This morning I visited one of Premier Colin Barnett’s Billion dollar follies.
Wandering around the unfinished and soon to be stagnant puddle which joins onto the Swan River I was stunned to find an insult to a woman I admired.
I only ever knew of Bessie Mabel Rischbieth as an old woman who wanted to preserve the good bits of Perth. I will avoid giving a biography of this suffragette and child-care advocate as those activities occurred before I was born.
It was with admiration that I read of this 85 year old’s fights with the establishment over the building of the Narrows Bridge and the filling in of much of the Swan River wetlands. Of her opposition to turning Kings Park into an Olympic sized swimming pool and of the demolition of the old Pensioner Barracks in St Georges Terrace.
All causes a much younger, just married, Ærchie quietly favoured in the days before he became an activist.
Bessie upset the West Australian establishment partly because she was a part of it, having received an OBE in 1935 and living in Unalla, View St, Peppermint Grove. The upsets were also because she espoused causes which cost conservative Governments and bureaucracies pet projects, votes and credibility.
So it was with more than a touch of disgust that I found this insult to a woman of principle and character.
Her statue, in her characteristic shapeless coat and her parasol, placed in one of the central parts of this abomination on her beloved Swan River.
The powers that be have long memories and despite her death occurring in 1967, forty eight years is but an eye blink to an entrenched Public Service. They have been unable to resist a not-so-subtle gloat.
The Establishment have said, “Now, you silly old woman, for the next century you can look at what we have done. We won after all.“