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Lomax-Smith to chair Don Dunstan Foundation

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Fifty years after the late Don Dunstan was elected as Premier of South Australia, one of his fiercest Labor Party followers has been appointed to chair the organisation named in his honour.    

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Former Lord Mayor and State Labor MP Jane Lomax-Smith has been appointed as the new chair of social policy and research organisation the Don Dunstan Foundation, taking over from Dr Lynn Arnold, who chaired the board for the past ten years.

The Don Dunstan Foundation was established 20 years ago to build on the legacy of Dunstan, who was first elected as South Australian Premier 50 years ago this week.

The organisation, which is supported by the University of Adelaide and Flinders University, is best known for spearheading the Adelaide Zero Project, which aims to end street homelessness in the city by moving rough sleepers into stable housing, as well as its role advocating for Indigenous reconciliation, multiculturalism and improved mental health support. 

Lomax-Smith, who migrated to South Australia from London during Dunstan’s time as Premier, said the Labor leader’s leadership on social justice issues influenced her decision to move to the state.

She went on to become Lord Mayor in the late 1990s before holding several ministerial portfolios under the former Rann Labor Government in the 2000s.

“Don was kind of the Pierre Trudeau of the southern hemisphere – the progressive, courageous reformer who took on vested interests, who fought the White Australia Policy, who brought this country really into the 20th Century in some regards,” she said.

“Subsequently I met him and in fact he used to write to me when I was Lord Mayor telling me what he thought I’d done well, what I should do and what I’d done badly.

“It will be a privilege now to promote Don’s legacy by serving as chair of the board, and I look forward to supporting social and economic innovation through the foundation.”

Lomax-Smith said the Don Dunstan Foundation’s work was “more important now than ever before” following the COVID-19 pandemic, which is expected to cause a spike in homelessness and widen the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous South Australians.

“When there’s a crisis, it’s apparent to me that it’s always the poorer, the less-skilled, the already-marginalised who suffer more, who pay the price when there are reductions in services and debts to be paid down by government,” she said.

“I think it’s a really important time for Don Dunstan Foundation to have a voice and to bring out evidence that can bring out those issues.”

The practicing consultant pathologist said she would aim to chair the foundation’s board for the next six to seven years “to make a true difference to the organisation”.

Don Dunstan Foundation executive director Ritchie Hollands said former chair Dr Lynn Arnold had seen the foundation’s influence grow “significantly”.

“We are thrilled to have Jane driving our thought leadership and social justice agendas – both now in these uncertain COVID-19 times, and beyond,” he said.

Lomax-Smith has most recently been the chair of the SA Museum board and was presiding member of the Teachers Registration Board SA.

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