Public Health Champion steps out of the ring

Posted by Editor • Sunday, August 1. 2010 • Category: News
Member for Hornsby Judy Hopwood
Member for Hornsby Judy Hopwood has never been one to shy away from the tough issues. From a successful 34 year career as a nurse alongside her active involvement in numerous community groups, she has been a tireless force in the public service for her entire working life. After winning a bi-election which made her the 66th woman in NSW parliament Judy has spent the last 9 years in the legislative assembly championing social issues and public health reform. A woman with very firm convictions, Ms Hopwood had successfully moved her margin from 2.7 percent to 16.5 percent over her time in office, largely due to her focus on public health and lobbying for necessary upgrades and services in her district. However Ms Hopwood has recently declared that she will not stand for Liberal pre-selection in the 2011 state elections.

Following her retirement from parliament Ms Hopwood hopes to continue her work in the public health field, “The world is my oyster again and I would love to be a part of efforts to provide solutions to our health crisis and social issues such as mental health, domestic violence and homelessness,”she says. However there is no doubt that the loss of politicians like Judy Hopwood, especially in light on ongoing political turmoil in both the federal and state parliaments, will be sorely felt in the local community.

For Judy Hopwood, being a member of parliament was a natural extension of a lifetime of community involvement and public service. “I have always been community minded and been involved in local organisations. I was on the first committee that set up safety house in Mt Colah and I have been a neighbourhood watch street coordinator for 20 years, and I was always involved in my children's sporting groups and committees,” she says.

Ms Hopwood felt that she had the potential to play a stronger role in the betterment of society. “I suppose the interest in looking outside my immediate environment to the larger community is what really started it all off. Seeing that not everything was exactly as it should be and that people with a voice would be able to change things for the better,” she says.

In spite of these sentiments becoming a member of parliament was never an overriding ambition of hers. From 1996 to 1998 she worked in the office of Phillip Ruddock where she acquired much of the knowledge and experience she would need for later in her political career. She credits the time she spent developing relationships with community leaders as fundamental in preparing her for being an MP.

“I took to politics like a duck to water, I really enjoyed liaising with the community on behalf of Mr. Ruddock and fortunately many of those people are still active in the Hornsby electorate today. I was given a valuable foretaste of political life,” she says.

Having served as the president of the Women's Council of the Liberal Party from 1996 until 2000, Ms Hopwood was actively involved in trying to encourage women to enter parliament. When she was approached to stand for pre-selection she thought that the experience of running would be useful.”Even if I didn't win I would be able to relate the difficulties, challenges and obstacles to other women, but I won,” she says simply.

During her nine years as the member for Hornsby Ms. Hopwood has been instrumental in having millions of dollars spent in her electorate. Of note was the connection of sewage mains to Dangar Island, improved electricity provisions to Galston and Dural through the building of a substation, and upgrades to two train stations. She also lobbied consistently for desperately needed upgrades to Hornsby Hospital and was successful in procuring $23 million for new accident and emergency, maternity, paediatric, and psychiatric wards on top of $7 million more for a mental health intensive care unit.

However of these measurable successes Ms Hopwood considers a less quantifiable achievement to be the crowning glory of her political career, “The single thing that I feel is my most treasured achievement is the relationship I have with the community. To be able to contact them and they me at any time, I made myself totally available to them and that relationship with the community is really what politics is all about,” she explains.

Now Ms. Hopwood has decided it's time for a change. Her decision to not stand for re-election was not one that she took lightly. She attributes this decision to a desire to focus more specifically on health care policy and reform. In particular she hopes to address the plight of nurses in our states hospitals.

“I want to put back into nursing, the career that has given me so much over the years,”she says. Having been a nurse in the public hospital system and community nursing program for 34 years Ms Hopwood felt as though she had a unique perspective on nursing and that her experience both as a nurse and as a politician would give her a strong background with which to address the needs of Australian nurses.

“Being a nurse I understand many of the aspects of the culture and conditions. It's not all about the pay and it's not all about the conditions but a combination. It's an issue of having respect for the role of the nurses and reducing bullying in the work place. Although the pay is an obvious concern for many nurses, more often the reports are about the lack of skill mix on the ward area, the bed occupancy which in some places can be over 100%, and a lack of adequate leadership. These are things that nurse are finding really difficult to deal with.” she says.

Alongside long term ally, Shadow minister for Health Jillian Skinner, Ms Hopwood hopes to assist the Coalition in developing a new health policy. Should there be a change in NSW Government Ms Hopwood would be keen to continue her work in health care reform with a government in transition, while pursuing her PhD in a related field. While Ms Hopwood is excited by the opportunity to work in a more specialised health care role, the electorate of Hornsby may not share the same enthusiasm for her retirement from representative politics as her role in the community will likely prove a difficult act to follow.

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