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Tuesday, 16 August 2011
Page: 8136

Ms GILLARD (LalorPrime Minister) (14:05): On indulgence, I rise today too to honour another remarkable Australian, Margaret Olley, who died in Sydney, aged 88, during the winter recess of this parliament. She, of course, was a delightful artist and she was a great human being. She will be remembered for both of these things. She will also be remembered for being a generous donor and benefactor, especially to the Art Gallery of New South Wales, donating literally millions in paintings and in cash. She will be remembered as a mentor to young artists who she supported, and she will be remembered as someone who was always there to lobby politicians on behalf of the arts.

Her long life was captured in two Archibald Prize-winning paintings that book-ended her career. The first was by William Dobell in 1948. She was just 25 years old but looked even younger, dressed in an old wedding dress that had been used for a fancy dress ball. She looked like she had stepped out of a Victorian garden party. The contrast to that other portrait for the Archibald by Ben Quilty is exquisite, showing all of her 88 years of age proudly and unashamedly, a rugged and beautiful landscape of a face bearing contours of age and of wisdom. When sitting for Ben Quilty she made these very striking and poignant remarks:

I'm like an old tree dying and setting forth flowers as fast as it can, while it still can.

The last flower was one of her greatest, a sweeping portrait of Sydney Harbour, a stunning tribute to the city that she loved so much and a very sharp contrast to many of her other paintings of intimate interiors and still lifes.

I think we would want to remember her working and arguing, charming and cajoling right to the end. She will be missed by her friends and by the public who loved her as a living artist and representative of this country. Our thoughts in this place are especially with Malcolm and Lucy Turnbull who so often sat around Margaret's table in Paddington. Like so many others they have lost a dear and wonderful friend. Over 70 remarkable years of painting Margaret gave us everything she had. She poured out her talent, generosity and advice like a torrent to her final days. It was a full and complete life lived voraciously from start to finish. Our nation was privileged to share that life with her, to celebrate its achievements, and today we mourn her loss.