Page 2100 - Week 07 - Tuesday, 2 August 2022
MS BERRY (Ginninderra—Deputy Chief Minister, Minister for Early Childhood Development, Minister for Education and Youth Affairs, Minister for Housing and Suburban Development, Minister for the Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence, Minister for Sport and Recreation and Minister for Women) (10.44): I just want to speak briefly today on the passing of Helen Cross. I think we have all talked about how she was described—and particularly by Bill Stefaniak, who said that Helen was a larger than life character. She absolutely was.
She was never afraid to speak her mind and wore her heart on her sleeve, and anybody who knew her experienced that—sometimes not with great pleasure—but certainly she made it clear where she stood. Whilst I did not know Helen well, I did know her. It was actually a very long time before I was elected into this place that I first met Helen, after she had left, after she had finished up with the Canberra Liberals and was an independent, working on the non-smoking ban in public places.
At the time, I was working for the United Voice union and representing hospitality workers in conversations that she had with the community about the changes that she wanted to make. For somebody like her, who wanted to make this change, she was incredibly empathetic to the situation that hospitality workers were in, both working in an environment where they were exposed to passive smoke every day and with a change to their workplaces, as a result of this legislation, meaning that they could lose their jobs.
I think she was an incredibly amazing woman and I was really pleased to be able to work with her in that space. I was not in the Assembly at the time, but I think that the changes that she made in that work we can all be absolutely grateful for. The world did not end, as was predicted at the time. In fact, it is much better, and we are all breathing, excuse the pun, more easily, as a result of her work in that space.
Her work in the discrimination space, particularly around women, as Ms Lee has referred to, as well as her work with Bernie Bryant on asbestos reforms, was achieved by Helen as an independent, after she had left the Canberra Liberals. This was quite extraordinary, given the time that she was in this place and what she achieved. She was well ahead of the game with both of those actions.
Her brave stance on abortion law reform and decriminalising abortion in the ACT was historic and momentous at the time. She had made a promise to supporters and activists, quietly and carefully, because she knew that she would have to pay the price when she crossed the floor, and she did. She delivered on her promise, but it did cost her dearly and we saw her move into independence. As an independent member she achieved so much in this place.
I know that the last few years have been very difficult for Helen and her family, particularly with David becoming even more unwell. I and the health minister, Rachel Stephen-Smith, spent a lot of time trying to support Helen and David during that difficult time. Helen was incredibly upset, of course, when David passed away. It was a very sad and difficult time for her. I do just want to say that, even through all of that difficult time, she wanted to become a member of the Assembly again. She ran as an independent candidate, and she was tireless and she continued to dig deep, as she