The Biographical Dictionary of the Australian Senate will note Judith Adams's service. It will talk about when she came to join us, it will talk about all the committees she was on and the delegations she served on and it will also talk about her passion for issues such as the military, because of the various occasions she shared with them. But behind all of that there will be an absolute knowledge of a passionate, committed woman who gave her life to service and who loved being a senator.
It is very important that we share the joy that Judith Adams had for her time in this place. In her first speech she said she was here to represent the people of Western Australia, and she did. But more than that she represented the community across this country, and in particular the people who live in rural and regional areas, where her heart belonged. At Kojonup we saw that they knew her heart was in that area.
I know that people in this Senate cared for Judith Adams. The expressions of grief we share not only come from the people sitting in this chamber but, as I have seen in the last few days, also come consistently from others such as Comcar drivers and people in various other areas. They all talk about this wonderful woman-they knew she had been unwell-and how they will miss her. This session this afternoon gives some indication of the way she was valued. I think it is so important for her family that there are so many senators contributing to this session. That is a part of the value that Judith had. But I know that this whole institution, this wonderful place in which we serve, understands the way that Judith served in the Senate and the way she enjoyed being here.
Judith was born to be in the committee system! She loved talking with people. No matter where you were-it did not matter whether you were in Central Australia, upstairs in various committees, or travelling-you would find Judith having a chat. It was so important for her to hear what people had to say and to give them the opportunity to do so. She felt that the committee system in this place was of value in learning to govern better-she believed that it should be a Liberal government, but nonetheless she wanted to make sure that we could govern better and the way we would do that would be to listen to the people who gave their time to come and talk with us. I had the real honour and pleasure to sit with her in so many committee hearings, as many senators have because she sat on so many committees. It would be interesting to see just how many senators here did not have the opportunity to join at some stage in a Senate committee with Judith Adams. She felt that was the way we would operate best as a Senate.
I so enjoyed listening to her asking her questions. Most of her questioning began with 'I'm from Western Australia,' and she went on to say 'from Kojonup', as though we should all know where Kojonup was. By the end of the session we did. But in terms of the process it did not matter which issue we were talking about, and certainly from my experience I was mainly working with Judith in the areas of health and community affairs but I know also her passion in regional and rural. We have heard already from many senators about her absolutely resolute questioning and advocacy across so many areas. I do remember walking back from committees along that corridor from Senate estimates back to the Senate. We would have long walks back there together at 11 o'clock at night, when she would share her particular views on many important issues. I remember in our very first period she shared with me all about wheat and was quite disappointed that I did not know enough about wheat to respond. She was clear in her explanation. Senator Brandis talked about experience in the Liberal caucus. Whilst not breaching any confidentiality of another party caucus, she explained how she felt it was her job to put forward her view and it did not matter that she was a new senator, it does not matter how long you are here-you are here elected by your people to give your view. She took that extremely seriously.
Senator Siewert has spoken about some of the issues in community affairs which Judith held dear. We know of the issues around ovarian and breast cancer which she worked on so hard, and she talked very much about her own experiences. Being a cancer survivor was not something that Judith held back: she announced that she was a cancer survivor and talked about the work she had done in many committees in Western Australia. I rarely went to any organisation that had not known of Judith Adams and the work she had done. They all had respect for the ongoing advocacy.
We laugh about the most enjoyable aspects of Judith's activities on committees. I am not quite sure whether she more enjoyed being surrounded by professors of medicine and the repartee with them about what was going on in various policy areas, while strongly supporting the role of nurses and the position that nurses should be much more involved in some of those professions, or more enjoyed being surrounded, as we have heard, by various elements of the military. We have heard of the teasing that went on, but Judith had absolute respect for military service and showed sheer joy when she came back to describe her experiences in Northern Australia in the dirt, or the naval experiences where she managed to break an arm, though that did not stop her. It was an enthusiasm and a joy with which she was able to inspire others about this program and get them engaged. When she had various members of the services sharing time with her in her office, Judith would be scooting around this building at speed followed by young personnel from the different services, who were completely exhausted after they had spent this time with her. I talked with many of them and they would say, 'We can't keep up.' They went away from their experience with great respect for Judith and also great respect for our institution.
