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Virginia Chadwick

Virginia Chadwick
President of the New South Wales Legislative Council
In office
29 June 1998 – 5 March 1999
Preceded byMax Willis
Succeeded byMeredith Burgmann
Minister for Education and Youth Affairs
In office
3 July 1992 – 4 April 1995
PremierJohn Fahey
Preceded byHerself (as Minister for School Education and Youth Affairs)
Succeeded byJohn Aquilina (as Minister for Education and Training and Minister Assisting the Premier on Youth Affairs)
Minister for Training
Minister for Tourism
Minister Assisting the Premier
In office
26 May 1993 – 4 April 1995
PremierJohn Fahey
Preceded byHerself (as Minister for Employment and Training)
Bruce Baird (as Minister for Tourism)
Succeeded byJohn Aquilina (as Minister for Education and Training)
Brian Langton (as Minister for Tourism)
Minister for Employment and Training
In office
3 July 1992 – 26 May 1993
PremierJohn Fahey
Preceded byJohn Fahey (as Minister for Further Education, Training and Employment)
Succeeded byHerself (as Minister for Training and Tourism)
Kerry Chikarovski (as Minister for Industrial Relations and Employment)
Minister for School Education and Youth Affairs
In office
24 July 1990 – 3 July 1992
PremierNick Greiner
John Fahey
Preceded byTerry Metherell (as Minister for Education and Youth Affairs)
Succeeded byHerself (as Minister for Education and Youth Affairs)
Minister for Family and Community Services
In office
25 March 1988 – 24 July 1990
PremierNick Greiner
Preceded byJohn Aquilina (as Minister for Youth and Community Services)
Succeeded byRobert Webster
Member of New South Wales Legislative Council
In office
6 November 1978 – 5 March 1999
Personal details
Born(1944-12-19)19 December 1944
Newcastle, New South Wales
Died17 September 2009(2009-09-17) (aged 64)
Toronto, New South Wales
Resting placeNewcastle Memorial Park, Beresfield, New South Wales
Political partyLiberal Party
SpouseBruce Sheldon
ResidenceLake Macquarie

Virginia Anne Chadwick AO (19 December 1944 – 17 September 2009) was a Liberal Member of the New South Wales Legislative Council from 1978 to 1999. She was the first NSW female Minister for Education; the first female President of the New South Wales Legislative Council; and Chair and CEO of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.

Early life

She was born in Newcastle and educated at the Newcastle Girls High School from 1967 until 1968, then at Dormers Wells, Southall, UK 1969–70. She attended Newcastle Technical College 1971–73 and achieved her B.A., Dip.Ed. at the University of Newcastle.[1]

Political career

Chadwick served as a Member of the Liberal Party State Executive before being elected to the NSW Legislative Council in 1978. She served as Opposition Whip and a member of the Opposition front bench before becoming the first female NSW Liberal Minister when the Greiner Government swept into power in 1988.[1]

Chadwick was a minister of the Greiner-Fahey era, initially serving as Minister for Family and Community Services, Minister for the Hunter and Minister for Women (25 March 1988 – 20 July 1990). Following the resignation of Education Minister Terry Metherell, Chadwick was appointed the state's first female Minister for Education (20 July 1990 – 4 April 1995), and was later given additional responsibility as Minister for Tourism (26 May 1993 – 4 April 1995).

Chadwick's appointment to the Education portfolio followed Minister Terry Metherell who reduced head office staffing, introduced Basic Skills testing and increased class sizes to pay for Special Education initiatives. Metherell's style quickly escalated to war with the Teachers Union, the Parents and Citizens Federation and even his own department. The strikes and protest rallies held during this unrest were amongst the largest in NSW history.[2] As the new Minister, Chadwick's first task was to broker peace between the Government and the Education lobby, especially teachers. The first breakthrough came with a settlement to the long-running teachers pay dispute.[3]

During her time in Education, Chadwick drew on her consultative skills to implement extensive reforms initiated by her predecessor. (These reforms are known as "School Centred Education" (Scott Reports) and in Curriculum, the 'Carrick' and 'Excellence and Equity' Reports.) The NSW Board of Studies was established, key learning areas developed and implemented in curriculum and schools; budgeting and some staffing responsibilities were devolved to school principals; more than a thousand local school councils were established. Selective schools, "centres of excellence" and specialist schools such as Westfields Sports High School were funded to create choice in public education in Sydney's West as well as regional and rural areas of the state.[4]

A Greiner loyalist, Chadwick was concerned during the 1992 Independent Commission Against Corruption investigation of the Metherell Affair, when Greiner was forced to resign. Although a Member of the Upper House, Chadwick was viewed by many as an obvious successor to Greiner; but when approached to take the leadership, she declined.[5]

If Chadwick had become Premier whilst still a member of the Legislative Council it would not have been without precedence as Barrie Unsworth was a member of the Upper House when he became Premier in 1986 before resigning from the Upper House to successfully transfer to the Lower House.

