With the death in March this year of Georgina (Gina) Pinkas, the Canberra community has lost one it of its community heroes and an outstanding advocate and protector of public land and territory rights.
Gina was born in 1944 to Ron and Trudy Bellamy of West Pennant Hills, NSW. She grew up on their five-acre flower farm - part of the original 1804 grant to her convict ancestor, William Bellamy. She was educated at Beecroft Primary School, Hornsby Girls High School and gained a BA from the University of Sydney. Her first job was with her parents in their flower stalls. When she was eleven her mother took her skiing, a big trip from "West Penno" to Charlotte Pass in the mid-50s, and there she developed a love of skiing and the mountains. She later worked in Perisher during university holidays where she met her beloved husband, Otto. They went on to manage both Cooma Ski Club and Snow Revellers Ski Club in Perisher and brought up their three children to also love the mountains.
From the 1970s, Gina worked in the Commonwealth and (after self-government) ACT government where she delivered sport, recreation, community development, cultural and heritage programs. She was Planning Advisor to then Simon Corbell MLA, ACT minister for planning, and dealt extensively with planning issues and legislation.
In retirement, Gina continued to fearlessly advocate for the protection of the public interest in public land and community assets and to contribute to public debates on these issues. As a former senior public servant, her advocacy for the public interest was powerful, credible and highly effective. While a Labor Party supporter, she also worked with, and was respected by, all sides of the political spectrum.
Gina campaigned vigorously for voluntary assisted dying legislation even though she knew she would not live to see the necessary legislation pass in the ACT. Her advocacy, her great courage and personal contribution was recognised in the Australian Parliament on the day the Restoring Territory Rights Act 2022 was passed in December 2022.
ACT senator Katy Gallagher, Minister for Finance, Women, and the Public Service, commented that "Gina reached out to me as soon as we formed government to lobby me to push for the repeal of the Andrews Bill. In true Gina style she was blunt in her advocacy including telling me that any law change wouldn't help her, but she wanted to fight for voluntary assisted dying for those who would come after her. Just a few months later Gina sat proudly in the Senate's public gallery as we finally repealed that dreadful law that for more than two decades had treated Territorians as second-class citizens. I looked up at her once it was done and she had a huge smile. We both did.
Gina dedicated her life to fighting for others and to make the world a better place and her campaign on VAD was the ultimate selfless expression of that."
As Vice President of Friends of the Albert Hall, Gina played a crucial role in protecting Albert Hall, a precious community asset on public land. She joined The Friends to assist it in protecting Albert Hall and provided critical advice about how to achieve the legislatively required Plan of Management for Albert Hall. Over some nine years, she attended countless meetings as a representative of The Friends, made submissions to government in her own capacity and for The Friends, participated vigorously in public consultations, provided advice valuable for ACT government consultants, lobbied political contacts, appeared before an ACT Legislative Assembly inquiry, and spoke in the media. The decision by government in 2016 to institute a comprehensive Plan of Management for Albert Hall is primarily due to her expertise, determination, persistence and dedication to achieve the best outcome for the Canberra community. Gina was awarded an Honorary Life Membership of The Friends to recognise her very significant contribution to this successful outcome.
Reflecting her approach in her professional life to what a friend described as "the greater good", Gina publicly also campaigned for better outcomes for the community on other social justice issues such as tenancy laws, the social impact of high-rise development, community pools and budgetary support for health, housing and aged care. Her focus was on the impact of government policies on the people of Canberra. She vigorously campaigned through media interviews, many careful, well-informed Letters to the Editor and behind the scenes with government officials, drawing on her extensive experience and contacts from her public service days.
Gina's strong advocacy for community interest included carefully argued submissions to Federal Parliamentary inquiries (into the National Capital Authority and the Immigration Bridge), and ACT Legislative Assembly inquiries (on Albert Hall management, Woden including the environmental and social sustainability of housing and Phillip Pool, Nature in the City, and Building Quality in the ACT) and she appeared before some of these. Gina's expertise and encyclopaedic knowledge of legislation and its underpinnings was regularly sought and highly valued by several local residents' groups.
Having seen at first hand the deficiencies in the aged care system when caring for her mother, father, other relatives and friends, Gina set out to do what she could to bring aged care reform including through a submission to the Productivity Commission, media and joining the Anglicare team to help make a difference.
Gina loved local social history and as someone who was always up for a chat, she delighted in recording stories from Cooma Ski Club's early members for historical purposes. She also delighted in researching her African first fleet ancestry, contributing to the body of research on two of the 10 African men who arrived as convicts on the first fleet - her ancestors John Randal and John Martin.
Gina's amazing and detailed recall of history and her always-vivid descriptions were legendary and a delight to her friends and family. She was warm, generous and always thoughtful. Gina was ready to help and support friends, without thought to herself, even when very ill.
In 2020 Gina Pinkas received an OAM for "For service to the community of the Australian Capital Territory". It was richly deserved. She is survived by her three children, Klaus, Andy and Joanna and her five grandchildren. She is greatly missed by her family and many friends. Gina's advocacy for the public interest and the Canberra community will be long remembered.
- Di Johnstone AM, friend and former colleague in Friends of the Albert Hall Inc, with the kind assistance of Gina's family.