Legislative Council Wednesday 13 June 2018
Ms FORREST ( Murchison ) - Mr President, we have spoken a couple of times already about the honourable Dr Vanessa Goodwin in this place. It is a tragic story. I will call her Vanessa from hereon. She was quite an incredible woman, who was a trailblazer in many respects. She often went about her business in a very quiet way and achieved much more in her work than many of us would know, particularly in the reform of the prison services and the work she did with the Mary Hutchinson Women's Prison. It is great to see that being progressed. Unfortunately, as other members have noted, she is not here to see it.
I think it is true to say that we were all absolutely shocked when we first received the news about Vanessa's illness, particularly as a small group of us had been out for dinner with her on a Thursday night after a sitting week only a bit over a week or 10 days beforehand where, for all intents and purposes, she seemed perfectly healthy. Unfortunately, we cannot always know what is going on inside of our bodies. When she received the diagnosis of brain cancer, which turned out to be a very aggressive cancer, we watched almost with disbelief the impact it had on her and the decline that was so rapid. Unfortunately, this is the nature of some of the brain cancers.
Mr President, I do not want to repeat what other members have talked about particularly. Saturday's The Mercury has an insert called 'TasWeekend'; I have kept the one from 26 September 2015 which had a beautiful photo of Vanessa on the cover. I am not sure why I kept it, but I thought one day this would be helpful. She looks so beautiful and, well, it is hard to believe she is no longer with us. In here, the headline reads 'Crime fighter - Vanessa Goodwin lays down the law'. I remember reading it at the time, thinking it was an interesting story - 'Good on her, she is making some serious inroads into the thing she believes in - restorative justice and other ways of dealing with people who break the law'. The heading inside the cover story is 'Hard Cell'. I want to read a couple of sections of the article because I think it says a bit more about Vanessa and her background, why perhaps she had such a passion for what she did and why it is such a loss to Tasmania and the people who find themselves on the wrong side of the law in this state. The headline starts with -
Vanessa Goodwin has long since been fascinated by Tasmania's dark past. Now the state's Attorney-General wants to cut crime rates by putting her research into criminal behaviour into action.
I will not read all of it but I want to read a couple of sections here.
Before entering the Tasmanian Parliament in 2009, Goodwin was a criminologist with Tasmania Police, researching and developing crime prevention tactics. She studied law at the University of Tasmania before securing a role as associate to then Chief Justice Guy Green. She was later accepted into the University of Cambridge and set off soon after the 1996 Port Arthur massacre, dedicating her masters thesis to the study of mass murders.
This is an unlikely topic if you know Vanessa, and the article comments on that further on -
She returned to Tasmania where, as a softly spoken PhD candidate, she interviewed more than 50 maximum-security inmates at Risdon Prison about their burglary habits. Goodwin's regular visits to Risdon in 2001 and 2002 taught her more about the causes of crime than she could ever have hoped to achieve through desktop research. The male prisoners' candid tales became the foundation for Goodwin's much-cited research into Tasmanian crime families.
In 2008 her report on intergenerational crime revealed an entrenched culture of welfare dependency, alcohol abuse, domestic violence and child neglect within the families of some of the state's most hardened criminals. Corrections ministers generally want to 'break the cycle' of crime, but never before has Tasmania had someone in Goodwin's position who has examined at such close range the link between parents' offending and their children's potential future criminality.
She did a very important body of work and was then able to apply that in her role. She would have continued had she only had the opportunity. During an interview at her home on Hobart's eastern shore, Goodwin told 'TasWeekend' that her parliamentary ambition had always been to act on her research and implement her recommendations -
'The opportunity to influence policy is what I've been working to do all along,' she says. It remains to be seen if she can convince her Cabinet colleagues to commit the generous funds needed to generally rehabilitate offenders and reduce the likelihood of their children entering into a life of crime.
I hope her parliamentary colleagues do not lose her passion in resourcing the work she had underway and that they do continue it. She was doing some great things. A little bit further on the article says -
Goodwin toyed for a while with the idea of joining the police force, but an officer talked her out of it, suggesting she instead pursue her interest in crime prevention in an academic capacity.
Wise advice -
Sixty prisoners, including nine from the minimum security Hayes prison farm, volunteered to be interviewed by Goodwin for her PhD thesis on repeat burglary victimisation. She was working for Tasmania Police at the time and wanted to learn why some households and businesses were targeted more than once.
She spent most of her visiting time over the year with 49 burglars classified as 'experienced', as they had committed at least 10 break-ins. Goodwin was amazed, not only by the prisoners' willingness to share their trade secrets, but also their often-tragic life stories. 'They were incredibly frank,' Goodwin says. 'It was the best insight you could possibly get in terms of trying to understand what would get them to the point where they were in prison and had been committing crimes.
'I tried to delve into what was motivating them, why they were there. It was a fascinating insight. Sometimes they'd disclose some pretty traumatic things … and I got the sense it was a bit therapeutic to be talking about it. I was limited in what I could do and sometimes came away from it feeling a bit overwhelmed. Perhaps if they had told someone earlier they wouldn't have ended up where they were, down a terrible pathway they deeply regret. There were times I felt quite sad the help hadn't been made available early on.'
Vanessa was really identifying that need for early intervention to keep people out of prison and putting in place those other measures. You think about some of the harrowing stories she would have heard. It must affect you. People, after any sort of traumatic event, which interviewing some of these people would have been, need counselling. I hope she looked after herself in that regard. There is another beautiful photo of her with her mum in this article, as well as a photo of her in her own home with her dog. The article is worth revisiting.
Mr President, this is another small section of the article I will quote -
One of her mother's chief complaints over the years about the political party she loves so dearly has been the relative lack of female candidates. 'It's getting better', Goodwin says. 'When I was elected there was only one woman in the PLP, Parliamentary Liberal Party, Sue Napier, so I made two.'
Two amazing women both passed away from cancer. What an absolute tragedy. She went on to say -
Now we've got quite a few female MPs in the PLP but there's always room for more to even that up.'
The challenge is there for the Liberal Party to fix it. They are doing okay in this House. She pointed that out. Sue Napier was a trail blazer. Unfortunately she passed away from breast cancer.
The closing comment in this article says -
Goodwin says every politician 'wants to leave a legacy' and her main reason for being in Parliament is to cut crime by addressing its causes. And she knows more than most how to achieve such a feat. But as Mundy says, it all depends 'how loud her voice is' at the Cabinet table.
What a tragedy to lose that voice from the Cabinet table. I am sure the Leader of Government Business in the Legislative Council and her colleagues recognise that.
It gives an insight into what drove Vanessa and highlights what a loss it was for the state and the Liberal Party as a fierce fighter for justice. If anyone wants to look at this before I hand it to Hansard, feel free. But I will hand it to Hansard for their benefit. It is sad, and I acknowledge the terrible sense of loss her family must feel to lose such a loved one so young and with such potential. We can only extend them our best wishes and hope time and their beautiful memories of Vanessa will sustain them.