leave her job as a Commonwealth public servant. She returned to private work in pharmacy while raising two daughters, Jane and Anne Marie.
I want to speak a little about Heather's family. They were and are a high-achieving family with an enormous range of interests and a strong ethos of service. I often met people who had worked with one of them and was always happy to reflect on what they had done. Being a relative, it was an association which I have always been proud of and I had a high regard for the work that Heather and the rest of her family had done. Ron was described by paediatrician and toxicologist, Dr John Pearn, as among the greatest of the Australian doctor-naturalists who worked as an administrator with the Commonwealth Department of Veterans Affairs but who with his self-funded home laboratory and in his spare time was a zoologist and botanist of outstanding breadth. Jane is an Associate Professor in Education at Monash University with a focus on the teaching of music and Anne Marie is a respiratory physician.
Heather described herself as a joiner and was involved in numerous groups: the National Council of Women, the Women's Pharmacist Group, the group which established the Adelaide Women's Memorial Playing Fields and the United Nations Association of Australia. She joined the Women's Electoral Lobby and became interested in Indigenous issues through her association with the Scots Free Church. She joined the Liberal and Country League and made a similar journey to Robin Millhouse, moving to the Liberal Movement, the new Liberal Movement and finally the Australian Democrats. She won the Mitcham by-election in 1982, where she beat the Liberal candidate Robert Worth, the husband of Trish Worth.
Heather was the first woman to lead a political party in Australia being the state leader and later the national leader of the Australian Democrats. She only spent six months in the South Australian parliament. She enjoyed the electorate work but she did not enjoy being a sole Democrat in the parliament, but she was able later to use the work and the experience for a variety of community organisations. She was very active in the community. My condolences to her family.