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Tuesday, 9 October 2012
Page: 11677

Mr GRAY (BrandSpecial Minister of State and Minister for the Public Service and Integrity) (16:35): Margaret Anne Duff made a community contribution far beyond her role as an electorate officer before her death on 25 August 2012. She was an inspiration, activist and advocate for people in the south-west metropolitan region of Perth, in towns like Pinjarra, Mandurah, Rockingham, Kwinana and Warnbro. Her strong belief in fairness and equality and her sense of justice were ignited in the 1970s when the Tresillian Centre for disabled children in Nedlands was closed. Margaret the activist was born in her campaign to keep the centre open and in her fight to ensure people with disabilities were treated humanely and with dignity.

Over 40 years, her unstinting efforts to improve the lot of others resulted in Margaret being awarded life membership of the Australian Labor Party in May this year. Margaret worked as an electorate officer for South West Region MLC Beryl Jones, who set up an office in Pinjarra in 1986. Often it was just Margaret in that office and she quickly distinguished herself because of her capacity to independently form an outstanding relationship with the local community. She became well respected by the local Indigenous community for her assistance with housing, financial and social concerns. Local elders like the late Theo Kearing, the late Frank Nannup and the late Joe Walley called Margaret a friend, and they knew she was an ally.

Beryl Jones was replaced as MLC by John Cowdell, who set up his office in Mandurah Terrace, Mandurah, which became the local drop-in centre for every disadvantaged group or individual. Margaret was Mr Cowdell's electorate officer for 12 years, retiring briefly from the state scene to work for then MHR and Labor leader Kim Beazley. In late December 2006, Margaret Duff was drafted into the Peel by-election campaign and was instrumental in ensuring Paul Papalia's campaign to win Peel was successful in 2007.

On his retirement as President of the Legislative Council John Cowdell said of Margaret Duff:

I recognise Margaret Duff, my electorate officer. Ours has been a genuine partnership for 12 years in the electorate. She has been a member for a lot of the time, but without the pay and the prestige. With Margaret I got the whole family, and I am deeply indebted for everything that Max and Rachel have done for me.

Margaret was not a blind foot soldier of the Labor Party. She took a passionate interest in making sure that the party remained true to its core values and that it maintained high standards. She contributed in a voluntary capacity to disability support organisations, Indigenous committees, conservation and environmental groups and in dispensing emergency relief. She was instrumental in influencing for the better politicians, local councillors, community leaders and all those around her, leaving a legacy far beyond her role as electorate officer.

Margaret is survived by her husband, Max; son, Allan; daughter, Rachael, and their families. At her funeral Kim Beazley wrote:

She was a genuine community servant, caring for her neighbour, broadly defined with cheerfulness, generosity and great intelligence. There are few of equivalent capacity and sentiment.

Her passing is a loss for us all. Margaret was a magnificent servant of our community, a contributor to our party, a mother, and a wife to Max, a person whom we all respected. She deserves the honour and respect of our parliament by having her obituary recorded here in our Hansard.