Senator MOORE (Queensland) (8.14pm)
I am almost speechless from that last contribution, but I will struggle on. A few weeks ago a good friend of mine came to visit me in my office. His name is-I emphasise 'is'-John McCulloch. He came to make sure that I would not be upset when I found out that he was unwell.
Three weeks later we lost John to pancreatic cancer, but the effort that he made to come and talk to his friends and make sure they were not upset is truly reflective of a great man. At his funeral service, which was so recent-unfortunately we were sitting, so I was not able to be there-it was said that John was a 'friend to many'. In fact, one of his close friends called him the Tai Chi master because he was gentle and subtle, he believed and he was strong. John was born in October 1938, so he had just made his 72nd birthday, and he celebrated the fact that he had managed to reach that milestone. He shared a good joke with a good friend of his and mine, Joan Kirner, and they laughed that they were very much the same age. It seems that that laughter continues, because you just know he is still around. The Premier, Anna Bligh, spoke about John in the Queensland parliament and talked about his history. She said that John was born in London in 1938 and moved to Australia with his parents when he was just 12 years old. He worked as a shop assistant at an old Brisbane firm called Bayards. He worked and managed to complete his senior at night school.
John was a special researcher who had a particular passion about history. He completed his own education while working, which shows the strength of the man, and then went on to work at the history department of the University of Queensland and encourage so many other people with his great love of ancient history, including a young student in the seventies-that was me-who went along and shared with him his knowledge of and passion for history, particularly that of women.
I say about my friend John McCulloch that he is the only man who I think could deserve the term 'feminist', because his passion, knowledge and desire to achieve equity were unsurpassed. John's historical knowledge and skill in this area led him to work in the Parliamentary Library at the Queensland parliament. That is where Ms Bligh and many other parliamentarians got to know his passion and love for knowledge and particularly the history of parliament.
One of John's major passions was the history of women and the vote, and in 1994-95, when we were leading up to the centenary of the vote for women in Queensland, he did a series of 'Women in politics' discussions and discussion papers. Out of that came a display in the Queensland parliament that looked at all the women who had been elected to the Queensland parliament. That work in 1995 then led to a wonderful achievement which I want to talk about, which was the publication of a two-volume book in 2000. One of the two volumes that he brought forward was called The Suffragists, which was a story of the history of the right to vote in Queensland; the second was The Legislators. In her foreword to these books the then Governor of Queensland, Quentin Bryce, said:
This scholarly book is a welcome and timely contribution to our knowledge and understanding of a significant development in Queensland history. John McCulloch's extensive research brings us new information about the entry of women into politics in our state, giving a different view as we look back.
In John's own words he says:
I wrote [these] book[s] from the perspective of a person who believes passionately in equal opportunity for all, and that the best possible legislation cannot be enacted until all our parliaments consist of approximately equal numbers of males and females … I realised that very little had been written on either women's suffrage or women members of parliament in Queensland. Recorded Queensland history had focused almost exclusively on the actions of men with scant regard for the contribution of women, particularly prior to women's enfranchisement in 1905. These circumstances highlighted the need for a book that would open the window on the struggle for women's suffrage in Queensland and its aftermath. It would need to include detail about the right of women to stand for Parliament, how successful women were in winning election to parliament, the strategies that various political parties used to increase their numbers of women members and biographies of all the women elected. Such was the genesis of [my] books.
I think his two volumes, The Suffragists and The Legislators, are almost essential reading, and I hope they are essential reading across Queensland. John interviewed all the living ex-members of parliament up to that stage who identified as women. It is an exciting book, and it talks about the women who had been elected. I am very proud that at that time the last entry in John's book was about a new senator for Queensland who had been elected in 2002. It makes me extraordinarily proud that I am in his book and his dedication at the front: 'With eternal gratitude, John McCulloch.'
John is a genuine activist-I say 'is' because he is still with us in so many ways. He was a long-term and active member of the ALP. He worked in the ALP Indooroopilly branch on the letters that were sent from that branch to all levels of the ALP. I am sure that many premiers, prime ministers and leaders of various areas in our party remember letters from the Indooroopilly branch. He also worked with the Youth Hostels Association for more than 25 years of activism in every capacity, becoming a member in his 20s and even being a hostel manager for a short time in Scotland. He was the author of the original Queensland YHA constitution and also wrote an integrated history and constitution for that organisation. He received the Order of Australia Medal in 2000 for his services to the Youth Hostels Association and wrote a history of the organisation called Beds, Boots and Backpacks. He was the YHA researcher for 17 years.
His other major passion was to do with equity andhomelessness, and he worked with the St Vincent de Paul Society in Brisbane and Queensland researching issues around homelessness, particularly in the case of women. He talked about the need for more services for women who had found themselves in this situation, again on the basis that our public policy had not effectively taken into account the issues and needs of women. At the funeral service it was said in his eulogy that his activism was lived. He was never confrontational but believed in the power of reason and the spoken and written word. Above all he was a great feminist and a believer in equality.
John had actually just completed his PhD and had submitted it for consideration, and we are hoping that that particular award will be granted to him-without him being there-in the new year. His topic of choice, quite understandably, was the history of Elizabeth Brentnall, who was a great woman in early Queensland history and was a leader in the Women's Christian Temperance Union and also strong in trying to achieve the vote for women. He had covered her story and learnt about her in his research about the suffragette movement, known in Queensland and Australia as the suffragist movement. His knowledge and his commitment to ensuring that her story is known have brought to life so much of the history of women in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in Queensland. The PhD thesis was written with a view to future publication as a book, and many of us are hoping that it will be possible to publish it to add to the knowledge that we have of early women's history in our state. There is way too little of it, and John fought his whole life to overcome that, so we want to make sure that book is published.
With his great friend Mary Crawford, who was a member of the House of Representatives for many years, John developed a series of information seminars and conferences on the issue of women's engagement in policy. The Women in Parliament series began in the early 2000s. The sixth of these conferences, held on 5 November this year, just after we lost John, was declared by co-convenor Mary Crawford to be the last in the series. These seminars will remain a testament to John's legacy of research, publication, advocacy and friendship for women in policy and politics.
I particularly want to mention John's life partner, Gary Portley. Gary, you shared John with us for so many years. You shared him with the ALP-with branch meetings, with fundraisers, with conferences-you shared him with the women's movement and you shared him with so many academic activities. We share your loss and we want to pass on our concern and best wishes for you. Sharing John meant that we knew a great man, a gentle man, a man who made a real difference to so many people. His work will continue to be important for so many people, not just in Queensland but in a very special way to Queensland, because he was convinced that the knowledge he shared would make all of us greater. He put down a challenge for us-that we had something to which we must aspire, that we had a right to be in politics and that we had a right to do it well.