There is a small town up in the Sunshine Coast hinterland. It’s on the slopes and the hills of the Blackall Range. It’s guarded to the south by the Glass House Mountains. It’s called Maleny. It’s one of those changing rural towns. Forty years ago it was full of dairy farmers and now it’s full of tourists, and a lot of people retire there. It’s a similar community to those small rural communities you see across the state where there are always one or two people who are the drivers of the town and the community. And perhaps one of the tragic injustices of life is that we often speak highly of the people who are the leaders of the community only after they have passed. And for many years, the Maleny community—indeed, the entire hinterland community—benefited from the passion and the dedication of Mrs Joyce Newton OAM. Joyce dedicated much of her life—indeed, probably all of her life—to giving to the community, giving to community groups and giving to make her local neighbourhood and her locality a better place. She was assisted by Greg and the children—Ty, Jennifer, Daniel and Carl—and their families. Joyce made such an incredible mark on the Sunshine Coast and, in particular, the hinterland.
She reflected recently that her greatest passion throughout her life had been education. In earlier years, Joyce taught maths and science at the Maleny secondary department. After her children arrived, Joyce became a relief teacher at what was then the new Maleny State High School. Joyce was one of those people who was involved in everything. She sat on the P&C executives of the primary and high schools. She restarted the Maleny community kindergarten. She ran the blood bank at the local hospital, kept the Maleny guides going and kept the playgroup running. She sat on the advisory group of the Maleny Community Precinct group. That’s to name just a few of the many, many groups that Joyce was involved with. These groups relied on Joyce, as did the Queensland National Party and, later, the Liberal National Party, where she led the SEC for many years.
I first met Joyce and her husband, Greg, through the Liberal National Party in 2010. Joyce was always on the front line of election campaigns, rallying members, rallying the community and keeping feckless campaign directors like myself under control. I learned quickly to respect Greg and Joyce, but, in particular, Joyce, because, I’m not afraid to admit, I was slightly scared of Joyce. And it’s not because Joyce was a scary person. It’s just that she was one of those people who had this ability to make you want to not fail her. She was giving so much, and it was up to you to make sure that you could also give so much. If she could do so much in her life, so should you. Joyce loved to have an argument, and I mean that in the best sense of the word. Nothing made Joyce shine like a good discussion or a good argument. But it wasn’t about winning; it was just about helping people. It was about what she could do to help people and make them feel better. We need more people like Joyce in our community.
Joyce and her husband, Greg, were a formidable team. They’re quite different people, in a way. I don’t know if Joyce ever swore in her life. If she did, she probably did it in the privacy of her own home. Greg is someone who fills the swear jar on a daily basis. Indeed, in her phone calls with him, the swear jar was filled. They met overseas. He was a long-haired, hippie-esque dairy farmer from New Zealand, and she was from Ohio. The story goes—at least, the story that I’m telling—that they met overseas. Within minutes if not hours, Greg knew that Joyce was the person he wanted to spend the rest of his life with, and, shortly after, they were married and moved to the Sunshine Coast, where they became dairy farmers.
It was very sad when, in early 2017, we on the coast learned that Joyce had been diagnosed with motor neurone disease—that most terrible of diseases. Joyce had been given just under 12 months to live, but, because she’s one of those people who doesn’t take orders from anybody, she proved the doctors wrong. Then, after more than 36 years of dedicated service to the National Party and then the Queensland Liberal National Party, she was honoured with honorary life membership of the party in 2017. When she was given this award in Cairns, I can say that there was not a dry eye in the room. And, earlier this year, Joyce was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia in the Queen’s Birthday honours for her service to the community of Maleny. It was very special, because she was a very special person. The Governor of Queensland made the visit to her family home in Maleny to personally hand the honour, the award, to Joyce in her family living room.
It was very sad that Joyce passed away about a month ago. It is not fair. Life is not fair, but it’s not fair that Joyce was taken from her family and from the community when she had so much more to give. While I know she’s upstairs, keeping St Peter, God and all those characters in order, I know that her greatest monument will always be her loving, slightly loud, sometimes rambunctious and earthy family. I hope the Maleny community, the people of the Sunshine Coast and the many members of the Liberal National Party never forget the selfless approach of Joyce Newton OAM. Joyce was everything so many of us in politics are not, and she was so much more than what I’ve been able to describe today.