Following the murder convictions and 18-year prison sentences handed down in 1990 to 8 students (the “Alexandria Eight”) from Sydney's Cleveland Street High School and a North Shore Catholic School for the gay related killing of 33-year-old New Zealander Richard Johnson,[6][7] Virginia Chadwick became the first education minister to directly address the issue of homophobic bullying and violence in New South Wales schools. Amid a wave of gay gang murders in which as many as 88 gay men were killed by youths, gay Social Science teacher Wayne Tonks was also brutally murdered by two 16-year-old students from Cleveland Street High School after he had received threats at the school and had his Artarmon flat ransacked.[8][9] Another group of 30 youths aged 12–18 (the "Bondi Boys") were active in throwing gay men to their deaths off the cliffs of Marks Park, Tamarama (euphemised as "cliff jumping").[10]

As a result, the Gay and Lesbian Teachers and Students Association (GaLTaS) was formed in 1991 by gay high school teacher Derek Williams and lesbian student Jennifer Glass to tackle ongoing issues of homophobic school bullying, suicidal ideation, suicide among LGBT youth and homicide by students, via workshops, teacher training and books in schools programmes.[11]

Chadwick launch at RBHS of GaLTaS SchoolWatch Report.
Chadwick (left) at her launch for GaLTaS of Jacqui Griffin's (centre) SchoolWatch Report at Randwick Boys High School whose Principal Geoff McNeill (right) issued the invitation. First published in Sydney Star Observer.[12]
(Photo: Mazz Images)

After learning of reports of homophobic bullying and violence at NSW schools,[13][14][15][16] Chadwick met Williams and lobbyist Carole Ruthchild with some of the affected GaLTaS students at the New South Wales Parliament.[17] In November 1993, she announced draft guidelines for School Anti-discrimination Grievance Procedures for Students,[18] to enable LGBT+ students in New South Wales to achieve legal redress under the NSW Anti-Discrimination Act and to complete their education. The guidelines were eventually promulgated in 1996.[19][20] In consultation with NSW Parents and Citizens, the New South Wales Teachers Federation, the Board of Studies, the NSW Anti-Discrimination Board and GaLTaS, Chadwick approved departmental anti-homophobia videos and issued a vetted reading list for school libraries.[21] These measures were also intended to reverse the escalation of homophobic student invective into serious crime such as assault and homicide, that had life-changing consequences also for children who were perpetrators.[22]

After GaLTaS was awarded a Federal National Youth Grant of $30,000 (=c.$68,400 equivalent in 2023)[23] by the Federal Department of Employment, Education and Training[24] to establish a toll-free hotline for victimised gay and lesbian students, the research obtained was compiled by GaLTaS co-convener Ms Jacqui Griffin while she wrote The SchoolWatch Report.[25] The report was officially launched by Chadwick in March 1995 at Randwick Boys High School[12] where Derek Williams taught.[16] Following her launch of The SchoolWatch Report, Chadwick continued her reforms of departmental policy on gay related education issues[26][21] until the defeat of the Liberal government at the 1995 New South Wales state election.[27]

In 1998 Chadwick again made history as the Parliament of New South Wales's first woman Presiding Officer with her election as President of the Legislative Council.[28] Her victory in the ballot for the Presidency was a surprise. The Labor Government's nominee for the position was Hon Helen Sham-Ho who had suddenly defected from the Liberal Party days before the ballot. The Government Leader in the Legislative Council, Michael Egan (Australian politician) mistakenly believed that one of the Government members who was absent from the House on leave for an exam would be paired. (Pairs are a courtesy arrangement in Parliament whereby an Opposition Member would have abstained from the vote when a Government member is absent, or vice versa). The Clerk of the Parliaments advised midway through the ballot that pairs did not apply for secret ballots. The Government tried to call off the vote but was advised that this was not possible after ballot papers for the secret ballot had been issued. Chadwick defeated Sham Ho by 21–19.[29] She held this position from 29 June 1998 to 5 March 1999, when she retired from politics. Chadwick holds the record for the shortest presidency of the Legislative Council, being in office for 250 days.[30]

Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority

Soon after her retirement from State politics, Federal Environment Minister Robert Hill appointed Chadwick as Chairperson and CEO of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA). She moved to Townsville with husband Bruce Chadwick and served in this role until her retirement in July 2007. Chadwick led the difficult negotiations with fishermen, farmers, tourist operators, local, state and federal Governments to achieve an increase in highly protected areas on the reef from 4.5 per cent to 33 per cent. This was recognised in 2004 when the Authority was presented a prestigious Banksia Award[31] by the Banksia Environmental Foundation. In the same year she was awarded the international Fred M. Packard Award in 2004, jointly with Imogen Zethoven of WWF Australia, for their work "furthering the conservation objectives of protected areas" to the Australian community.[32]

Following a potential crisis involving an oil tanker attempting to navigate through the Reef, Chadwick was appointed to a safety inquiry and so impressed the stakeholders she was then appointed to the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) Advisory Committee. She subsequently led an Australian delegation to the United Nations on International Law of the Sea.

Personal life

In the 2005 Queen's Birthday Honours Chadwick was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia. The citation was "For service to conservation and the environment through management of the environmental, heritage and economic sustainability issues affecting the Great Barrier Reef, and to the New South Wales Parliament, particularly in the areas of child welfare and education."[33]

Chadwick and her husband Bruce retired and returned to their Novocastrian roots, living at Lake Macquarie. The couple had two children, Amanda and David, and three surviving grandchildren.[34]

She died from cancer on 17 September 2009, aged 64, at Toronto.[35][36][37]

Virginia Chadwick Memorial Foundation

Following her death, the Virginia Chadwick Memorial Foundation [38] was established and operated from 2010 to 2020 to carry on Virginia Chadwick's work and build on her achievements especially in regard to the Great Barrier Reef and through environmental activities, including environmental education, environmental partnerships, Indigenous engagement, networking and knowledge sharing around the world [39]

The Foundation was Chaired by Fay Barker who succeeded Mrs Chadwick as CEO of GBRMA and membership included Hon Catherine Cusack MLC.[40] Ms Barker described Mrs Chadwick’s achievements in a message to the NSW Parliament on 11 May 2022 when a marble bust of Mrs Chadwick was unveiled in the Legislative Council Chamber.[40] The unveiling of the marble bust of Mrs Chadwick was the first time in 107 years a new bust had been added to the historic NSW Legislative Council Chamber. A motion acknowledging the significance of the event and Mrs Chadwick’s achievements was moved by Catherine Cusack MLC and replied to by Penny Sharpe MLC.[40]


