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Tuesday, 28 November 2017
Page: 9015


Senator CAROL BROWN (Tasmania) (15:59): I'd like to rise to say a few words about Jean Hearn and pay my condolence on the occasion of her death. I knew Jean personally. I met Jean when I joined the Labor Party, prior to her becoming a senator. Anyone that knew Jean Hearn knew that she dealt with issues with passion and commitment, and that same passion and commitment is the way she worked for Tasmania and for Tasmanians. Indeed, my brother, Philip, worked for Jean up in Launceston and he had nothing but admiration and complete and utter loyalty to Jean in her work and her commitment to Tasmania. If he were around today—and, sadly, he is not—he would be the first to talk about Jean and her work and what Jean meant to the Labor Party and the Tasmanian branch, in particular.

Jean was a very well-known figure in the Tasmanian branch of the ALP, particularly for her activism in the cause of peace, an activism that sprang from her own life experience. She was a trailblazer for women in the ALP, being the first woman to be a member of the Tasmanian ALP administrative committee, a position she held from 1970 to 1980—and I can tell you there weren't that many women on the administrative committee during that whole period. Jean was, indeed, one of the women that really led the way to opening up the ALP in terms of representation of women.

In 1972 Jean stood for election to the House of Assembly for the seat of Bass under Tasmania's Hare-Clark system. During the campaign, she attacked the Labor Party's position on state aid to schools. Her willingness to speak up on issues she believed in continued throughout her career in the party. On this occasion, Jean was eliminated from the count at an early stage and was unsuccessful.

As you've heard, Jean was also a political staffer serving Senator Justin O'Byrne, in what was an extremely politically charged time, from 1975 to 1977. In 1979, Jean was selected by the state council to head the ALP Senate ticket, the first woman to do so. As it transpired, she in fact became a senator before the 1980 federal election, as she was selected to replace Senator Ken Wriedt, who went on to lead the state Labor Party.

Jean became a senator in her own right, having been elected at the 1980 federal election. Jean Hearn was known as an idealist and a person who participated in issues of politics, as opposed to machine politics. She was interested in and active in a broad range of issues, having strong commitment to women's rights, peace, social justice, equity and the natural environment. In 1981, she was joint chair of the first Tasmanian ALP women's conference. In 1984, Senator Jean Hearn founded a parliamentary disarmament group. She supported the introduction of peace education into the Australian school curriculum and questioned the presence of US military forces in Australia. Jean's Senate term ended in June 1985. Under the then ALP Tasmanian rules, she was not allowed to seek a further term due to her age.

While Senator Jean Hearn asked questions and supported causes that would bring her into conflict with others in the ALP, she also had a broad range of personal interests. As we've heard, she was a marriage celebrant. She co-wrote a cookbook and was a long-time supporter of Steiner education. She loved gardening and was opposed to plant patenting and to the aerial spraying of crops. We will miss Jean, and the Tasmanian ALP will always remember Jean's contribution.