It is with sadness that I received news last evening of the passing on Monday of Dr Carolyn Allport, foundation President of the National Tertiary Education Union from 1994 to 2010.

On behalf of Federal Labor, I acknowledge the enormous contribution made by Dr Allport to the labour movement, to higher education and vocational education and training, and to promoting life-changing opportunities for the most marginalised in our society.

Dr Allport was a passionate and effective advocate for women, indigenous Australians and those accessing tertiary education from disadvantaged backgrounds. She also championed the rights of casual academic staff and of non-academic professional staff.

She was a powerful advocate for improved research capability as much as teaching and learning, always promoting the capacity of higher education and research to change lives and the nation for the better.

Those of us who had the pleasure of working with her remember a tough but personable negotiator, whose acumen and intelligence always improved the calibre of debate. She was as unyielding with Ministers as with Vice-Chancellors, yet adept at maintaining effective relationships built on mutual respect and trust.

Dr Allport was a gifted feminist historian who foreshortened a promising academic career to represent her colleagues – particularly those who could not represent themselves. The Australian university sector and the Australian community at large owe her a debt of gratitude.

Along with my Labor colleagues, I convey my condolences to Dr Allport’s family, friends and colleagues.

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