I first met Virginia when she was NSW Tourism minister and I was chair of Tourism Armidale. I found that she was one of that small number of Newcastle people who campaigned for the New England new state cause at the time of the 1967 plebiscite. There were not enough, and we went down on the Newcastle vote driven by fierce ALP opposition.
As chair of Tourism Armidale I was arguing at the time that we needed to reinstate the new state cause for tourism reasons if nothing else. In a crowded world, Armidale and New England needed to differentiate themselves. One way of doing that that was to go in direct opposition to Sydney, to interest people to come because we were different.
Virginia understood my point, although as a minister in the Sydney Government her hands were somewhat bound.
It is easy to be wise in retrospect. If I had known what a failure NSW tourism branding was to become I would have pushed a lot harder. Then in my role as Chair I was trying to be polite, to gather Government support for the local cause.
Sometimes you have to cut through.
I failed as chair of Tourism Armidale. I did so because I tried to work within a broken system. I should have tried harder to persuade Virginia that NSW had to fund a separate New England tourism promotion. Alternatively, we should have gone it alone, rejecting any form of Government support.
Virginia was a very considerable success in her personal and professional life. I remember her well.