Published: 08 November 2017

Legislative Council Wednesday 18 October 2017

Response to resignation from the Legislative Council of Honourable Vanessa Goodwin 

Ms  FORREST (Murchison ) - Mr President, I appreciate the Leader of the Government bringing forward this motion to acknowledge Vanessa's contribution to this House and her resignation.

It is sad when people of such capacity and huge potential, through no fault of their own, are required to step away from a job they love, and also a job Vanessa was very good at. 

She came to this place with a huge range of credentials that brought great value to this House.  Her background in law and her experience in that area, the fact that she went on with further study and did a PhD in criminology gave her an incredible insight into the issues she would then take up as minister.  It is always valuable to have someone with that diverse background in this place, but I think a background in law is particularly helpful when you are actually making laws, and she certainly had a good understanding of the process, as well as the law itself.  I found Vanessa to be quite a private person in many respects.  She kept her work life and her private life very separate, and I respect and honour that because it is important.  For her own wellbeing, that was very important.

I meant to bring this with me, but unfortunately I left it in my office in Wynyard:  members will probably remember that around 12 months ago, TasWeekend - the insert in the Saturday Mercury - had a whole spread on Vanessa.  There are some lovely photos of her in it and I read the article with great interest, because I actually learned quite a bit about her because she was a private person.  She kept a lot of her private life to herself, which is everyone's right to do, and something I prefer myself. 

Ms Rattray - Is that the one where she was walking on the beach?

Ms FORREST - No, the front one was the one where she was standing in a hallway; I think it was when she was looking at the prison system.  This was some time ago, well before those photos were done.  It was a very insightful and well-written article, but even in that Vanessa only revealed what she wanted others to know, which is fine, appreciated and respected.  She certainly has made a significant contribution to law reform in this state and in many other areas.  I wondered at times whether she was perhaps not fully supportive of some of the law reforms she was being asked to bring forward; it must have been challenging if that was the case.  Anyway, she did the job and did it very well.

Other members have mentioned pieces of law reform she has been very involved in.  I would like to mention the expungement legislation.  She drove that; it was her vision to get it done and a very difficult piece of legislation for a conservative member of parliament to bring forward.  I commend her for that.  I did so at the time and I commend her again now for being willing to take that on and see it through to the point where she could then hand it over, as unfortunately she was required to.

I also have a family connection with Vanessa.  Her mother, as we all know, was Edyth Langham.  The Langhams are from Ryanna where I grew up, and my dad's sister married a Langham.  The Leader of the Government knows the family well - they are actually in her electorate, not mine.  My family were in that area and I grew up there.  Tasmania is a small place - even the member for Elwick and I have family connections up on the coast.  When she was elected, I thought 'Oh, a relative' - through marriage, but still family.  A family connection.

One thing in particular I remember about Vanessa - and it was always raised when media commented on her performance - was how well prepared and researched for debates she was, both in opposition and in government.  Whether you love or hate them, the Mercury runs annual reviews of members of the upper and the lower Houses.  My point here is the comments made about Vanessa were entirely accurate.  They talked about how hard she worked, how well prepared she was and how she was doing a fantastic job.  I said love or hate those stories, but the media knew what Vanessa was like.  They knew and they reported that, and it was a validation of how good she was.

She was regarded highly.  They used a range of different stakeholders to make an assessment of her - people from across the board, from the public, private, not-for-profit sectors - and she was regarded highly in all those areas.  Now you do not have to believe that, but it is a true reflection of how Vanessa was seen in the community.  She was and is respected.  She will continue to be respected as she fights this very challenging fight.  I know her illness has been a huge shock to all of us and I imagine it was a particularly big shock to her family and others who know her very well.  A few of us went out for dinner after the end of a sitting week on a Thursday night only a matter of days before the diagnosis was made.  It was a real shock.  She always appeared really fit and healthy, and essentially she was really fit and healthy.  She lived a healthy lifestyle.  Other members have talked about her bike riding prowess.  She also had the odd altercation with the road.  One Christmas secret Santa saw fit to give her a bubble wrap suit to protect herself - I do not know if members who were here at the time remember.  I am not sure how often she wore it, it would not have been all that comfortable.

She had a healthy approach to life and to her job.  To maintain that healthy lifestyle was a real balance, as other members have spoken about her workload, particularly when she was in government, when she was leader of the House, Attorney-General, minister for Justice, minister for Corrections and minister for the Arts.  It was a huge workload.  The Leader here knows how heavy the workload is just being the Leader and trying to get everything through this House.  It was a huge workload.  I am sure there were times when she was very tired, but she did not display that by being irritable or losing her cool with anybody.  Her staff attest to that.

I also really admire her passion for the arts which is so important in our community.  We would see Vanessa at so many arts events around various parts of the state.  Most of us do not go to arts events in our own electorates, because we are in different parts of the state for different reasons.  You would see Vanessa at a lot of events, supporting and ensuring there was investment into the arts, and the health and wellbeing benefits that brings.

I did not speak the last time because I wanted to think more about what I wanted to say about Vanessa's contribution.  I accept she is facing a very challenging battle.  I hope with all my heart the treatments she is able to access work.  It is not easy because the treatments that work in treating such serious illness always have side effects.  She will have her ups and downs.  It was a wise and brave decision of her to step right away from public life.  It would have been a very difficult decision to make, to step away and focus entirely on getting well.  We hope that can be the outcome.  One day she may be in a position where she can recontest her seat.  It may not be here, it may be in another place.  It could be this Parliament, it could be another parliament.

Ultimately, if she is able to do that again, she will make another significant contribution to the public wellbeing through her activities and commitment to good governance and public policy.  Thank you, Vanessa, for the contribution you made to this place when you were here, to the people of Pembroke and to the people of Tasmania.  The laws we make here are for all the people of Tasmania.  I wish you well in the time you are facing this illness, and you can overcome it.

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