Vale Senator Linda White

All of our hearts in the Labor family are broken at the passing of Senator Linda White.
Linda was formidable. A beloved friend, a valued colleague, a dedicated parliamentarian and, through all her efforts in the wider labour movement, a devout supporter of working Australians.
Linda made a difference.
Linda’s early professional life was sign enough. She was always up against it, championing for something better. Student Society President of the then largely male Melbourne Law School. A young lawyer playing her part in tackling injustices that were only just beginning to be fully confronted, including corruption in the police force, and child sex abuse in the clergy.
She rose from rank-and-file activist to Assistant National Secretary of the Australian Services Union. When you look back at the ASU’s proud record, Linda’s legacy is everywhere – from protecting workers’ entitlements in the Ansett collapse, to leading the campaign for equal pay for social and community services workers, to fighting for the right to income for members feeling the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Yet, as Linda herself put it, the smaller things mattered just as much, what she termed “hard day-to-day work of unionism which binds us together in solidarity”.
Linda was an invisible servant of the administration of the Labor Party federally and in Victoria, through the good times and the hard. The longest-ever serving woman on the National Executive of the ALP, Linda was central to the affirmative action reforms which led to my Government being the first with a majority of female members in Australian history.
It was a good day for the Australian Labor Party when Linda entered the Senate. As she put it in her first speech:
“For some people, their pathway in life is determined by the circumstances of their birth. Governments, however, have the power to open up new choices and opportunities that would otherwise remain out of reach. The power we have in this place to change lives is significant.”
As it has sadly turned out, Linda was not in the Senate for long, but she made powerful use of the brief time she had, making a profound impact on matters as varied as the National Anti-Corruption Commission and better access to superannuation for women. People joked that she may have been the most senior backbencher to have ever existed.
As a Senator for Victoria, Linda’s love for the state blossomed. She became an active voice in caucus and the parliament for agriculture and the regions. She loved the relationship she was growing with her constituents.
Linda believed in a better, fairer and more compassionate Australia, a belief that was always backed by her energy and action. Even her love of the arts, good food and beautiful gardens was energised by her sense of fairness, a belief that good things in life should be available to everyone. Bread, and roses too.
On behalf of the Australian Government and the Labor family, I offer my deepest condolences to Linda’s family, her loved ones, and to everyone who is grieving for her.
Linda is survived by her beloved brother Michael, and also by the countless activists she mentored, especially women across the labour movement.
I personally had the privilege to witness so much of Linda’s contribution over our three decades of friendship.
I will miss her enormously. As a colleague and source of advice, but most importantly as a dear friend.
May Linda rest in peace.