Senate debates

Tuesday, 12 February 2008


Hon. Kim Edward Beazley, AC

6:09 pm

Photo of Lyn AllisonLyn Allison (Victoria, Australian Democrats) Share this | Hansard source

I join in the condolence motion on behalf of the Australian Democrats and offer my condolences on the sad passing of Kim Edward Beazley on 12 October 2007. We were represented at his funeral by my colleague Senator Andrew Murray. I also want to express my most sincere sympathy to his family—to his wife, Betty, and to his children, including Kim Beazley Jr.

Kim Beazley Sr had a long and distinguished record within the parliament. He was described as a political giant, as a student prince, even, in some of the clippings I have seen. He was intelligent and passionate, but he was also a moderate and a reasonable man and a great orator. At 27 he was the youngest person to enter the House of Representatives and he went on to become one of parliament’s longest serving members, lasting 32 years. In that time he made an enormous contribution, one which he continued after leaving politics.

Kim Beazley Sr was education minister in the Whitlam government from 1972 to 1975. I must say that I owe him a debt of gratitude because, when he was education minister, the government abolished university fees due to his initiative, as I understand it, and I was the beneficiary of that—as, I suspect, were many now in this place. On taking office, one of his first initiatives was to arrange for Aboriginal children to be taught in their own language, with English as a second language. This was a very farsighted initiative on his part. By the time Kim Beazley left the ministry, Aboriginal children were being taught in 22 of their own languages. I think it is a great pity that we do not now see very many schools offering Indigenous languages. Educationists know that it is preferable for children who come to school without English to be able to start in their own language. I think it is also a great pity that so many Indigenous languages around the country have been lost. Very few have in fact been recorded and are used, except perhaps in the Northern Territory.

He also introduced needs based funding for all schools through his Schools Commission, and that started funding for non-government schools in the interests of greater equality. He had a great affinity for Indigenous Australians and in 1952 he made the first speech on Aboriginal reconciliation. He would no doubt have been very proud of the welcome to country ceremony which took place this morning before the opening of parliament.

He was awarded an AO in 1979 and I think that he will be remembered very well in this parliament and at large for his many contributions to this country. I want to finish with one quote from him: ‘If you can read and write, your future is in your own hands.’ I think that is very good advice indeed. We should be very grateful to the Hon. Kim Edward Beazley for his contribution to education in this country.

Question agreed to, honourable senators standing in their places.


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