Senate debates

Tuesday, 9 May 2023


Tasmanian Honour Roll for Women

9:03 pm

Photo of Wendy AskewWendy Askew (Tasmania, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Throughout history women have been quietly going about their work. They have been the gatherers, the caregivers, the cheer squad, the homemakers, the breadwinners. Women play many roles. Every single day we are surrounded by amazing, inspiring women, who without fear or favour and without seeking recognition, do things that are ordinary to them but all add up to something extraordinary.

Like precious diamonds, women are forged under pressure. For years, women have worked hard, campaigned for their rights and have earnt their seat at the table, even in the political arena like this one. Recent research has shown that women are nearly always the carriers of the mental load, the term given to the myriad of decisions that need to be made that relate to the management of a household.

Women don't often seek out accolades; they just get on with the task of what needs to be done, whether that's at home, at work, or in the community. They see a need and they fill it. This is why initiatives like the Tasmanian Honour Roll of Women are so important for recognising the women in our lives who are undertaking the quiet pursuit of the extraordinary. The Tasmanian Honour Roll of Women was created in 2005 by the Tasmanian government to honour Tasmanian women who have made an outstanding contribution to the state. And I'm proud to note that my late mother, Elaine Bushby, was listed on the Honour Roll in 2017 for community service throughout her life.

The honour roll encourages the community to learn and discover the achievements of the women in their lives and honour their historical and contemporary contributions to Tasmania, ensuring these achievements are given full recognition and not forgotten with the passage of time. The 2023 recipients of the Tasmanian honour roll were announced at the annual function in Launceston recently, where 35 women and one organisation were inducted. And what an inspiring afternoon it was. The event was hosted by Southern Cross news anchor Kim Millar, and it was made extra special by the attendance of the Tasmanian Minister for Women, Jo Palmer, who, before her election as the member for Rosevears, was the previous long-term MC of the event.

Hearing the inspiring women's stories was incredible and, while they were all wildly different, none were less deserving. Every single one of them left me in awe at the depth of talent in my home state of Tasmania—like the story of the late Gwendoline Hesketh MBE, who was awarded for her work leading a team providing relief in postwar Europe and for her outstanding commitment to the Girl Guides movement. Gwen, as she was known, joined the Girl Guides in 1924 and became captain of Launceston's St Aidan's Guide company, before moving to the rank of commandant. Following the outbreak of World War II, Gwen was asked to help train members of the Australian Women's Land Army and Civil Evacuation Committee. She undertook a gruelling nine-day commando course in the Welsh mountains to prove her fitness for the job, which included harsh physical training, semistarvation and sleep deprivation. She joined the Girl Guides International Service, where she was deployed to Germany and where she acted as liaison officer between the British occupation authorities and voluntary bodies in the field. Though recalled several times, Gwen refused to return home. When the Girl Guides International Service wound up in 1951, Gwen was the last Australian to leave.

Women like Gwen have been serving their communities for decades, and it's through community and business organisations like Girl Guides that have opened them up to the opportunity. Several of the 2023 Tasmanian Honour Roll of Women inductees have served their communities through local government, the closest level of government to the communities in which they serve. One of the 2023 recipients was Dr Mary Duniam, who may well be known to some in this chamber following her elevation as the first female mayor of the Waratah-Wynyard Council last year. Her son—my colleague Senator Jonathan Duniam—has spoken of her achievements in this place previously, but I'm very happy to repeat them. Dr Duniam was first elected to the council in 2005 and was elected deputy mayor in 2014. Being involved in local government led Dr Duniam to undertake a research project into female civic leadership in Tasmania. She is actively involved in her community: she is a representative on the Tasmanian Women's Council, chair of the Australian Local Government Women's Association in Tasmania, deputy patron of Surf Life Saving Tasmania, and a current member of the Rural Clinical School Community Advisory Board. What a list of accolades!

Another civic leader worthy of attention who was inducted to the honour roll this year is the West Tamar mayor, Christina Holmdahl, who was elected to that council in 2009 and is the current mayor. She is also the president of the Local Government Association of Tasmania. Christina was born to Polish parents in a refugee camp in Germany and emigrated with them to Australia in 1949. The family lived in camps in Victoria and Tasmania before settling in North Hobart. She started her career in television film journalism at TVT-6 in Hobart before working for the Tasmanian Government Film Unit, where she produced content on issues impacting Australia.

When Christina retired to Clarence Point in Northern Tasmania, an issue that concerned her greatly was the state of the West Tamar Highway, a road she travelled daily. She joined the Northern Ratepayers Association, which successfully lobbied the state government to fix the Supply River section of the highway. Christina remains a vocal lobbyist for continued improvement of the highway, and has secured state government funding from the current Tasmanian Liberal government. I'm pleased to say that improvement works are now underway in preparation for construction of the new Legana school.

Christina is an active volunteer in the arts and small-business community and was the inaugural chair of the Festival of Golden Words, now the Tamar Valley Writers Festival. Her skill with words has led to great outcomes for the West Tamar community and has led to the region becoming one of the fastest-growing areas of Launceston and northern Tasmania.

The Tamar Valley Writers Festival has produced some inspiring leaders among this crop of inductees, with outgoing festival director Mary Machen also among the 2023 inductees. Mary has also been inspired by creative talent and is a wordsmith at heart, beginning her writing career as a cadet journalist at the Examiner newspaper in Launceston, the third-oldest newspaper in Australia. In 2009 she took on the role of arts and cultural writer with the paper, and had always felt passionate about volunteering and giving back to a sector of the community she felt was often undervalued—the arts. Her first board role was with Tasmania's premier food festival, Festivale, which recently had a bumper 2023 event with its triumphant return to City Park following a COVID-interrupted hiatus. Mary served on the board of Festivale from 2003 to 2009, and since then has also held roles on the boards of Junction Arts Festival, the QVMAG Arts Foundation and the QVMAG Friends and has been a co-convenor of the Friends of Theatre North and judge for the Theatre Council of Tasmania awards. Mary's passion for words has been a thread that has pulled throughout her life, and culminated in her role as president and festival director of the Tamar Valley Writers Festival, which she stepped down from in 2022. The Tamar Valley Writers Festival has come to be recognised as one of Australia's premier literary festivals, and while Mary was at the helm, a crowd of more than 3,500 people attended the 2019 iteration of the event.

The Tasmanian Honour Roll of Women is about ordinary people doing extraordinary things, and no-one illustrates that more than Barbara Baker. Hospice-care nurse Barb completed her nursing training at Launceston's St Vincent's hospital, where she realised that end-of-life nursing was an area where she could make a difference. Over 30 years she developed a strong passion for palliative care, and was a founding member of Philip Oakden Hospice, which opened in 1993. Barb was one of the nurses at the hospice who cared for my father in the last weeks of his life, just months after it opened. When the hospice closed in 2007, northern Tasmania was left with no public palliative care beds. Barb has been tireless in her advocacy for the need for public palliative care beds and the hospice model for years, and lobbied local, state and federal politicians for 15 years for funding to re-establish a hospice in Launceston. All of Barb's work finally paid off when, during last year's election campaign, Barb was successful in securing bipartisan funding for a new hospice at the Launceston General Hospital. Work on developing that hospice is part of the Tasmanian Liberal government's LGH masterplan, which is currently underway.

Every single one of the 35 women inducted to the Tasmanian honour roll is deserving of the title, but it is only a small fraction of the women who are out there every day creating tangible and positive outcomes for their community. Tonight I have highlighted just a few. I take this opportunity to recognise each one of them and thank them for their hard work in making their communities a better place. We are indebted to you for your work. Thank you.

Senate adjourned at 21:13