HON ALISON XAMON (North Metropolitan) [10.00 pm]: I rise to reflect on the life of Karen Merrin, who passed away yesterday morning after a long battle with cancer. Karen would be well known to many members of this place. She has left a significant legacy in this state, specifically in the community legal sector. I want to acknowledge so much of what Karen has done and her achievements. This information about Karen’s work in the sector is from the Community Legal Centres Association of Western Australia, which has written a very good obituary for Karen.

Karen began work as an advocate in the sector in 1994 at the Welfare Rights and Advocacy Service. She was the project officer responsible for the establishment of the Northern Suburbs Community Legal Centre in Mirrabooka and was appointed the inaugural manager in 1996. She worked at that centre until her retirement only a few weeks ago. Through collaborative partnerships and advocacy, Karen was involved in helping to establish the Tenants’ Advice Service, and subsequently Tenancy WA; the Women’s Law Centre, which followed the defunding of the original Women’s Legal Service; the Employment Law Centre; and the Goldfields Community Legal Centre. She assisted in the development of the Wheatbelt Community Legal Centre and in establishing the Family Relationship Centre in Joondalup. She was also involved in developing online resources for newly arrived migrants and refugees. Karen led the sector as chair of the Community Legal Centres Association of Western Australia for nearly a decade, from 2005 to 2014. She also played an important role in the national association. As I said, she was still working until a few weeks ago.

Not surprisingly, Karen has been recognised as a true champion of the community legal sector. Despite her illness, Karen continued to accomplish incredible work in spearheading programs to provide advice and access to justice for older people and to domestic violence survivors. That included a special domestic violence and health justice partnership in the north-east corridor, which is one of the first of its kind in Australia and truly innovative; establishing the first seniors’ rights service in Western Australia; establishing the older persons’ peer education service; and coordinating the Purple Road community awareness campaign on elder abuse. I valued her evidence and contributions to the parliamentary Select Committee into Elder Abuse. I am sure those members who were on that committee with me also very much appreciated Karen’s energy and expertise. I spoke at some length about these fantastic programs during my contribution to the motion on elder abuse.

Karen was an incredibly strong and feisty woman. She never held back on what she thought needed to happen. I admired her enormously and really appreciated her energy. She was also very responsive and generous with her time, support and expertise. Ultimately, Karen was a true collaborator, even if she had very little time for fools.

It has been an absolute privilege to know and work with Karen, and she will be very sadly missed by many people. Her contribution to justice in this state will be sadly missed as well. I wish to relay my sincerest condolences to Karen’s family and friends, and also to her colleagues. Vale Karen Merrin.

Members: Hear, hear!


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