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Tribute to Mollie Campbell-Smith AM MBE

Mrs Armitage (Launceston) - Mr President, I speak today about the extraordinary Mollie Campbell-Smith AM MBE of Launceston, who sadly passed away last month at the age of 98. Mollie Marsden was born in Devonport in 1917. At the end of primary school her family moved to Launceston, where she attended Methodist Ladies College. There she was school captain, school dux and captain of the hockey, tennis and cricket teams.

Mollie wanted to become a doctor, but her father did not think that was fitting for a female, so she studied Science at Melbourne University and represented the university, Victoria and Australia at hockey.

She taught science at Methodist Ladies' College from 1955 until 1986 when she retired, aged 69. She also taught at local state schools during those years. Her students adored her. They said she always had time for them, never forgot a name and was an inspirational and cherished teacher who was ahead of her time. Believing that schools needed to do more to help young people cope with life, Mollie founded the Relationship Education for Wellbeing program, where she worked with Dr John Morris.

Mollie and her husband Ralph had five children, Bill, John, Mandy, Nick and Biz; 15 grandchildren and 26 great-grandchildren. Son Bill says:

She was as comfortable talking to a two-year-old as she was to a 92-year-old. She was tech-savvy and at 98 was tossing up whether to get an iPad or a tablet. She was on Facebook for a while, but couldn't cope with all the friend requests, so she deleted the app.

Her son John said, 'She had so much energy, survived on little sleep and was always busy.' His mum felt age should not mean anything, and advocated positive ageing. John says his mother had great faith in her children and said to them, 'It doesn't matter what you do, just do your best.' He says the greatest lesson she taught him was that you can do whatever you want in life if you just apply yourself.

Mollie's lifetime of outstanding community service saw her receive many honours, including a Member of the Order of the British Empire in 1986 for services to education and the community and a Member of the Order of Australia in 2008 for services to the community. In 2000 she was Launceston City Council's Citizen of the Year. In 2005 she was inducted into the Tasmanian Honour Roll of Women, and in 2013 she was awarded a Rotary Paul Harris Fellow.

Her volunteer workload was amazing and she served on over 35 organisations, including the Richmond Fellowship, National Council of Women Launceston, Girl Guides, Association for Independent Retirees, Older Persons Reference Group, Launceston Computer Group and the Elphin Road action group, to name only a few.

Mollie was fearless, tenacious and determined always - a force to be reckoned with. As a member of the Elphin Road action group she was concerned about heavy traffic and personally door knocked all houses on Elphin Road, did truck counts and installed a vibration monitor in her garden. Her son Bill says, 'If an eastern bypass is ever built, it should be renamed 'Mollie's motorway'.'

South Australian Independent Senator Nick Xenophon credits Mollie with inspiring him to run for the Senate after she challenged him at a problem gambling forum in Launceston in 2007. He said:

It was her incisive line of questioning to me, asking why the Commonwealth couldn't be involved to overrule the states on gambling, given state governments' addiction to gambling taxes, that got me thinking about having a tilt at federal politics.

Tasmanian-born Nobel Prize winner Professor Elizabeth Blackburn remembers Mollie Campbell-Smith well as a dear family friend of her mother. Professor Blackburn says of Mollie: 'I fondly remember companionable afternoon teas in her big verandah area at her house and what a warm, supportive friend she was to my mother.'

Launceston identity Faith Layton AM and Mollie were friends for 60 years, first meeting as young teachers at different schools in Launceston. They would meet to find ways to improve their teaching of Social Psychology. She says her dear friend was always working on the positives.

Mollie was President of the National Council of Women Launceston between 1995 to 1998 and 2003 to 2007. The council's, Elaine Bushby says she was a visionary, but one prepared to carry it through.

Mollie's concern about the effect of electromagnetic frequencies on health were successfully referred to the International Council of Women and later the United Nations. Readers of The Examiner will remember Mollie's letters. John and Denise Paul of Lanena wrote recently:

She was extraordinarily knowledgeable on so many topics and hit the nail on the head every time with clinical analysis and a rational and reasonable solution. We will miss you Mollie, and thanks for helping to keep us on the right track for so many years.

Mollie was one of the north's most active and energetic lobbyists. Her drive and vision caused most politicians to stop and listen to her. It was often said there are three little words that make politicians shudder: Mollie Campbell-Smith.

I finish this tribute with a quote from Senator Xenophon: 'The nation has lost an incredible, inspirational woman.'

Vale Mollie Campbell-Smith.

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