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Condolence Motion - Mary Willey

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Wednesday, 2 March 2022

Tags: Condolence, Parliament

Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Mr Speaker, on behalf of the Greens, the absent Dr Woodruff and I, I want to acknowledge the life and work of Mary Willey. It is true to say that Mary Willey was one of a kind. Would it not be great if there more of a kind of the type of character of the late Mary Willey?

She was passionate, articulate, values-driven and courageous. This is a Labor member who in 1981 was so moved by the beauty and the wildness of the Franklin River that she was prepared to cross the floor in parliament. We do not see that sort of courage from the major parties or its MPs these days. As journalist Wayne Crawford had acknowledged, she made an indelible mark on Tasmanian politics. At the time her crossing of the floor was a significant moment in Tasmania's history and in ultimately preventing the Franklin Dam from being built.

Mary Willey understood the need to look after people and to look after nature. It is in part due to Mary Willey's courage that the Franklin River runs wild and free to this day. I want to read from her friend and mine, Dr Bob Brown's, statement on Mary Willey's passing at the age of 80. Dr Brown said:

Mary did not want statements about her career, but the public will want to know of her passing.

In 1981 Mary Willey, elected Labor member for Bass in 1979, crossed the Floor of the House of Assembly to oppose the new Labor Premier Harry Holgate's reversal of opposition to the Hydro-Electric Commission proposal to dam the Franklin River.

Avidly in favour of saving the Franklin River, she left the ALP to sit on the crossbench as an Independent. The move came after ex Premier Doug Lowe, supplanted by Holgate, had crossed the Floor to become an Independent.

It left Premier Holgate's government close to collapse. In the subsequent election in 1982, Liberal Premier Robin Gray was elected on a pro dam platform.

I just digress again to say thankfully, as we know, Gray was ultimately defeated, and the Franklin River runs wild and free to this day.

Dr Brown continues:

Ms Willey, famously wearing red framed glasses, went on to a prominent role in Tasmanian public affairs as a journalist, commentator, and then adviser to the emerging Greens in state politics.

After a period living at Ellendale in the Derwent Valley, she moved to Melbourne to be nearer to her family.

In public life, she was courageous, colourful, and a true friend to Tasmania's wild and scenic environment. Mary was a pivotal figure in saving the Franklin River.

Dr Brown said another friend quipped that 'Mary has crossed the floor for the last time'.

I want to close with a poem that Bob sent to us that Mary Willey wrote many, many years ago, he says. She wrote:

Carry me into the forest now

And lay me there

To rest beside the river

And under the shadow of the trees

Where flowers will nod over me

And birds will sing

And the river will flow

And with tears and laughter

Go back into the city

And rejoice on this day

For I will still be with you

Vale, the great and colourful and courageous Mary Willey, and our deepest condolences to her son David and her family on the loss of a great character.