Faith Layton AM - Tribute

Mrs Armitage (Launceston) - Mr President, Faith Geraldine Layton was born at her family's home in West Launceston on 28 November 1925. Faith remembers a very happy home life. Her older sister Margaret was six-and-a-half years old when Faith was born. Her parents were Alice Mitchell and Samuel Docking.

Faith was close to both parents but her father, in particular, was a considerable influence on her in relation to the dedication he showed as a community figure, being involved in many local organisations. He also helped establish the Riverside Golf Club and was their first president. Early childhood memories include visiting the Phoenix Foundry on Fridays after school to see her father, who was the manager, and the family having a Phoenix fuel stove.

Of the Great Depression, she says:

I was not unaware of the Depression years although, fortunately, my family did not suffer. I recall men knocking on the back door asking if there was an odd job available. Sometimes my mother and I walked to town and passed the Salvation Army Citadel and when I asked what the queues of people meant, I was told they were poor people, out of work, seeking food from the soup kitchen.

In 1934 Faith used to stay up late at night to listen to Melbourne radio station 3DB's broadcasts of cricket tests between Australia and England. Of those times, she says:

It was heavy stuff in 1934 when Bradman was making record-breaking scores like 334. It was a privilege to be allowed to remain up till the early hours of the morning. I was not a gifted composer of limericks but I can't erase from my memory 'O'Reilly is a beaut, he makes the English jump, each time he bowls a ball, pop goes the middle stump'.

Education and learning have been a big part of Faith's life. Early on she attended a small independent school in Laura Street, then Broadland House Girls' School, which would later amalgamate with Launceston Grammar School to become the Launceston Church Grammar School. She then attended the University of Tasmania, where she obtained a Bachelor of Arts.

Faith taught at many schools in northern Tasmania including Broadland House Girls' School, where she would eventually become head of social science and deputy headmistress. The association with Broadland House has been a mutually cherished connection.

Late last year, Launceston Church Grammar School and the Broadland House Old Girls' Association held a morning tea in honour of Faith's ninetieth birthday at the junior campus, where she was a student, teacher and parent. Principal Stephen Norris says:

It was wonderful to see our younger students involved for her birthday with cross-generational respect for such a dedicated educator.

He adds:

Launceston Church Grammar School and the Broadland House Old Girls' Association are proud of Faith Layton's continuous commitment to education and the history of our amalgamated schools.

Looking back on that day, Faith says,'It touched me very deeply. I did appreciate it.'

Faith was the main author of a book about the school's history called An Establishment for Young Ladies. In the preface she wrote, 'Retirement is a myth.'

She was also the first chair of the committee that refurbished Boatwright House for the senior boarders and was president of the Old Girls' Association from 1978 to 1980.

In her student days she is remembered as a prefect and prize winner, particularly for divinity and scripture. As a teacher, Faith took her lifelong interest in politics and tried to be innovative and encourage her girls to show their initiative. One of the best examples of this was when she arranged with then acting prime minister, Lance Barnard, to visit the school to speak with the students. Faith says:

He was self-effacing, calm and humble. Everyone was extremely impressed that the man running the country took time out of his busy schedule to visit a small girls' school. Faith said it was a reminder of what a brilliant grassroots politician he was.

Faith was very involved in the Australian Federation of University Women and was the first Tasmanian appointed national president when she served in that role from 1989 to 1991. An early highlight of her presidency was leading a 56-strong Australian delegation which attended the International Federation of University Women conference in Helsinki.

Faith has been a long-time member of the National Council of Women in Launceston, serving as president from 1992 to 1995. She served on the Association of Independent Retirees, Northern Tasmania Branch, including as president, was a member of the Tasmanian Women's Consultative Council as well as its northern convener from 1995 to 2000. She was chair of the Order of Australia Association, northern Tasmanian branch and also chaired the Support Group for Women Entering Local Government.

Faith has spent a considerable part of her life passing vital skills onto others and worked with young unemployed people and mature Aboriginal women at TAFE. She also arranged continuing education for a range of groups at the Tasmanian State Institute of Technology. A longstanding interest in politics saw her run for the Tasmania Legislative Council seat of Cornwall in 1978. While she did not win, she had a brilliant slogan, 'Vote with Faith' and thoroughly enjoyed the challenge of being out on the campaign trail.

Faith was made a Member of the General Division of the Order of Australia in 1993 for services to women and education, and she was entered on the Tasmanian Honour Role of Women in 2006.

In 2016 she is still incredibly busy. She is president of the Norwood Probus Club, is still involved in the Association of Independent Retirees, and takes an active interest in all things Launceston, the future of the University of Tasmania's northern campus being one such example.

Our community is blessed to have Faith Layton in it because she has blessed it beyond measure with her incredible contributions. Faith's beloved family has generously shared her with the community for many years. Faith's late husband, Tom, was her greatest champion and she is very proud of her children, Margaret and Charles, as well as her three grandchildren. It must be said this wonderful community leader remains an inspiration to us all.

I finish with the words that Faith lives her life by:

I still intend to wear out rather than rust out and to remain, in the words of Wordsworth, strong in will to strive, to seek, to find and not to yield.

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