Thursday, May 31, 2007

Vale Laura Chaffey MBE

It is with sadness that I record the death of long term party member Laura Chaffey who passed away at her beloved St Luke’s on Sunday 27 May at age 94.

Miss Chaffey or Sister Chaffey as many people knew her was awarded the British Empire Medal (BEM) in the 1980 New Year’s honours in recognition for her services to nursing at St Luke’s Hospital Darlinghurst and for her charitable work. For all her working life Laura was in the nursing profession and for many years she was the sister in charge of the fourth floor at St Luke’s in thoe days when St Luke’s was the major surgical hospital in the City’s east and before St Vincent’s Private Hospital was built. Most of Sydney’s major surgeons operated at St Luke’s and there was always a long waiting list amongst those who had the misfortune to be ill to get onto the fourth floor where Laura’s kindness and compassion were renowned.

But to many people Laura was more than a nursing sister; she held strong, compassionate, progressive liberal political views based on the Menzian tradition and no doubt because she came from a family with a strong commitment to community and political service.

Born in Tamworth in 1913, Laura grew up in a political household and saw her father Frank campaigning for a better deal for rural people. He was soon elected as the local Country party member for Tamworth in the NSW State Parliament where he served as Agriculture Minister in the pre-World War II Stevens UAP-Country Party Government. Her late brother Bill succeeded his father as the local member and he too served as Agriculture Minister in the Askin-Cutler Liberal-Country Party state government.

Laura was believed to be a life long member of the Liberal Party belonging to the Elizabeth Bay-Points Point branch since 1974 (as far back as the branch records go) and was well known for lending her considerable support and encouragement to many an Eastern suburbs aspiring political leader and was last seen just before the March state election attending the local Liberal campaign launch. She was very proud of our local representatives including her fellow branch member Don Harwin MLC and member for Wentworth Malcolm Turnbull.

Our community and the Liberal Party is a lesser place when we say goodbye to people like Laura Chaffey. I will always be thankful for the encouragement she so unstintingly provided in her inimitable clipped and precise way, always tinged with her wonderfully dry humour and wry smile.

Her funeral will be held at 1.30pm on Friday 1 June, St Marks Anglican Church, Darling Point.

(Pictured Laura Chaffey with Malcolm Turnbull at a Liberal party branch function.)

1 comment:

Shayne Mallard said...

Having returned from Laura's funeral attended by about 100 people, I have learnt much more about her life away from politics - the later of which appears a very private persuit. One of Laura's many neices gave a moving and well humoured eulogy about her 'favourite Aunt'. We were reminded of a determined woman with strong and enduring family ties. The formidable Sister Chaffey at St Lukes who commanded respect from hospital staff even in her recent last days. We heard of the school contemporary and friend of Australian poet Judith Wright - a poem written by Wright about Laura and presented to her in their late teens was read out and deeply moved the family and friends. I left the service knowing that the values and character of 'Aunty' Laura are strongly evident in the nieces representing her there today. The service also gave me cause to correct this blog entry as her birthdate was 1913 making her 94 and not 97 as we believed. Shayne