Helen Fraser

I spoke in parliament today about the passing of Helen Fraser.

Helen Fraser
13 March 2012

On 4 March 2012 Helen Whitton Fraser passed away, aged 91. Helen Fraser was the wife of the late Jim Fraser, after whom my seat is named. At the memorial service for Helen Fraser her son, Andrew Fraser, said that hers was a life of ‘strength, love and fun’. She met her husband to be on a tennis court when she was aged 16 and he 29. They did not get married for another 22 years. By that time Jim Fraser was already the local member for the ACT. This was well before self-government, so he was the only political representative for the ACT and looked after more electors than anyone else in the parliament.

Andrew Fraser told us that when Helen married Jim she was 'on call and on show'. She attended events on her husband's behalf, regularly giving speeches at local fetes. She was the patron of many local clubs, including bowls, netball and football. It was not done for show. Over a decade after her husband's death, Helen still held some of those positions.

Andrew Fraser told the story of when his mother received her MBE for community service from then Governor-General Paul Hasluck. Because he was the patron of the Scouts and she the commissioner of the Girl Guides, he decided he would play a trick on her. He put out his left hand for the official handshake. Without missing a beat, Helen flicked her handbag across to her right hand and courteously shook Hasluck's hand to accept the MBE.

Jim Fraser's death was utterly unexpected. He passed away in 1970, while still in office. The electorate of Fraser, which I have the honour to represent, was formed in 1974. I am the fifth member for Fraser. At the memorial service Meg Fraser read from the splendid Henry Scott Holland sermon 'Death is nothing at all'. It is one of my favourite pieces for funeral services as it reminds us of the importance of continuing to remember and speak often about those who have passed. It reads in part:

Call me by my old familiar name.
Speak to me in the easy way
which you always used.
Put no difference into your tone.
Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow.

Laugh as we always laughed
at the little jokes we enjoyed together.
Play, smile, think of me. Pray for me.
Let my name be ever the household word
that it always was.

Helen Fraser outlived her husband by more than four decades, and Andrew Fraser spoke of how, in her final days, she would talk about looking forward to seeing Jim. In the words of one of Jim's caucus colleagues, Andrew said, Helen had decided, 'It's time.'

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