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Monday, 23 November 2015
Page: 13247


Ms MACKLIN (Jagajaga) (13:52): I rise to speak today on the passing of Shirley Cohen, Labor Party member, activist for social justice and advocate for education for all Australians. Shirley passed away on 27 October, aged 89. She and her husband, John, had three wonderful children: Rhonda, Roslyn and Keith.

Shirley worked at the psych and guidance branch of the Department of Education for many years. It was here that she led the way in assisting children with learning difficulties, putting her belief in education and opportunity for all into practice. But it was as a member of the Eltham branch of the Labor Party where I saw Shirley's contribution to social justice.

Her friend Elaine Wightman tells of the night of the Victorian election last year. Elaine and Shirley, both committed Labor activists, had decided to go to a performance of the Messiah.They got out of the theatre at around 9.30, got in the car, turned on the radio to hear Daniel Andrews speaking. Shirley knew that Labor had won and then started singing the 'hallelujah' chorus from the Messiah in the car on the way home. She was so happy. It was a very special moment and one that illustrated Shirley's humour and her belief in the Labor Party. That was the kind of person Shirley was: kind, funny, generous and an activist for social justice. She will be missed.