Ann was a collectivist. She was elected as Waverley’s first female deputy mayor in 1977, and she continued to be a trailblazer. From her Bronte home, she embodied the spirit of ‘agitate, educate, organise’ with the formidable eastern suburbs left, including Jeannette McHugh, Ernie Page, Sue and Paul Tracey, Fay Gervasoni, Paul Pearce and so many others, and believed in social movements and in translating that into legislative change, working with New South Wales left leaders, including Bruce Childs, Tom Uren, Jack Ferguson and Frank Walker. Ann, though, had a capacity to reach across the aisle, and the tributes made to her last week in the New South Wales parliament from Liberals, from Nationals, from Greens Party members and from Independents are an example of that.
What distinguished Ann, I believe, was her preparedness to pursue causes that were not high on the public agenda at the time of her initial engagement—the issue of women in prisons and the impact that that had on their children; the issue of safe injecting rooms as part of drug law reform, a challenge that was opposed strenuously when it was first advanced by people who had family affected by drugs; the issue of juvenile justice. These issues were never fashionable, but Ann took them forward in a way that was courageous and passionate. Ann Symonds blazed the policy trail in the causes of peace, progress and justice. She was a principled, determined and, at times, provocative advocate. She had the respect of all who dealt with her. She was a mentor to many, including me. She was patient and generous with her time.
Ann was a serious person, but Ann was also tremendous fun. She enjoyed life and she had a capacity to give pleasure to all those who knew her and had the privilege to be in her company. I pay tribute to Ann. She was much loved and she had so much love to give: to her family, to her friends, to her party and to generations of activists. I loved her and I will miss her. The world is a better place as a direct result of her presence here on this planet.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.