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Wednesday, 9 May 2012
Page: 4440


Dr STONE (Murray) (12:41): I too would like to express my sincere appreciation of the life of Senator Judith Adams and her friendship. She was an extraordinary woman. Her life ended, I think, with her having fulfilled so much of her own enormous potential. I am sure her family sees that her life was a fulfilling life at the end of her time. None of us would want to see any woman or man suffer the way that Judith Adams did, but she was stoic in her years of battling cancer. It was extraordinary when you would see Judith in Parliament House with various wheelchairs or other special supports for her wrists or her legs. To her that was irrelevant; what was important for her was the issue of the day—pursuing always some issue of disadvantage or some health problem that needed a solution.

As a senator, she had many opportunities in the many inquiries she was a part of. I was particularly pleased when she supported the concerns, which numbers of us have in this place, about foetal alcohol syndrome. As a nurse from Western Australia, Judy Adams knew only too well the terrible impacts of women drinking alcohol during pregnancy and the potential consequences where children are born with irreparable brain damage. Judith was a very keen contributor in our early efforts to discuss this condition in parliament, to pass a private member's motion and to establish a support group in parliament. Then she watched closely the special inquiry we are undertaking through the Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs.

To me, Judith was quintessentially the right sort of person to enter politics. Her claim to fame was not that she was in her early 20s or that she had worked all her time in a political office or for a member of parliament or senator. She was a woman who had already spent years as a nurse and on a property as a partner developing a farm. She had worked with the New Zealand defence effort in Vietnam. She was a mother and a grandmother. So she came to parliament with a life already full of information and experience. I think that is extremely important in this day and age. I know we celebrate youth when someone very young comes into this place. I like to celebrate the mature men and women who come into this place and have a lifetime of mistakes, triumphs and experiences to bring as they consider legislation or question what is before us in this place.

Judith Adams was elected as a senator for Western Australia in 2004. She was therefore not the longest-serving senator in this place, but I would argue she was one of the most effective. She was also an absolute champion of other women entering politics, but she did not ask for any concessions. She wanted us to be here on our own terms, competing on the basis of merit. She was an outstanding example of a woman of her era, a woman who managed to combine family with a professional career and also made a huge voluntary contribution to the state of Western Australia.

I am very sad that I could not get to her funeral in Western Australia. I had commitments that I just could not change but certainly I was with her and her family in spirit in her final days. I wish her family well as they come to grips with the loss of their mother and grandmother. I hope this family takes great comfort in the remarks that have been made, from the Prime Minister to the Leader of the Opposition and our colleagues in the Senate and the House of Representatives, and that these remarks will be adequate to truly describe a very great woman.