  1. ^ a b "The Hon. Virginia Anne Chadwick (1944-2009)". Former members of the Parliament of New South Wales. Retrieved 21 June 2020.
  2. ^ Moore, Matthew (17 August 1988). "Govt to Schools: We won't budge". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 3 January 2012.
  3. ^ Garcia, Luis M. (17 August 1990). "Teachers Win Big Pay Rise". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 2 January 2012.
  4. ^ Firth, Hon Verity. "Ministerial Statement – Condolence". Hansard NSW Legislative Assembly. NSW Parliament. Retrieved 2 January 2012.
  5. ^ Collins, Peter (2000). The Bear Pit. Sydney: Allen & Uwin. p. 209. ISBN 1-86508-208-2.
  6. ^ Goddard, Martyn (6 April 1991). 'Seeds Of Tolerance: In The Gay Killing Fields'. Page 39 (full page). Sydney Morning Herald Spectrum. (Australia)
  7. ^ Timeline for Key Events in the Hate Crimes Journey 1978 - 2018 2 For NSW Parliamentary Inquiry (by Sue Thompson 6.11.18 v.12). New South Wales Parliament.
  8. ^ Callaghan, Greg. (1 October 2021). ‘A willingness to write crimes off’: on the trail of the Bondi killers. Sydney Morning Herald.
  9. ^ Goddard, Martyn (25 January 1991). 'Death Boast'. Front Page. Star Observer (Australia)
  10. ^ Fenely, Rick. (27 July 2013). Up to 80 men murdered, 30 cases unsolved. Sydney Morning Herald.
  11. ^ Singerman, Deborah (18 January 1992). 'Testing Time for School Gays'. Page 36. The Sydney Morning Herald (Australia)
  12. ^ a b (9 March 1995). Sydney Star Observer: Issue 256. The School Watch Report – 'A Study into Anti-Lesbian and Anti-Gay Harassment and Violence is launched at Randwick Boys' High School by the NSW Minister of Education'. Sydney's Pride History Group. (Australia)
  13. ^ Totaro, Paola (20 March 1992). 'Student gang forces gay boys to quit school. Front Page. The Sydney Morning Herald (Australia)
  14. ^ Larriera, Alicia (30 March 1992). 'Gays refuse to enrol'. Page 2. The Sydney Morning Herald (Australia)'
  15. ^ (6 June 1992). 'Three Lesbians Quit HSC'. Page 6. The Sydney Morning Herald. (Australia).
  16. ^ a b (1993). Attitude Episode 3: 'Homophobia'. Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
  17. ^ (27 February 1993). Carole Ruthchild, co-convenor of the Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby (GLRL), Derek Williams, co-convener of Gay and Lesbian Teachers and Students (GaLTaS) meet with Virginia Chadwick. Parliament of New South Wales. Sydney's Pride History Group. (Sydney, Australia)
  18. ^ Powell, Sian (7 October 1993). 'Govt bid to outlaw racism, sexism in schools'. Page 3. The Sydney Morning Herald (Australia)
  19. ^ (February 1995). Sydney Star Observer: Issue 253 The NSW Education Minister releases an anti-discrimination policy for schools which addresses lesbian and gay and HIV status harassment and vilification'. Sydney's Pride History Group. (Australia)
  20. ^ Procedures For Resolving Complaints About Discrimination Against Students - whole of document scan: website.
  21. ^ a b Lewis, Julie. (7 March 1995). 'Anti-gay students targeted via literature'. Page 5. The Sydney Morning Herald (Australia)
  22. ^ Mason, Gail (Ed.) & Tomsen, Stephen (Ed.) (1997). Homophobic Violence. Pages 104–117. 'Anti-lesbian/gay violence in schools'. Griffin, Jacqui (GaLTaS Co-convenor). The Hawkins Press. ISBN 1876067047. Australian Institute of Criminology.
  23. ^ Inflation Calculator.
  24. ^ (24 March 1993). IN BRIEF: Help for gay victims. Page 4. The Sydney Morning Herald
  25. ^ Griffin, Jacqui (1994). The SchoolWatch Report. ISBN 0646199609. National Library of Australia. Publisher: J. Griffin. (Chippendale, New South Wales, Australia)
  26. ^ Lewis, Julie (15 February 1995). 'Gay students to get formal protection'. Page 3. The Sydney Morning Herald (Australia)
  27. ^ "The Hon. Virginia Anne Chadwick". Former members of the Parliament of New South Wales. Retrieved 13 May 2019.
  28. ^ Parliament of New South Wales, History Bulletin 6, Women in the New South Wales Parliament
  29. ^ "President of the Legislative Council – Election". Hansard NSW Legislative Council. NSW Parliament. Retrieved 2 January 2012.
  30. ^ "Part Ten - Officers of Parliament" (PDF). NSW Parliamentary Record. Parliament of New South Wales. Retrieved 22 June 2020.
  31. ^ "Banksia Award Recognises New Zoning Plan". GBRMPA Media Release. 7 June 2004. Archived from the original on 28 July 2008.
  32. ^ "Environment, Communications, Information Technology and the Arts Legislation Committee – Additional Information – Budget Estimates 2006-07 – Received between 26 May and 13 September 2006 – Environment and Heritage Portfolio". Parliament of Australia. May 2006. Retrieved 30 November 2022.
  33. ^ "Mrs Virginia Anne Chadwick". It's an Honour. Retrieved 27 October 2021.
  34. ^ Murphy, Damien. September 24, 2009. 'Distinguished NSW minister known as the Iron Maiden'. The Sydney Morning Herald
  35. ^ "Virginia Chadwick dies: A trailblazer in Parliament". Archived from the original on 25 September 2009.
  36. ^ "Death of the Honourable Virginia Anne Chadwick, AO, a Former Member of the Legislative Council, a Former Minister of the Crown and a Former President of the Legislative Council". Hansard NSW Legislative Council. NSW Parliament. Retrieved 2 January 2012.
  37. ^ "Motion of Condolence – Death of a former Member". Hansard NSW Legsiative Assembly. NSW Parliament. Retrieved 2 January 2012.
  38. ^ Virginia Chadwick Memorial Foundation. Virginia Chadwick Memorial Foundation. 2011.
  39. ^ "Search Results - Organisations and Business Names".
  40. ^ a b c "The Hon. Virginia Anne CHADWICK, B.A. Dip.Ed". Archived from the original on 1 April 2019.


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Virginia Chadwick
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