Page 30 - Week 01 - Tuesday, 27 November 2012

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Both Nonna Nicolina and Grandma Issy were able to have very full lives as mothers precisely because they were supported by their very committed and hardworking husbands, who asked little for themselves and went to work every day to support their families. My grandmothers, two very different women, taught me the value of marriage and the very great value to a woman of a committed and supportive husband.

My mother raised five children with the loving support of my father and has worked as a teacher and the director of a tertiary English language centre. She taught me that a traditional family and a career can work very well hand in hand for those who want it. My mother imbued in me an understanding that life was not going to be easy but that achievement of a great deal is possible with hard work and perseverance. I stand here today because of the legacy of the strong women of my family.

Now, Madam Speaker, being a Tasmanian-born woman with political interests, it was perhaps inevitable that I would find inspiration in Dame Enid Lyons, the first woman ever elected to the House of Representatives in 1943. Enid Burnell was born in a remote logging community in the north-west of Tasmania. Her mother was widowed at an early age and ensured, by hook or by crook, that Enid received a good education. Marrying Joseph Lyons as a teenage bride, she supported him through his remarkable political career, including his anguished decision to follow his conscience out of the Labor Party during the split of 1931. He became Prime Minister the following year, dying in office just prior to the outbreak of war.

It was perhaps fitting that Dame Enid was breaking new ground as an Australian woman during this war which saw so many changes for Australian women, both socially and professionally. During these years of great change, Dame Enid provided inspiration to a new generation of women, and she did so as a conservative woman and later a founding member of the Liberal Party of Australia.

Dame Enid remains a beacon for conservative women, not only because she cut a new furrow for women but because her mother, her husband and the men and women of the United Australia Party and her electorate saw in her talent, passion and integrity. She benefited from genuine grassroots networks and support, not a top-down bureaucratic initiative to get women and men on a fifty-fifty footing in the parliament.

I came from a hardworking family and I grew up as a co-carer for my grandmother. I got my first official job at Kmart when I was 15. This led to my working for the SDA from a young age, both as an organiser and a national office employee. The most valuable lesson I learnt from this organisation was the impact of legislation on the lives of some of the most marginal people in our society and how important the strength of the family unit is to the health of the society.

Ultimately, I chose to join the Liberal Party, my beloved party of freedom and of conscience. I was very blessed to work on the election campaign of a hardworking small businessman in the Northern Territory. He taught me about life on the other side of the fence, trying to make a business run and the huge personal toll on his family of the essential service he provided to the community in supplying it with petrol. I learnt

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