By Elizabeth Ho OAM, Chair of Trustees, History Trust of South Australia
27 October 2021
This oration has been named in honour of Jennifer Cashmore AM, a former member of the SA House of Assembly, a former Minister of Health and a former Minister of Tourism.
Every day individuals and families face hard decisions about end of life. The dedication of Ms Cashmore to ensuring the right of each of us to specify our wishes is worth recalling.
As a parliamentarian, Ms Cashmore was the critical figure of her times in cementing the transformative principle of patient consent to medical treatment that has shaped our modern societal responses. Her work from the opposition benches brought together all sides of politics to support major changes that culminated in the 1995 Consent to Medical Treatment and Palliative Care Act. This became the foundation of our contemporary law on informed consent, advance care directives, medical powers of attorney, and palliative care.
As noted above, She had been a Liberal Minister of Health, and from the opposition benches, gave sustained attention to the medical and moral issues surrounding end of life decision making that had been inadequately addressed in the Natural Death Act of 1983.
I want to commend to the House the great deal of hard work and sensitive consultation that the Member for Coles has carried out in bringing us to this point. She has left us in no doubt as to the genuineness and sincerity of her intention in what …is a very sensitive areaFormer Deputy Premier and Minister of Health Don Hopgood.
Ms Cashmore proposed a select committee of the House of Assembly to examine the problems surrounding compassionate care for the dying and it was formed with majority support from members in 1990. As the then Labor deputy premier and Minister of Health, Don Hopgood, said at the time – “I want to commend to the House the great deal of hard work and sensitive consultation that the Member for Coles has carried out in bringing us to this point. She has left us in no doubt as to the genuineness and sincerity of her intention in what ….is a very sensitive area.”
The seven member committee held 38 meetings and received 400 submissions. In 1992, it proposed a bill but this lapsed following an election and a change of government. Ms Cashmore did not contest that election. However, her efforts to bring all sides of politics together on the issue of medical consent were not in vain. In 1995, Parliament finally passed the Consent to Medical Treatment and Palliative Care Act which hardly differed from the bill proposed in 1992.
Shortly after leaving Parliament, Ms Cashmore became the chair of the SA Association for Hospice and Palliative Care.
Ms Cashmore received her Order of Australia award in 1998 for “service to the community, particularly in the areas of palliative care, women’s issues, economic development and to the South Australian Parliament”.
She has dedicated time in her post-parliamentary life to supporting the cause of palliative care.
The History Trust of South Australia’s Jennifer Cashmore Oration will be presented on an occasional basis. The relationship between the medical and the societal, with a strong historical perspective, will be the theme of future Orations.
Prepared By Elizabeth Ho OAM with assistance from Professor Greg Crawford and Michael Jacobs (parliamentary research)