Thank You, Governor: Honoring Marie Bashir's contributions to the LGBTI community
When Her Excellency Marie Bashir steps down from her role as Governor of NSW, the LGBTI community will lose one of its greatest champions. SX reflects on 13 years of empathetic leadership.
When NSW Governor Marie Bashir walked into the Luncheon Club in November 2006 to speak at the HIV support organisation’s 13th birthday, no doubt she felt she was among friends.
And little wonder, it was the Governor’s third visit to the long-running – but now closed – service, to spend time with people living with and affected by HIV and the volunteers who supported them.
Club founder Carole Ann King will never forget the smiles that lit up the room when the Governor addressed the crowd. Recalls King: “In her speech she said, ‘I feel so full of emotion to look around and see so many family and friends. This is one of my favourite places in Sydney because it is about resilience, courage, helping one another and getting on with life. The atmosphere ought to be bottled and sold.”
It is just one of many stories told about the popular Governor – created a Dame of the Order of Australia in the recent Queen’s Birthday Honours List – and her love and support for the GLBTI community.
There is little doubt that when Bashir finally steps down from the position of Governor of New South Wales after more than 13 years at the end of September, the community will be losing one of its most high profile champions.
GALLERY: Marie Bashir shows her community spirit at LGBTI events. Photos: Robert Knapman, Mark Dickson, Gary Friedland, Cec Busby
Indeed, Bashir’s connections with the GLBTI community go back decades, as Robert French of the Pride History Group tells SX.
“Her Excellency Professor Dame Marie Bashir has long been a supporter of gay and lesbian peoples, even from well before the time she became Governor of NSW,” he said.
“As Professor of Psychiatry at Sydney University, she not only accepted the statement by the Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatry in 1973 that homosexuality was not a mental illness – the first such body in the world to do so – but she positively embraced it.
“She became patron of CAMP NSW (later the Gay & Lesbian Counselling Service) and was fully supportive of their efforts to assist and to help liberate people struggling with their sexuality and self-oppression.
“As Governor, she willingy participated in gay and lesbian community events,” French added.
“Obviously, she enjoyed being with our community. The sheer humanity and downright empathy she brought to her official role will be greatly missed.”
Bashir has been many things to many people: long-time wife to former Wallaby captain and former Sydney Lord Mayor Sir Nicholas Shehadie; a mother of three; 1971 Mother of the Year; Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Sydney; Australian Living Treasure; Chancellor of the University of Sydney; and our second longest-serving Governor.
Bashir has supported a raft of community causes from becoming patron of the Gay and Lesbian Counselling Service upon her inauguration in 2001 – the first Governor to do so – to her backing GLBTI equally in sport.
She strongly supported the successful bid for the Sydney Convicts gay rugby team to host the 2014 Bingham Cup and hosted a reception at Government House in early April to commemorate the signing of a landmark anti-homophobia in Australian sport.
King said Bashir’s colourful history, encompassing so many diverse and disinguished roles, has enabled Bashir to connect with many sections of society, including the LGBTI community.
“Her Excellency was able to spread her wings with understanding and compassion throughout the sectors of the community because of her knowledge and life experiences on the important issues at stake and by raising awareness – not just in public but behind the scenes,” King said.
“She never hesitated to include her husband, Sir Nicholas Shehadie, who supported her every move with a great sense of humour and love of history they have been a perfect and extraordinary team.”
NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby co-convenor Justin Koonin agreed, saying “Governor Bashir will be remembered as one of the strongest allies of the LGBTI community”.
“Few people in an office as high as the Governor have been as outspoken on the need to celebrate diversity, and the contribution that LGBTI people in particular make to society,” Koonin said.
“Her contributions will be a hard act to follow.”
ACON CEO Nicolas Parkhill commended the work of the outgoing Governor.
“Her regular presence at LGBTI events and activities has served as a powerful example of social inclusion, which has helped break down the social and political barriers which continue to affect LGBTI people and communities in NSW,” Parkhill said.
“We thank her for the specific support she has provided to a range of LGBTI community groups, organisations and causes, and we wish her all the best for her future endeavours.”
Dame Marie will be succeeded by General David Hurley.
A dinner to honour the contributions of NSW Governor Marie Bashir to the LGBTI community will be held on Friday, November 20 at NSW Parliament House.