A tribute to...

Dr. Anita Frances Phillips

Published: 14/2/2023

Dr. Anita Frances Phillips

March 14, 1945 - February 4, 2023

Tribute by Anita's Family

BILL Shorten, a senior member in Prime Minister Anthony Albanese's Cabinet, today paid tribute to the long, distinguished and dedicated career of Dr Anita Frances Phillips, PhD, a former member of the Queensland Parliament who recently passed away at the Sunshine Coast University Hospital following a short illness.

Her daughters, Rebecca, Melanie, and Keinton were at her side.    She was the Labor member for the Townsville-based seat of Thuringowa (2001-2004) and resigned from State Parliament but was unsuccessful when she stood for Federal Parliament in the seat of Herbert in 2004.

Peter Beattie, the Premier, during her term in the Queensland Parliament, said today Anita would have been a successful Government Minister had she not decided to run for Federal Parliament. 

"Anita was a powerful advocate for the people of Thuringowa and a trail blazer for women in Queensland politics at a time in Queensland when both were a challenge," Mr Beattie said.  

 "She was a key part of the Labor team in 2001. Her strength of character and determination were admired by both sides of politics." 

Her achievements span helping to secure funding to upgrade the North Queensland Cowboys home ground, being awarded "Miss Catholic Girl" representing St Michaels Catholic School at Ashburton before going on to win the title for Victoria; to her PhD into the history of the NDIS, described today by Mr. Shorten as a remarkable scholarship.   

Mr Shorten the Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme and Minister for Government Services said Anita was "incredibly active in progressive causes and held strong Labor values.

"Her recent PhD into the history of the NDIS was a remarkable scholarship, with many first-time primary interviews with people who worked to establish the NDIS.

"On a personal note, I enjoyed all of my engagements with Anita, she was full of energy and passion.

"She was a modest person, who I suspect did not know how well she was thought of by all the people who came into contact with her. 

Anita held the strong view in recent years that the best way to achieve meaningful outcomes for her community, was through policy development at an executive or Parliamentary level, which was the key motivation for her PhD.

A long and distinguished service to the community included as the ACT Public Advocate; Member of Queensland State Parliament; advisor to Commonwealth ministers, executive positions on the Leichhardt and Queanbeyan local governments, Sunshine Coast Health and Hospital Board (2017 to 2022).

She served on the boards of The Australian Association of Social Workers (2013 to 2019); Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practice Board (2017- 2022).

She was also an adjunct Professor within the Institute for Government and Policy Analysis at the University of Canberra (2018-2022). 

 She completed her PhD in 2022. Her thesis "The Process of policy development using the NDIS as a case study." is a major examination of policy development which has been highly praised by Mr Shorten.

In her maiden speech to the Queensland Parliament on April 4, 2001 she credited the inspiration and motivation for a political path to her late parents Anita Kerridge and John Phillips.

Anita's parents grew up during the Great Depression and met and married during the uncertainty of the Second World War. After the war they moved to a housing commission estate in the then outer suburbs of Melbourne.

Anita was born in Melbourne on March 14, 1945. 

She was Anita and John's eldest child.

She had three sisters and a brother, John Hay Phillips (Jock) who passed away in November 2018.

Her three surviving sisters Diana Crawford, Juliet Knight and Melissa Phillips were able to spend time with Anita in her final days.

Anita's education started at St Michael's Catholic School at Ashburton, Victoria (1952-57). She attended St Rochs Glen Iris and Our Holy Redeemer at Ripponlea. At Presentation Convent, Windsor (1960-64) Anita was Head Prefect.

She completed a Diploma of Social Studies at the University of Melbourne (1968) a Bachelor of Arts at the University of Melbourne (1976); Master of Public Administration at the University of Canberra (1990); Post Graduate diploma in legal studies at the University of Canberra (2012) and PhD at the University of Canberra 2022. 

In 1969 Anita moved to Townsville to set up home in what she termed a tropical paradise to fulfil her dreams. But within weeks she abandoned her retail business in Shaw's Arcade and at the pleading of fellow social worker and close friend Joan Innes-Reid she started work, 6 months pregnant, at the Townsville General Hospital as the hospital's second social worker.

It was Joan's influence which persuaded Anita to move from community work into politics. Joan died 10 days before she was elected.

On her election, Anita paid tribute to former Victorian premier Joan Kirner as her political mentor and acknowledged the ALP's financial and emotional support through the Emily List program established to increase female representation around Australia for her success.

This is her final comment from her maiden speech: "Finally, I could not have achieved this honour without the love and invaluable moral support of my three wonderful daughters, Rebecca, Melanie and Keinton, and I could never have done it without the divine grace and guidance with which I was blessed"

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