Australian War Widows (Queensland) Luncheon
Attorney-General; Australian War Widows (Queensland) Chair, Mr Stephen Scott; State President, Mrs Jenny Gregory; Directors; Members and supporters.
I at once acknowledge the traditional owners of these lands and extend respectful greetings to Elders and emerging leaders.
It is a great pleasure to join the Queensland branch of Australian War Widows on this very special day, Jessie Vasey Day, marking the birthday of the truly remarkable woman who founded this exceptional organisation.
I am particularly honoured that we gather today at Parliament House.
Almost 12 months ago, in November 2020, it was my immense privilege to invite our State President and Mrs Judy Smith as my personal guests to the official opening of the 57th State Parliament – invitations which reflect Kaye’s and my heartfelt appreciation for the immensely beneficial work of this remarkable organisation.
The story of how Jessie Vasey – the vivacious, outspoken farmer’s daughter from Roma – used her enormous energy, intelligence and passion to establish and drive the Australian War Widows’ Guild is now deservedly the stuff of legend.
In the seven years that I have served as Patron of Australian War Widows in Queensland, I have seen this wonderful organisation continue its unrelenting efforts to support women whose husbands have died in the service of our nation.
Next year, you will celebrate the 75th anniversary of the conference where the War Widows’ Guild was established in our State.
While I will no longer be Patron, one thing that will not change in the foreseeable future – and has not changed over those 75 years – are the needs of war widows.
They still need the friendship of others who understand their experience and the hardship they have suffered, and, above all, they still need powerful and persistent advocacy.
The current challenge of homelessness, particularly in older women, has revealed to us all just how prescient Jessie was in establishing a housing scheme in the 1950s.
As Patron, I am proud and pleased to see that vital work continue through Queensland’s 27 sub-branches and friendship groups.
If Jessie were with us today, she would undoubtedly be wearing one of the eye-catching hats for which she was famous and would be charming us all with her lively personality and sharp wit.
But I also like to think she would be very proud and pleased to see that her ideals continue to inspire the organisation she established.
Happy birthday, Jessie Vasey!
And to the women of the Queensland branch of the Australian War Widows, you have a special place in Kaye’s and my heart – it has been our immense honour to acknowledge and support you all.