Catherine Cusack MLC, Sydney
As a mark of respect and the high esteem in which Jan Barham MLC is held, the entire membership of the NSW Legislative Council attended the Chamber last week to hear her outstanding valedictory speech.
It was typical Jan. Intelligent, warm, generous and yet pulling no punches about the tribulations of public life and her disappointments with modern democracy.
Jan Barham has been an exceptional MP, enriching the entire parliament and as a result of her resignation we feel our chamber and our state is far, far poorer for her leaving us.
Jan’s focus was upon marginalised and disadvantaged Australians whose plight she has championed for her entire career. I wondered if it was her boundless empathy and sense of responsibility that rendered her vulnerable to feelings of anguish and disappointment.
I owe Jan a great debt because she has helped me directly and through her inspirational example to navigate the vicissitudes of political life. In fact I am staggered that it was Jan and not me making the valedictory speech today.
Perhaps the difference is the terrible loss of dearly loved friends and family Jan has endured in recent months – and how much we in public life depend upon their energy and support, so that when it is rudely taken from us, we lose our capacity to cope.
I wish to add two additional tributes. The first is Jan’s wardrobe – she has been so assiduously green in the Chamber I could not have imagined there were so many ways to look hip and lovely in green. I also reflected upon her total loyalty and commitment to her party and her cause, in every possible detail – she is the embodiment of the principled politician nobody seems to believe can exist.