Condolence Motion - Hon Jennifer Cashmore AM

27 June, 2024

The Hon. J.S. LEE (Deputy Leader of the Opposition) (16:01): I rise today with great sadness to join other Honourable Members to speak on a condolence motion for the Hon. Jennifer Cashmore AM.

I wish to convey my deepest condolences to Her Excellency the Governor of South Australia, family members, friends and all those who knew and loved Jennifer. I would like to take this opportunity today to pay tribute to the Hon. Jennifer Cashmore, who was a trailblazer of our state and our country.

Throughout her distinguished career, she made an incredible impact on public policies that shaped the social and economic development of our state. Some Honourable Members may recall during our debate in this Chamber on the motion on the South Australian Museum I mentioned that the Hon. Jennifer Cashmore attended the rally on the steps of Parliament House and opposed the funding cuts and the proposed restructure of the South Australian Museum.

When the Hon. John Gardner acknowledged her presence at the rally during his speech, Jennifer's attendance was applauded loudly by nearly 1,000 South Australians at the rally, welcoming her back to Parliament House for the first time in more than a decade. I remember that day vividly. The Hon. John Gardner knew I was attending the Museum rally and rang me in the morning to inform me that Jennifer would be at the rally in her wheelchair. John asked whether I would be happy to accompany Jennifer during the duration of the rally. I said, 'Of course. It would be my pleasure.'

On the day, I approached Jennifer and said hello and reintroduced myself. She said to me, with her gorgeous signature smile, 'Yes, Jing, I know who you are. We have met. I believe this is the third time we have met. Great to see you again.' I was astounded and amazed at how good her memory was. It was incredibly inspiring to see her strong stand for the South Australian Museum as it was something so important to her and so close to her heart.

It was a coolish day that morning. I noticed that she was getting a bit cold so my husband, Eddie, and I, along with the Hon. Di Laidlaw, formed a human fortress to shield her from the cold wind. While Jennifer looked frail but in good spirits that morning, I never thought that our meeting at the rally would be the last time we would meet.

We were all saddened by the news of the passing of Jennifer on 10 June 2024. It was a terribly sad day for the Liberal Party of South Australia. Not long after the announcement came through about the passing of former Premier Steele Hall, we learnt other sad news about Jennifer's passing through a phone message before the media had published the news.

I did not actually believe that we lost two remarkable Liberal Party giants on the same day, so I went onto the Governor's Facebook page just to be 100 per cent sure. When I read the beautiful tribute by Her Excellency the Governor on her page about her beloved mother, it confirmed Jennifer's sad departure from this world.

I became quite emotional when I heard the news, as I reflected on my own personal loss of my beautiful mama some years ago. Losing someone as significant as my mother was a time of deep sorrow for me. No-one in the world can replace the unique bond and love of a mother. My thoughts and prayers are for family members who are currently mourning the deep loss of their beloved mother.

I quote from a statement published on social media on the Governor's Facebook page:

“In paying tribute to her late mother, the Governor said she was a remarkable woman and a courageous trailblazer in many areas, including environmental protection, and in drawing attention to the failure of the State Bank of South Australia.”

The Hon. Jennifer Cashmore was a lifelong campaigner for women's equality. Through her compassion and dedication to public service she instilled in her three children a strong sense of service and community commitment.

Jennifer Cashmore is survived by her three children: the Hon. Frances Adamson AC, Governor of South Australia; Justice Christine Adamson, Judge of Appeal of the New South Wales Supreme Court; and Reverend Stuart Adamson, Associate Dean of Chaplaincy and Spiritual Care at Morling College in Sydney.

The incredible accomplishments and leadership of her three children demonstrate the profound influence and impact she had in their lives and chosen careers. Jennifer was well loved and respected, and she demonstrated that she was a strong and capable political leader and community advocate and, at the same time, a loving and caring mother who provided the best opportunities for her children.

The Hon. Jennifer Cashmore was born in 1937, educated in Adelaide and elected as the Member for Coles, now Morialta, in 1977. She became the third woman to be elected to the House of Assembly in South Australia's history. She served her community as a local MP for 16 years until her retirement in 1993.

During her time in Parliament, Jennifer became the second female member to sit around the cabinet table, from 1979 to 1982. She served as Minister for Health and Minister for Tourism during the Tonkin Liberal Government. Between 1982 and 1989 she held several shadow portfolios, including environment and planning, the arts and the economy.

Jennifer Cashmore was a pioneer of women's progress in public life in South Australia. She broke through barriers and took active steps to support those who followed her.

In 1991, Jennifer published a book called A Chance in Life. The title of the book was inspired by a quote from Robert Menzies in 1972 in which he said, 'The State owes every responsible citizen not only a chance in life but a self-respecting life.'

