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Jean Hearn - Tribute

May 31, 2016

Mrs Armitage (Launceston) - Mr President, I speak today about a wonderful Launceston community leader, Jean Hearn.  Jean was a Tasmanian Labor senator from 1980 to 1985.  For decades she has been a tireless worker for her community in a variety of roles - in the Senate, the Labor Party and her local community.  These include being a pioneer of Tasmania's Steiner educational movement, a member of the state council of the Family Planning Association of Tasmania, President of the Launceston Family Day Care Association and Vice President of the Mayfield Youth Sports Scheme.  At 95 years old, Jean Hearn is a greatly respected community leader in Launceston and Tasmania and was state finalist for the Senior Australian of the Year in 2016. 

 

Today, I want to focus on and celebrate what I would argue is her greatest contribution as a champion of peace and humanity.

 

Jean inspired the first Tamar Valley Peace Festival, which will celebrate its second year this July.  More than 7000 people attended the first event.  She was also a key player in the formation of the Tamar Community Peace Trust, a citizens' group committed to peace and the establishment of the Peter Underwood Peace Garden.  Jean Hearn's speech at the garden's opening in April this year said in part -

 

This garden at the head of our beautiful Tamar Valley is a place of peace and contemplation.  A place to think about ways we can stop the terrible violence in our world. 

 

It's a place to think how we can make our communities stronger, more cohesive and kindlier - for kindness is the key to peace. 

 

To understand why Jean Hearn's commitment to achieving peace for her community is so strong, her own life provides a painful reminder of the cost of war.  Her beloved husband Fred Howe and his brother Bert were captured on West Timor during World War II and died as prisoners of war.  The experience gave her a deep resolve to use her life to work for peace.

 

In 2014 a stirring and powerful Anzac Day speech from the late Tasmanian Governor Peter Underwood made her want to do more for peace.  He urged us to stop glorifying war and do more individually and collectively to achieve peace as the ultimate show of respect for the soldiers who lost their lives at war.  Here is a quote from his speech:

 

Remembrance and honour will neither bring nor preserve the peace for which they thought they died.  That is not enough.  We must actively strive for peace on a daily basis and I think that we could best begin that process, and thus properly honour and remember those who were killed or wounded while their country engaged them in the business of killing, by declaring this centennial year of the start of the War to end all Wars, the Year of Peace.

 

Throughout her life, Jean Hearn has always tried to make a positive difference and has devoted considerable energy to working for the wellbeing of her community, peace, and opportunity for young people.  She was particularly able to channel those passions into her parliamentary career.  In her address-in-reply to the Governor-General's speech made to the Senate on 25 February 1981 Jean said:

 

My concern is for the people of Tasmania and the people of my country.  Everywhere they are sacrificed to a system which puts economic values and profits before the value and potential of a human person.

 

Senator Hearn urged governments to focus on ensuring the economy and parliament were used properly so that the community's needs were met.  Human rights and peace were absolutely essential to a healthy society.  Government budgets, she argued, were focused on the economy and not on people.  That had to change.  Of the 1982-83 Budget she said:

 

This Budget is concerned only with the economy.  What research has been done by Government departments into the effects of Government policies on the families and the people of Australia, on the unemployed, on the aged and on our children's development and their future?  Surely we should be given some evidence of such research when a Budget is presented.  There should be consideration of the effect of the Government's action on families.  Of all the things in the world, people are the most precious, and all things that are done should be done in the interests of those people.

 

Our community is grateful for Jean Hearn's dedication to achieving peace, and for her tireless and visionary leadership and service.  An excerpt from her retirement speech to the Senate on 31 May 1985 holds true today:

 

Society faces many new challenges and to face them creatively requires new human and social understanding and interaction.  We need to create new social patterns which enhance each and every person's full humanity and potential.

 

In an interview with northern Tasmanian author and broadcaster Hilary Burden, published in the Tasmanian Times October 2014, Jean Hearn told her, 'Retreat is not the answer.  You must engage.'  Engage she has and our community is blessed beyond measure for her contribution.

 

Jean Hearn, we salute you as an outstanding ambassador for peace and compassion. 

 

 

 

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