5 May 2020

Farewell to Dr Deb Foskey, Greens MLA and longtime political campaigner

| Genevieve Jacobs
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Dr Deb Foskey

Dr Deb Foskey was a longtime Greens political candidate and campaigner. Photo: Supplied.

Former Greens MLA Dr Deb Foskey has died of lung cancer at the age of 70.

Dr Foskey was the ACT Greens representative for Molonglo in the sixth Legislative Assembly from 2004 to 2008. She also ran for the Senate in 1998, and for the Assembly in 2001 before being eventually elected as an MLA.

A longtime environmental campaigner, Dr Foskey moved to Canberra with her children in the 1980s. She completed a Masters in Human Ecology and a PhD in Political Science from ANU, focusing on population issues and analysing humanitarian ways to achieve a lower ecological footprint.

“She was a wonderful woman and without her contribution, there is no way the four of us would have been elected in 2008”, said Greens MLA Caroline Le Couteur, who will lead the Assembly condolence motion on Thursday (7 May).

Dr Foskey was also a public housing tenant, one of a handful of people ever to be elected to government from that situation.

“I think it was Deb’s misfortune to be the only Green MLA who was not part of the balance of power, which makes a big difference in public perception,” Ms Le Couteur said.

“Poor people are incredibly underrepresented in our Parliament and Deb certainly suffered ridicule because she had been poor, in a way that is indicative of things that are actually wrong in our democracy.”

But that lived experience also led to one of Dr Foskey’s significant legacies in the Assembly, saving the Narrabundah long-stay caravan park for low-income residents in a bitter battle with developers.

“She kept working on issues of fairness,” Ms Le Couteur said. “The government did get on board with the Narrabundah issue, but I doubt they would have done so if not for Deb’s advocacy. She knew how they felt because a few years before she’d been in their position.”

In the end, the ACT Government did a land swap with the owner to preserve the homes of those residents, some of whom had lived there for more than 20 years. The long-stay caravan park is still home to more than a hundred people today.

Dr Foskey also worked extensively on school closures and legislation that ensures the right to peaceful protest. Her dedication to sustainability also laid the groundwork for triple bottom line analysis, now a standard process when evaluating major ACT Government decisions through the cabinet process.

Following her period in government, Dr Foskey moved back to East Gippsland where she continued to be actively involved in community events. She ran for local government and stood for the Victorian Greens in East Gippsland for the 2019 Federal election.

“She didn’t expect to win, and she didn’t, but last year was very hard for her for several reasons,” Ms Le Couteur said. Dr Foskey was diagnosed with cancer and her house burned down mid-year, destroying all her possessions.

“We had dinner together last year and she was just wonderfully positive. She’d scoured the op shops of East Gippsland, she looked totally dressed up, and she was full of ideas and plans.

“Deb Foskey was one of life’s survivors. She dusted herself off and did the right thing by the world as a whole. She was a very selfless person and she will be much missed.”

Dr Foskey is survived by her two daughters, Sam and Eleni.

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