DEATH OF ANTHEA KERR
The Hon. GREG PEARCE
(Minister for Finance and Services, and Minister for the Illawarra) [3.43 p.m.]: I advise the House today of the sudden passing on 8 April 2011 of Anthea Kerr, Assistant Director General, Policy, of the New South Wales Department of Finance and Services. Tragically, Anthea was only 38 years of age. She is survived by her husband, Chris Waugh, and her two children, Lewis and Sarah. Chris, Lewis and Sarah are here today in the public gallery with Anthea's parents and I would like to welcome them. Anthea worked in the public sector for just over 16 years. I have ascertained from the many people I have spoken to about Anthea that she left a lasting impression on them. Her career was outstanding and, as many have said, her potential was boundless.
Anthea was proud to be a public servant and had a driving commitment to make things tangibly better for the people of New South Wales. I am advised that Anthea's public sector career began in 1995 as a new graduate for the New South Wales Office of the Protective Commissioner. In 1998 she moved to the then Cabinet Office, commencing her long career in policy development and analysis. She took a role as a research assistant and after a few years moved to the then New South Wales Department of Fair Trading, working on a range of consumer protection issues. She first came to the attention of Parliament in the other place, where she was specifically mentioned in Hansard
in 2001 for the support she provided during debate relating to the Consumer Credit (New South Wales) Amendment (Pay Day Lenders) Bill—an issue that is still current today.
In 2002 she returned to the New South Wales Cabinet Office and filled a number of senior roles. She worked on a range of complex policy issues, principally related to natural resources. One of the major issues she was involved in was water, including the impact of the drought. She worked with chief executive officers on developing the Government's response. The former Director General of the Department of Services, Technology and Administration, Graeme Head, said that she was undaunted by the complexity of this issue. He also said:
… a few things stood out:
· She was often the smartest person in the room;
· She had exquisite judgement about what to inject into the conversation and when;
· She had a clarity about what and how a Government should be advised about these issues; and
· She had a great calmness around her.
In short, it was apparent that she was a person to watch.
I am told her advice to Government was always well researched, ethical and, in the spirit of an independent public service, frank and fearless. In 2008 Anthea left the Department of Premier and Cabinet and moved to the Department of Commerce, which later became the Department of Services, Technology and Administration. There she held the role of Assistant Director General, Policy. At that department she contributed to a number of major reform programs including commencing the process of reforming whole-of-government information, communication and technology policy, which is something I will be pursuing. This is a critical piece of work which the Government is committed to progressing and I am sure that Anthea's significant contribution in this area will not go unnoticed.
She reformed how policy matters were handled in the department and oversaw numerous handovers from directors general and Ministers in the period in which she worked there. Indeed, it was in the context of one of these handovers that I first met Anthea. What was clear to me from that initial meeting was that she was a woman of considerable skill, talent and judgement. I am advised that the most significant reform Anthea worked on was the reform of the Residential Tenancies Act. I am advised that under her guidance and direction and with the benefit of her judgement this resulted in the new Act which, as all members know, is a policy area that touches the lives of most people at some point. Her role in consulting with stakeholder groups has been acknowledged by many, with a number of prominent advocate groups recognising her contribution to public debate in New South Wales.
Anthea will probably be remembered most for the extent to which she encouraged and developed those around her. Anthea gave all her staff the confidence to do their best work. I am told that Anthea greatly valued those with whom she worked and she felt it was an honour to work with so many talented and committed people. She contributed to the celebration of International Women's Day, she mentored a number of women in the department and she was a great supporter of the Young Professionals Network. With this in mind the Director General of the Department of Finance and Services announced that Anthea will be commemorated by a program in her name to mentor young women in the public service.
This type of program was suggested by Chris, Anthea's husband, and I concur that there would be no finer way in which to honour her memory. The program is currently being developed by the department, which intends to consult with the office of the new Public Sector Commissioner to ensure that such a program will provide a lasting legacy. I strongly support the department in this work. Anthea's untimely death is a great loss to the New South Wales public. To Chris, Lewis, Sarah and to all of Anthea's family: Please accept the condolences of the Premier, the Government and me.
The Hon. TONY KELLY
(Leader of the Opposition) [3.39 p.m.]: I support the comments of the Minister for Finance and Services with respect to the tragic passing of Anthea Kerr on Friday 8 April 2011. As the Minister said, Anthea was relatively young. Anthea was the Assistant Director General, Policy in the Department of Finance and Services, formerly the Department of Services, Technology and Administration. She worked tirelessly for over 16 years in the New South Wales public sector. The Minister highlighted her career but her role as Assistant Director General, Policy included responsibility for ministerial and executive support, fair trading policy, commerce policy and, more recently, as has been pointed out, information technology policy.
Anthea was proud and protective of the role of an independent, apolitical public servant. Anthea was always determined to produce and to provide the best frank and fearless advice to the government of the day. She took great joy from her work and was proud of what she did. She was well regarded across government as an outstandingly talented public servant and among the next generation of leaders in the sector. Her close colleagues are still in deep shock. It is hard to believe that Anthea is not there to share the highs and lows of their daily working lives. Opposition members concur with the Minister in conveying our condolences to Anthea's family.
As the Parliament's representative on the State Records Authority Board I served briefly with Anthea Kerr on that board. In my brief acquaintance with Anthea I was monumentally impressed with her insight and her capacity. I concur with everything that the Minister and the Leader of the Opposition said, and I associate myself, in particular, with the Minister's comments. I am grateful to him for initiating this tribute and I know that I speak for members of the State Records Authority Board in that respect. On behalf of the whole House I extend my deepest sympathy to all members of Anthea's family.