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Tuesday, 20 March 2012
Page: 2365

Senator PRATT (Western Australia) (22:31): It is my sad honour to rise today to deliver a vale for my friend and colleague Jaye Radisich, the former member for Swan Hills in the Parliament of Western Australia. Jaye passed away on Saturday, losing a battle with cancer that she had valiantly fought, and at many stages won, over the last decade. Jaye was a true believer in the labour movement and the Labor Party, and a trailblazer with great energy and intelligence who brought a much-needed shot of youth to the Gallop and Carpenter governments. First elected in 2001, Jaye went on to become a parliamentary secretary in the Carpenter government before retiring at the 2008 election. I managed Jaye's second election campaign and it gave me a very personal insight into her steely determination. She put absolutely everything into the campaign. It was a very stressful and at times emotional campaign. Sometimes the strain showed on all of us—as it does in campaigns—but the campaign produced a great result. Jaye drew on her courage time and time again in her battle with Wilms's tumour, an uncommon cancer that rarely occurs in adults as it did in Jaye's case.

At the 2001 state election Jaye and I became the youngest women elected to the WA Legislative Assembly and Legislative Council respectively. Indeed, to this day, Jaye remains the youngest woman ever elected to the WA parliament. Despite her historic status, Jaye did not initially regard herself as a natural advocate for women or gender equality. With time, however, her perspective changed and she became a fierce advocate. In her final major speech to the Western Australian parliament she expressed her own surprise at having become a champion of the feminist cause. That change, she said, was a result of witnessing firsthand the gender gap that still existed between men and women in both politics and in the workforce. I would like to lay upon the record in this place the words she used to describe the challenge of gender quality in Western Australia during that final speech:

When I was elected to this place in 2001, I did not know that seven years down the track I would be standing here taking a feminist point of view and arguing about gender issues. As you are aware, Madam Deputy Speaker, I attended university. At that time more women than men were enrolled in the commerce degree that I commenced than in my arts and law degrees. I thought that was how things were, that people would be judged on their merits and that we were all equal. However, the longer I spend in my professional and working life, the more I realise that this is, sadly, not the case. I fear that Western Australia is further behind the eight ball than are other jurisdictions around the world. It is already on the record that I joined the Australian Labor Party because I believed it had a better approach to equality and equal opportunity than the other major party. Now is the time for the Labor Party and the Labor government to take a leadership role on an issue that is clearly unresolved.

More than four years after Jaye spoke those words they continue to ring true in this place and in parliaments around the nation. In May 2006 Jaye delivered a grievance in the WA parliament specifically highlighting her concerns with the gender pay gap in this country, particularly in Western Australia. She reminded the parliament that pay and equity are not merely a matter of economic inconvenience; Jaye argued it is a fundamental breach of fairness and justice in our society—and she is entirely right. She urged the state government to address this problem directly, calling for an end to inquiries, reviews and commissions. The problem, she said, is not a lack of information about the problem but a lack of political will to implement the solution. In that way, Jaye was never shy about speaking the truth, even when it meant taking the issue up to her own government. I know that she was very proud of the progress we have made on this issue at a federal level. While there will always be others to take up the cause, I will mourn the loss of Jaye's formidable intellect and courage.

More than anything else, however, Jaye was a loyal servant for her electorate. She was a tireless advocate for better public education, health care and environmental protection in Perth's north-eastern suburbs. The list of local projects that Jaye delivered in just to terms with stun even the most experienced members of parliament. During her tenure she oversaw the redevelopment of several schools in the electorate of Swan Hills, including Bullsbrook District High School, Eastern Hills Senior High School and Darlington Primary School. She fought for and delivered two much-needed new schools to the rapidly growing suburb of Ellenbrook—Ellen Stirling Primary School and Ellenbrook Secondary College.

But even these major investments in education barely scratch the surface of her legacy. She petitioned the government for the reinstatement of the 24-hour emergency ward at Swan District Hospital—and succeeded. Also, knowing that safety was a key concern in her rapidly growing electorate, Jaye delivered vital infrastructure that meant her constituents would be safe in their homes and on the roads. She championed a new police station at Ellenbrook, oversaw the duplication of Middle Swan Road and delivered passing lanes on Toodyay Road. Finally, she stood up for the precious environment in the Perth Hills. She was a firm believer that local communities understand their interests the best, so she organised visits with community groups to logging sites in her electorate. Her achievements and dedication demonstrate just how passionately Jaye fought to ensure that families in her outer metropolitan electorate were not disadvantaged compared to their inner city counterparts. As a member for the east metropolitan region myself, it was an honour to work with her on many of these important local issues.

Jaye retired from the WA parliament in 2008; however, the legacy of her service does not end there. She went on to become the Chief Executive Officer of the Council of Small Business Organisations of Australia, COSBOA, a position in which she forged strong ties between government and business during the height of the global financial crisis. In their vale for Jaye, the Council of Small Business Organisations honoured her in much the same way that I have. They paid tribute to a woman who was 'a passionate and talented advocate for the small business community'. While this vale cannot even begin to sketch out the extraordinary achievements that Jaye had in her life, I hope it goes some way to communicating the respect and admiration that people had for her in the community, public and private sectors.

Jaye was public about her cancer—as a busy public figure it was not something she could hide. I also know that, though this was difficult, she knew it was a story worth sharing with others. It was worth sharing so that people would understand the importance of organ donation and access to good treatment and as a symbol of courage and inspiration to others. She went in search of new treatment in China. She kept a blog titled My search for a miracle cancer cure in China. I cannot even begin to contemplate how difficult this was, but she did it because she wanted to share her experiences with others so they could learn and benefit from her own journey. It is an inspiring read and an illustration of Jaye's pure courage in the face of adversity.

Jaye's death is a reminder to me of what it really means for our health system to be able to intervene and save people, to treat cancer and other diseases and to give people a second chance at life. She died on the same day as Margaret Whitlam and I am struck by the fact that two wonderful Labor women left us on the same day. I raise this because I cannot help but mention the unjustness of the fact that Jaye left us after just 35 years. She deserved 90.

I hope it is of some solace to those she leaves behind who loved her that she packed as much as she did into her 35 years. It is unthinkable to me that someone who always had so much vitality even while so incredibly unwell could be gone from us so soon. We have lost a great Labor champion. A courageous woman has been lost from the world far too soon—a true and tireless champion for the needs of others.

I know Jaye's family is incredibly proud of her and all she achieved in her short life. It is little solace to them when she had so much more still to give. Jaye has been much loved by many and, at this difficult time, my thoughts are with her parents, grandparents, family and friends and her partner, Brad. Jaye loved them all fiercely and I know they loved her. My heartfelt condolences are with you all.

Vale, Jaye. Your light has gone, but the light on the hill burns brighter because of you.