60 years in politics has come to an end

Former Manly Mayor, Jean Hay, is set to retire after 60 years in politics.

60 Years in politics has come to an end.


Ross Greenwod: Great to have your company here on Work Life Money, right around Australia. Somehow, you have a plan going into your time and years. I know we spoke earlier with Kerri-Anne Kennerly. She certainly had significant changes. It can happen in different ways to you. I want to tell you the story now of the former Mayor of Manly. Now, Manly for anybody who has been to Sydney, you know the beach suburb, it’s one of the great areas of Sydney, one of the great areas of the world you could say. Its mayor for many many years, has been Jean Hay.

She’s well known in the area. She’s been in politics for nearly 60 years now. Jean Hay, I’m not going to give too much away, but she might be 77 years old. Let’s not say too much about that. What happened is around eight years ago, there was a big change in her life, when she was battling breast cancer, had chemotherapy. Problem is now, parts of that treatment might have caught up with her.

She has retinopathy. As a result, she has now decided to step down from the election race that was going to be held. Let’s get her online and have a chat about all this. Good day Jean and how are you going?


Jean Hay: Fine thanks Ross. Lovely to hear from you.

Ross Greenwod: It’s great to have a chat with you as well. This program is all about the journey you go through life until you get to your retirement years. I might have alluded to how old you might be, 77, might be.

Jean: 77 years.

Ross Greenwod: Let’s put it out there then. Why it is haven’t you retired?

Jean: When my husband first got on to Manly Council back in 1959, and I was deputy mayor for about seven years, and of course he was the mayor. I’m actually the only woman in Manly that’s ever been both the mayor and the mayoress. Of course, then when David retired from Manly Council and went into state politics, people started saying to me, “Why don’t you run for Council.” I ran in September 1987 Council elections, and I’ve been involved ever since.

Ross Greenwod: Is it true that the local member there, the local federal member who was one former Prime Minister, Tony Abbot, calls you Queen Jean?

Jean: That’s right. He gave me that nickname some years ago.

Ross Greenwod: [laughs] Is it true?

Jean: Yes. A lot of people do it.

Ross Greenwod: It’s so funny. All right. Okay. Even now, you’re not letting this retinopathy get in the way. Yes, you might have stepped down from the election race, but there’s certainly no lack of work for you, or occupation for you, is there?

Jean: No, not at all. I’m very, very involved with Bear Cottage. It’s just one of the things that people say to me, “Is there anything particularly that you’re proud of that you’ve done in your life?” Certainly Bear Cottage, which is the only children’s hospitals in New South Wales was built in Manly. It was finished in 2002, and I went up to fight for that, and still very involved with them. I have been for the past three and a half years, a member of the — on the board, and deputy chair of the Sydney Harbor Federation Trust.

I had a call from Josh Gartenburg, the Federal Environment minister just two weeks ago to say that he’d reappointed me for another three years. That’s enough I think to help to keep me out of mischief.

The driving force of politics

Ross Greenwod: Well, I think it’s enough to keep you off the age pension for a few years Jean, there’s no doubt about that. But here’s just the other thing. What’s the drive? Where does that come from? Is that the work you do is interesting that you think you’re helping with? Where does it all come from?

Jean: I think look, I’m a last long resident of Manly. Both my husband and I were born here, and of course we have three children. Our grandchildren have been born here. We just got this tremendous love for this area, and it’s just something that just came naturally to me when I was actually 19, when I first started doing community work, and getting involved, and I’ve done it ever since.

What is Retinopathy?

Ross Greenwod: Just to people who don’t understand. Retinopathy, just explain how you started to realize that something was going on here.

Jean: What happened back in about 2012, I was actually diagnosed in October 2009. The type of breast cancer that I had was HER2 Positive. It’s a fast growing cancer that can more likely come back in other parts of your body. You’ve got to have quite extensive treatment for it. I had 16 lots of chemotherapy, 30 lots of radiation, and then another year on Herceptin.

I did have quite a lot of treatment. After that in about 2012, I started to notice I was having problem with my eyesight, it was very foggy. Anyhow, I went to an eye specialist and said, “You have got the start of cataracts. That might be it.” I had my cataracts done. But in actual effect, that made it worse. Since then, what had happened was that was letting more light in. Finally, I went to a young fellow at DY, and he said, “Look Jean, honestly, I do not know what is your problem, but I think what you should do is I may have to refer to you to Save Sight Institute.”

They said, “Well, the problem was that, in your retina, you’ve got what they call cones and rods, and the cones cope with you when you’re out in the sun and your daylight. The rods are for at night time. My cones are degenerating. When I’m out in the sun, it’s just honestly, when I’m out in the sun and I don’t put these special sunglasses on that I’ve got, I can’t see anything.

Ross Greenwod: It’s incredible, isn’t it. And yet, if you’re a more inside, you’re generally pretty much okay?

Jean: I know. At night, I can see as well as anything at night. It’s just day time and in the sunlight. It’s the same for the somebody who have to turn in to either a possum or a bandicoot just to come out at night.

Ross Greenwod: Well, I’ll tell you what. I might say politics, because a lot of politics is done inside and at night time. As a result, in those darkened rooms where it all happens. Maybe it’s actually well suited for your occupation as well. It is so lovely having a chat to you here today, because it says everything about the drive, but it also says everything about the changes that we do go through in our own lives. Even that decision about retirement, if made for all sorts of different reasons, for different people in different occupations, and in different circumstances as well.

It’s terrific to have you on the program. For 12 years, the mayor of Manly, one of the most famous suburbs in all of Australia, Jean Hay. We wish you all the very best for the future, for you and your husband as well, Jean.

Jean: Well, thanks very much, Ross. It’s very kind of you.

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