I want to take this opportunity to use two examples that Jennifer described in her book, A Chance in Life, in regard to women's voices. She spoke about speaking simply, clearly and being polite. She also spoke about the lesson of trying to see the other person's point of view.

I quote:

“Remembering that in public life, the other person is nearly always a man, we must also remember that men are not the enemy.

They are our fathers, our brothers, our lovers, our husbands, our friends, and our colleagues, or our customers or voters, whatever the case may be. If we put ourselves in the position of those men who are close to us to see things through their eyes, very often we will take a different approach.”

She went on to provide two examples, and I thought Honourable Members might enjoy knowing these stories that characterised the clarity of mind, intellect and strength of Jennifer as a political leader.

In her words, and I quote:

“I recall in a vigorous party room discussion on childcare policy there was a reluctance to adopt the position which I thought was the correct one. Totally frustrated with my colleagues' inability to see the need for flexible accessible childcare, I just burst out: 'Don't you realise that if we simply provide childcare but fail to reorganise society so the interests of children are paramount, a whole generation of people, myself included, may never have grandchildren. We'll never have the pleasure of being grandparents, because our daughters and daughters-in-law will simply find it too hard to have both a career and a family. We will end up the losers.'

To my amazement, one of the toughest minded of my colleagues whom I would have expected to be the last person to advocate increased childcare, said, 'Jennifer's right. I don't think I am ever going to be a grandfather. My daughter is almost past childbearing age and she is absolutely committed to her career.' This personal perspective gave him a totally different insight from his political perspective.

Another story I would like to share, which was also quoted in the book:

“Recently I was asked to give a talk to a class of 11 year-old schoolboys on the achievements of South Australian women over the last 150-odd years. Instinct told me that the boys really wouldn't be interested. Somehow I had to make it interesting. I asked which of them had sisters and I asked them to envisage the time before the Married Women's Property Act came into being. How would they have felt had their parents left property to their sister and if their sister, upon marrying, no longer owned that property because the law said it belonged to her husband? They didn't like the thought of that at all.

Then I asked how they would feel if I told half of them they had a vote, they could make the laws, they could earn money and they could decide how the country would be run. The other half would be made to stay at home and do the dishes. They would not have a right to education, to earn an income or to own property. They were outraged at the prospect that anyone could do that to them. But when I explained this had been done to women for centuries, it gave them new understanding.”

That is proof of Jennifer's character and who she was. Jennifer also led reform work in South Australia's palliative care laws, which many Honourable Members have mentioned already. End-of-life law reform of this era in South Australia was world-leading and is directly attributable to Jennifer Cashmore's work.

In her book A Chance in Life she actually devoted a whole chapter to death and dying, and for someone from a multicultural background I think some of the things that she thought about were really significant.

I would like to quote from that:

“First, we should understand that the essential issues that need to be resolved are not medical, but ethical. We need to find ways of expressing our human and spiritual values in the decisions that are made about medical treatment of the dying.

Doctors and nurses should not be left to make these decisions on their own. The community, through Parliament, must establish the legal framework and provide the resources so that community values, the law and clinical practice are in tune.

The needs and values of patients and their families should be paramount. Their wishes need to be understood and respected as far as humanly possible. We must understand that while we recognise this as important for the living, it is equally important for the dying. This is particularly so in Australia were many people come from cultures different from those of the health professionals who care for them at the end of their lives.”

It shows a lot of the empathy and sympathy that Jennifer showed in her work. She continued to do great philanthropic work during her time in Parliament, and also in public service. She was, as many Honourable Members have already mentioned, awarded a Member of the Order of Australia during the Governor-General's Australia Day Awards in 1998.

Jennifer was a trailblazer and an inspiring role model for me and, I am sure, for so many. Some people may have wished to know what she thought her role as a politician was, and to honour her legacy and memory I would like to quote her own words.

She said this:

“As a Member of Parliament, I believe it is my responsibility to try, as often as possible, to say what other people are thinking but perhaps not expressing, so that those I represent feel they have a voice. Another obligation—more difficult by far to fulfil—is actually to make people think. We need to see ourselves not only as individuals but as a very important part of society.

When we do that, we are forced to think about the relationship between thought and action, action and reaction. We are forced to think not just about our own lives but about the lives of others we depend on and who depend on us—our families, our employers, our colleagues, our country. In other words, we are forced to think politically. The more people can think politically, the more power they have to influence their future in ways of their own choosing.”

These are the words of wisdom and high standards that I believe all Honourable Members aspire to, and are doing.

Jennifer Cashmore will remain in our hearts and minds as a remarkable human being, a trailblazer in South Australian politics and a dignified woman with a strong voice who spoke clearly and politely, someone with a strong conviction to get things done. We will miss her.

We thank you sincerely, the Hon. Jennifer Cashmore, for your incredible contributions to South Australia and to our country.