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Wednesday, 9 May 2012
Page: 4433

Ms O'DWYER (Higgins) (12:04): I rise to speak on this condolence motion for Judith Adams, who was a great senator and a great representative for the state of Western Australia. As you can tell from the incredibly moving speech by my colleague Nola Marino—who I am not going to look at because she is going to make me cry—Judith touched the lives of so many people. Today we pay tribute to her service and dedication. Judith's life was one of community service and dedication to others. In each capacity of her life—as a nurse, serving in the New Zealand territorial army, as a farmer, as a wife and mother, a health consultant and finally a senator—her focus was always on improving the lives of others. The notion of service to one's community, to one's country, was ingrained in her. The paths her grandmother and mother took in life had a profound influence on her. Her grandfather, Trooper Percy George Pitt-Palmer of the Auckland mounted rifles, was killed at Gallipoli in the First World War before she was born. Her mother served as a nurse during World War II. So naturally Judith followed the family tradition. Having completed her general nursing training, she joined the New Zealand territorial army as a commissioned officer in No. 2 General Hospital. She served with the New Zealand army for five years. Consequently, Anzac Day held a special meaning for Judith. In her first speech as a senator, she said:

It is important to acknowledge the courage and determination of those who defended us and the free world in history's greatest war.

Her military service complete, Judith migrated to Australia, where she settled with her new husband, Gordon, on a farm in remote Western Australia, where she set down her roots and, as you can tell, formed so many friendships. Her experience in a relatively isolated rural setting gave her an understanding of the issues facing outback Australians. Wild pest animals, drought, salinity, property rights and skills retention were all matters she learned about firsthand and maintained a strong interest in. That is why, as Nola said, she was so keen to come back here. She was a very passionate advocate.

Rural health and aged care issues were Judith's driving passions. She cared deeply about the additional difficulties and costs faced by rural Australians who need specialist medical treatment and who do not have access to local support. Judith was proud to address these national issues during a long involvement with the National Rural Health Alliance, the Breast Cancer Network Australia and the Patient Access Committee of the Radiation Oncology Jurisdictional Implementation Group. She was a strong advocate for reform of the Patient Assistance Travel Scheme.

When she became a senator, she had already beaten breast cancer once. She was involved with the BreastScreen WA Advisory Committee, where she argued that the range of the target age group for screening should be widened. She was also a vocal advocate for programs to support cancer patients with the side-effects of their treatments. Judith took much pride in being the second oldest woman to have entered the Australian Senate in 2005 at the age of 62. This heightened her interest in aged care issues and policy. Judith was concerned about the growing retiree population and the increasing rate of dementia.

The hallmark of Judith's career as a senator is that she had the strength of her convictions and voiced her opinions on those issues that were close to her heart, particularly women's health. In particular, she controversially argued for the ban on the abortion pill RU486 to be lifted and supported a private members bill to force transparent pregnancy counselling.

At the age of 65, Judith discovered that breast cancer had returned and she sadly lost her second battle three years later. But she will be remembered and respected for her commitment to the people of Western Australia and for the tireless integrity and dedication with which she lived her life. As deputy whip in the Senate, she was deeply admired by her colleagues for her hard work and dedication. She is an inspiration for so many women in the parliament who follow her. My deepest condolences go to her sons, Stuart and Robert, and her extended family. She had so many friends in this place and touched so many lives, and for that we are incredibly grateful.