No-one in the health and community services area could talk about Judith Adams without mentioning the words 'patient assisted travel'. This phrase has become synonymous with Judith Adams in this policy area. As we have heard, officers from the Department of Health and Ageing come well prepared to estimates, and will continue to do so, but particularly when Judith was asking questions they knew which areas she was going to delve into, and the area of patient assisted travel was certainly one. I know the officers and I know that they had the full brief every time to make sure that they knew what was going on. To these areas she brought her great professionalism because of her professional training, her lived experience and also her genuine compassion for people in need.
I first met Judith working across the chamber in the debate around RU-486. She was a relatively new senator at that stage and with others in the chamber actually had a direct and common-sense approach to the debate. It did not matter which particular position you took, she felt it was important to be true to yourself and to be absolutely clear on your position and be open about it. It did not matter how much pressure was being applied by advocates from either side; once you had made up your mind, your job was to be clear about that and to ensure that you followed through. That was the aspect of reliability. You were never unsure of the position Judith was going to take on any issue. She did not rush into making up her mind-she did clear research and spoke to as many people as she possibly could in the community and in the professional areas, and then she openly contributed to debate. I felt that was particularly important when we were talking about issues to do with improving health and improving the welfare of our community.
I have great memories of working with Judith in Aboriginal communities and seeing her talking with elders in local communities or with young mums with their bubs, being totally at ease and respecting their culture but being very open about what she felt was the way we should work together to move forward, and knowing at times she was up against people who had great disagreement with her position. Nonetheless, she treated everybody with respect and ensured that people understood that there are processes to go through but her overwhelming compassion was with the individual and the community. So, even if there was disagreement, her heart was there to be seen and people respected that. We saw that very often.
A number of us were with Judith the day she heard her husband had died and also subsequently when she heard that she had lost her mum. On both occasions she worked with us and almost tried to make us feel better, because it is never an easy thing to deal with someone who has had loss. She was aware that we were caring about her and tried to make us feel better. I think that is a wonderful aspect of her personality. I will miss her professionalism. I will miss her reliability. We have heard about that. It is always important to know that there is someone who cares when you are working on difficult issues. I certainly will miss the fact that Judith would always care about you as a person. I cannot remember a time in the last five years that she did not ask me about how my health was. That was at times when I knew that her own health was not great, but her first issue was always: 'How are you holding up? Have you been to the doctor? When are your tests coming back?' That was her issue. That was how she dealt with everybody. I know that. Many people in this chamber shared that side of Judith. It was always her care for others.
We will miss Judith, but her memory will be strong and her impact on policy will be strong. I know that she is somewhere there watching us, and we will know that we will have to be on side to ensure that we keep up the quality of the work that we do. I know that the extension of the bowel cancer screening will meet with her approval. I have to admit that when I heard that that policy was being put forward I was very pleased, and I know that Judith will be pleased by that.
In terms of her family, to Stuart and Robert: thank you for sharing Judith with us. It is a big call. Those senators from Western Australia do extra travel to get across to so much of the work we do, and we know that they have that extra time. Judith always spent that time well. There are a number of ministers, shadow ministers and parliamentary secretaries who shared that flight from Perth to Canberra many times who got off that plane very relieved that Judith was no longer talking with them about the various issues she was following up-because she was a fearless advocate. She would then check in with me and say that she had spoken to so-and-so and she thought they had got the message now. I know quite a few Labor ministers who were on that particular flight who know that they did get the message very well! To Stuart and Robert and the family: thank you. We share your loss, and we share your pride as well. Thank you to Judith Adams.