Senate debates

Tuesday, 4 December 2018


Benham, Mrs Julia Arabella

7:20 pm

Photo of John WilliamsJohn Williams (NSW, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

It has been brought to my attention by the New South Wales member for Upper Hunter, Mr Michael Johnsen, of the passing of a wonderful lady, the late Julia Arabella Benham of Quirindi. Mrs Benham passed away on 12 October 2018 at the golden age of—wait for it, Mr Acting Deputy President—109 years, three months and two days. What a long innings.

Mrs Benham was born on the family property, Fairview, at Wallabadah on 10 July 1909. She was the second daughter of Alexander and Emma Ingall, and sister of Rex, Ivy, Harold and Milton. She was educated at two schools on the property, Fairview and Woodton. From there she attended Tamworth High School and, upon completion of her education, she became governess for the Swain family, near Carroll. She married Fred Benham in 1936, and over the years they lived at the properties of Exton in Willow Tree, Kelverton at Big Jacks Creek and Pleasant Side.

In 1995, Julia moved to Quirindi after losing her husband two years earlier. Mrs Benham was a committed Christian and a member of the St Oswald's Ladies Guild for all of her life in Willow Tree. She supported the church flower shows at Quirindi, Wallabadah, Warrah Creek, Big Jacks Creek and Willow Tree. The rostered cleaning duties and flower arrangements for Sunday services were part of her weekly life. She was a member of the CWA since 1936, holding various positions over 59 years at Willow Tree, including Treasurer for 33 years.

The Red Cross played a big part in her life. She was a Willow Tree branch member for over 50 years, and she was recognised with long-service awards and a laurel wreath for 50 years service and a guild rosette for 60 years service. In 2007 Mrs Benham received the highest award given to Red Cross members, which is the brooch and parchment for 70 years of service. Amazing—70 years of service to the Red Cross! Just weeks prior to her passing, she was the oldest Red Cross member in Australia, with a remarkable membership of 81 years. In 2009, Mrs Benham was recognised for her community service as she was nominated as a local legend at the Quirindi Australia Day Awards.

At the age of 79, Mrs Benham enrolled at the local TAFE to do a three-year commercial needlecraft advanced certificate course and graduated with a credit pass. At 92 years, Mrs Benham won the New South Wales CWA state award for the over-80s craft item. She was dearly loved by family and friends. In his eulogy, her son Stephen said:

Throughout her life, mum has seen many changes … however, there are some things that did not change. Her interest in people and her community and in voluntary service organisations have always been an important part of her life.

From her granddaughter, Julie Owen:

They always ask me: 'How did she get to be this age?' I've always attributed her longevity to being surrounded by a large and loving family, to an 'organic life' living off the land, to an 'active mind', her memory for everything is unparalleled, and her 'busy hands', she was always doing something, and above all else, her beautiful, kind, generous soul.

From her nephew, Geoffrey Ingall:

With her passing, so much history has been lost, but she was ready to go, and whilst we grieve with her family, we cannot be sad, but only rejoice in a long and fruitful life, well lived.

Julia Arabella Benham was dearly loved mother and mother-in-law of Jennifer and Grahame, Graham and Caroline, Stephen and Kay, Alex and Jill, and Helen and Ted. She was a beloved grandmother and great-grandmother to their families. The community of Quirindi and surrounding districts gathered at St Albans Anglican Church on 23 October 2018 to mourn and to celebrate the life of Julia Benham, a lady who gave so much of herself for the betterment of others. What a great lady. Rest in peace.