Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2009 Week 10 Hansard (Tuesday, 25 August 2009) . . Page.. 3530 ..
I would like to extend condolences to all of Barbara’s family and friends and to her partner, Harold Logue.
MR HARGREAVES (Brindabella—Minister for Disability and Housing, Minister for Ageing, Minister for Multicultural Affairs, Minister for Industrial Relations and Minister for Corrections) (10.24): My colleagues have listed many of the wonderful things that Barbara Byrne has contributed to the community over the years. But it is rather remarkable—particularly for those of us in public life; we tend to know quite a number of people, quite a number of community leaders—that it is only when you go to celebrate someone’s life that you find out the full extent of what people have contributed to their community.
For example, I knew passingly that Barbara had a connection with Volunteering ACT, but I had no idea of the extent of that connection with Volunteering ACT, nor did I know that she was awarded life membership of that organisation. And I was really pleased that a couple of days before she passed away she was awarded life membership by the national executive for her service to the Labor Party.
I would like to relate a couple of stories about Barbara Byrne. She was an enigmatic lady. It has been said many times that Barbara Byrne did not suffer fools gladly. She did not even suffer intelligent people gladly. If you happened to disagree with Barbara, it was a good idea to do it by email or letter; doing it by telephone or directly was a very bad experience. But she had a wicked sense of humour. She would quite happily pick up the phone—this was related at the celebration of Barbara’s life—and ring me and say: “You’ve been in the news a bit too much lately, Johnno. What’s going on?” Prior to that, the only person ever to speak to me in such a tone was my own mother, who had a remarkable similarity in the brusqueness that Barbara Byrne had.
As we all know, as people who knew her, Barbara Byrne had a very gravelly voice. It was a unique voice. You could hear it in the room. She was one of those people who could walk into a room and instantly command attention. That is something that she shared with my mother. But she also had the class, the carriage—and this is something that she shares with our good friend Annette Ellis. She had a carriage and a bearing. I have described both of these lovely ladies as going into a room like battleships in full sail. That is exactly what they did.
And I can attest to conversations with Barbara Byrne around doing things for people who needed them, people who were a little bit less well off. I would like to relate two stories. I acknowledge in the gallery one of my colleagues, Jim Mallet, who served on the Labor club board with Barbara Byrne. Of the two things, this is the smaller one in a way. We were approached by the family of a child who required a wheelchair. The family just could not afford it, full stop. They were too busy trying to do modifications for their home and getting their other kids to school. I thought that maybe the Labor club could help. I asked Jim Mallet to talk to the club. He talked to the sponsorship committee, and the Labor club came up with the money to get a wheelchair for this little girl to enable her to go to mainstream schooling. There was no fuss about that; there was no publicity about that. It was just the way that things happened. Barbara Byrne was the president of the club at the time.