Vale Joy Baluch


Mr VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN (Stuart) (11:19): Her Worship, Mayor Joy Baluch, Member of the Order of Australia, was both a larger than life character with a reputation and media presence which spanned our nation, and simultaneously, a warm, caring and spiritual woman from regional South Australia. Joy was brave and fierce; and Joy was also tender and insightful—but not always at the same time.

We have already heard today from the Premier, the Leader of the Opposition and the minister about some of Joy's remarkable achievements. It is also appropriate to focus on her other and even more important roles:

  • as a passionate and devoted wife to Teo (or Steve, as he was known) at a time when marrying a migrant was unfortunately still frowned upon by many;
  • as a mother to Emil and Michelle;
  • as a sister to Marlene and Neil;
  • as a sister-in-law, mother-in-law, grandmother, aunt, great aunt, and so on; and
  • as a close personal friend to many people in Port Augusta and beyond.

If you knew Joy well, then you know that her family and closest friends were even more important to her than her work—and that says a lot. Joy clearly came from strong stock which is evidenced by the annual five-kilometre open water swimming race at Port Augusta which is named after her father, George Copley.

Joy showed exceptional strength throughout her life, including her work on behalf of Port Augusta and regional South Australia, and more broadly in local government and other forums. As well as that, Joy ran her family business, the Pampas Motel, which she and her husband took up over 50 years ago and it is still running today thanks mainly to the efforts over the last several years of her sister Marlene, daughter Michelle, and granddaughter Carly.

In running her business, Joy knew that to recommend other motels when she could not fill a booking or meet a customer's need was the best way for her and her community to thrive. This is the same approach that she took to developing Port Augusta. Have no doubt, it was always Port Augusta, first and foremost, but Joy knew that for Port Augusta to reach its potential, all of the Upper Spencer Gulf and surrounding country and outback areas must also reach theirs.

Joy knew that Port Augusta was never going to succeed if it aimed to be the one shining light in the region. She knew that Port Augusta would do best if it were one of the successful centres in a region that shined.

Whilst best known as the Mayor of Port Augusta, Joy actively worked for the success of the Upper Spencer Gulf Common Purpose Group, the Provincial Cities Association, the Local Government Association, the Outback Areas Community Development Trust, and many other community and regional development organisations.

Joy put significant effort into every public engagement she participated in. Hours of research and writing went into the speeches that she gave—forthrightly, articulately, and effectively. It did not matter if it were to a dozen people at a small community gathering or to over 1,000 people in Gladstone Square on Australia Day or Anzac Day, Joy took her job seriously to deliver the messages she wanted people to receive and consider. More often than not, those messages included great love for her city and her nation, and the necessity for all people to take responsibility for themselves and give support to others who genuinely needed it.

Joy's strength was innate, but her manner was deliberate. After working for years in a male-dominated local government world and trying to do things the right way, her frustration grew to the point where she decided that, on behalf of her community, she had to do more to be listened to. So, she started cracking a few heads, kicking a few bums, and letting the odd four letter word slip out. Soon, they were not just slipping out—it became a deliberate part of the very effective toolbox she used to get noticed so she could get things done.

But Joy was always selective with her words. At times they would be direct and polite; at times they would be direct and coarse; and at times they would be somewhere in between like, 'That little darling should take a sex trip', which was one of her ways of saying, 'That little beep should beep off!'

Most importantly, Joy did get things done, and she was prepared to lead her council to make tough decisions—decisions which sometimes brought criticism upon herself, but were usually successful and popular in the end. Usually, but not always—and when Joy made a mistake, she copped it on the chin and moved on.

Not everyone in Port Augusta supported everything Joy said or did but everyone in Port Augusta appreciates that someone was doing everything she possibly could for the good of the community. It would be hard to find a town or city in Australia which would not have been glad to have had Joy Baluch as their mayor working for their community.

When I think of Joy I do not think first of her achievements or her hard-headedness or her swearing: I knew a warm, genuine, very intelligent, hard-working, originally quite shy, and deeply religious person. We usually agreed but there were days when we did not, but there was never a day when we could not discuss an issue. If you were open and direct with Joy, then that is exactly what you got back in return.

Even in her sickbed Joy was very open and direct about the goals she still wanted to achieve, one of which remains a solar thermal power station for our state at Port Augusta. Whether Joy died at 50 or lived to 100, she would not have achieved everything she aimed to achieve; she would never have stopped trying to achieve more, and she did not. Joy faced illness with the same determination and intelligence that she faced everything else, and she trusted in God.

Joy's legacy is enormous and it includes her leadership of the transformation of the city of Port Augusta into the regional centre that it is today and the groundwork which will lead to continued steps forward. It includes the bridge across the gulf which, at the request of the council and with the agreement of the government, is now named in her honour: the bridge that links the east and the west side of Port Augusta and also links Perth with Sydney and Adelaide with Darwin. Her legacy includes the feeling in Port Augusta that she is looking down on us and that at any moment she might give someone a warm touch on the shoulder or someone else a quick smack on the ear. Joy is and always will be in Port Augusta, at the centre of the universe.

Finally, I want to express my appreciation on behalf of the people of Stuart to Joy's family members and close friends. You supported her through her entire working life, as well as during her illness over the last several years. Thank you for supporting Joy and, in doing so, allowing her to do everything that she has done for us. She would not have achieved what she did without your help. Vale Joy Baluch.


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