Vale Marie

With the sudden death of Marie Tehan, we at Eureka Street have lost a dear friend and patron. Marie, who had just accepted the invitation to chair the Board of Jesuit Publications, was passionate about the causes which Eureka Street represents: the claims of decency in public life and the place of reasoned argument in public discussion.

During Marie’s time in Victorian Parliament, when she served successively as Minister for Health and Minister for Conservation, she appreciated the place of Eureka Street in public life, even though she might have disapproved of its criticism of the policies of the government to which she belonged. Marie, who had actively sponsored refugees to Australia after the end of the Indochinese wars, shared our concern for asylum seekers and refugees.

After she resigned from parliament, she was free to engage again with this issue. I came to know her well at this time, when she joined the Management Committee of the Refugee and Immigration Legal Centre. The invitation was made after some hesitation: many refugee activists had little sympathy with the Kennett Government, and Marie’s portfolios of Health and the Environment had always been at the centre of fierce public debate. And to invite such a competent public figure on to the board of a small NGO always awakens latent doubts about one’s own professionalism.

On the agenda of her first meeting were delicate items that needed to be handled wisely. Marie listened carefully, and then spoke a few warm words of appreciation of the care and compassion with which the matters had been handled. The committee members relaxed, and grew in energy and self-confidence from her contribution. She had a purity of purpose that built resolve and resolution about what the organisation was and what it was doing We were to recognise this style in her contribution to the Board of Jesuit Publications. She read submissions carefully, listened attentively and appreciatively, asked incisive questions, and offered wise advice. But above all she shared our enthusiasms and passions, and encouraged us to do more effectively what we believed in. We grieve with her husband Jim and their family in their loss, and for ourselves and so many community groups for the friend and adviser we have lost.

Andrew Hamilton sj



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