Senator for South Australia
After a career as a journalist, lobbyist and political adviser, Jeannie Ferris was elected to the Senate in 1996 as a Liberal senator for South Australia. Her devotion to her home state and its people was especially evident in her first speech.
Senator Ferris was an avid supporter of rural and regional Australians and often expressed concerns about the effects of drought on their livelihoods and the effect that native title legislation was having on farmers, miners, resource developers and the welfare of Indigenous Australians.
During her parliamentary career she spoke out about family custody, youth suicide, trafficking of women, drug law reform, IVF and stem cell research. Two of her most passionate campaigns were for a subsidy to be applied to the cervical cancer vaccine, Gardasil, and for the ban on the abortion drug RU486 to be lifted.
As a member of the Senate Community Affairs Committee she helped initiate the inquiry that led to Breaking the silence: a national voice for gynaecological cancers, a report in which she was able share her own battle with cancer. The government responded to the report by announcing a grant to establish a national centre for gynaecological cancers.
Ferris served as Deputy Government Whip (2001–02) and Government Whip (2002–07) but died in 2007 before her term ended. The Senate sat for more than four hours to hear condolence motions in her honour.