Irene Hooper AM HLM inducted into the WA Women’s Hall of Fame Roll of Honour

The late Mrs Irene Hooper AM HLM was inducted into the WA Women’s Hall of Fame Roll of Honour on Thursday, 8 March 2018 (International Women’s Day) at Government House.  This is a truly proud moment for her family and her many friends at the Association and without doubt, is the well-deserved recognition of her remarkable achievements and qualities.

The following is a tribute to her life (researched and written by Mrs Jocelyn Mitchell):

“Go Forward with Faith” was the theme decided on at the 1979 State Conference, the conference at which I was elected State President.  I felt it was a good omen, but at the same time it caused me a little wry amusement since my second name is Faith.  But I had put all my faith in the Lord when I had agonised over whether to accept nomination, and members had surely shown faith in me when they voted for me”.

Those were Mrs Hooper’s own words.  One of ten children, born Irene Faith Lay, she grew up on the family farm near Lake Grace, helping her father on the land.  She trained as a primary school teacher; enjoyed a busy life following her marriage in 1948 to Noel Hooper of Kondut and raising a family of one son and four daughters.  Mrs Hooper joined the newly formed Kondut Branch and became President, then President of Wongan Division in 1973 and State President in August 1979.  Instead of leading the delegation to Fiji for an ACWW South Pacific Area Conference she decided “time would be better spent applying myself to my new position”.

She looked back on her term as State President as “the constitutional years” because during this period, State {CWA of WA}, National {CWA of Australia} and World{ACWW} constitutions were all under review.  She found this “an interesting and instructive period”, and CWA of WA benefited greatly from Mrs Hooper’s astute brain, hard work ethic and unassuming calm manner which confidently could be called on, especially in difficult times.

Mrs Hooper was also known as the “Flying President” in her aircraft Romeo Whiskey Hotel.  Holding a pilot’s licence enabled her to visit many branches throughout vast Western Australia and there are a number of exciting stories of her adventures with Romeo as she affectionately called her plane.

Her first year of office as State President coincided with the Mid-Decade of the United Nations Decade of Women.  There was a conference at Churchlands College for all women’s groups, at which Mrs Hooper and Mrs Patricia Smeeton [who was State President immediately before Mrs Hooper] were elected to represent Western Australia in Canberra.  It was a very enlightening experience for two practical, but conservative members who found themselves amongst radical women.

She lead the delegation to the ACWW Conference in Hamburg [where she was woken just after midnight by General Secretary, Mrs Rona Haywood, to be advised that CWA of WA had won the Gold Swan Award], an Area Conference in Shepparton and attended two ACWW Council meetings, one in London and one in Brighton in the UK and the ACWW Conference in Killarney, Ireland.

The original system of rotating the office of National President from State to State meant that she assumed the role of National President during her term of office.  She met those dual responsibilities from 1981 until August 1982 and just held the one position of National President until the next National Conference in 1983.

During her period of office Mrs Hooper opened new brick holiday homes in Albany, updated the holiday home at Dongara, opened a new centre at Gidgegannup and extensions at Mt Helena.  Some of the initiatives and projects with which Mrs Hooper was associated included Aboriginal Schools, Farming as a Business Seminars, Facing the Challenge Workshops, Lone Parent Seminars, the unveiling of the Roll of Remembrance at Min Mara Gun Gun in Kings Park, and the handing over of the second CWA vehicle to the Minister for Education for use by the Early Childhood section.   She was a tutor of the Training Programme and, on the Government Advisory Committee when Aussat was being established and serving on the Adult Literacy Board.

Until recent times she continued to serve the rural community as a Shire Councillor for the Wongan-Ballidu Shire and as a Justice of the Peace.  Mrs Hooper was awarded Honorary Life Membership in 1984 and Member of the Order of Australia {AM} in 1985.  The Association greatly benefitted from having her as a member for nearly 70 years.  Her leadership, warmth, serene and gracious manner made those who had the privilege of knowing her believe also that they “could go forward with faith”.   

Mrs Hooper passed away in May 2017 and will be fondly remembered by all her CWA friends.

A little about the WA Women’s Hall of Fame:

The WA Women’s Hall of Fame was first established in 2011 in recognition of the Centenary of International Women’s Day held annually on 8th March. One hundred women were inducted at the Centenary, across a range of sectors and celebrating a diverse set of achievements.  Its purpose is to recognise and celebrate the achievements of Western Australian women past, present and future.  The Hall of Fame was bolstered by the creation of a Roll of Honour in 2012, to formally acknowledge women who were no longer with us but whose efforts were critical to the State’s social and economic development.  In 2013, women’s groups were celebrated with a landmark research project entitled “Women’s Business: Mapping Women’s Groups in Western Australia.”  Women’s group have played an integral role in shaping Western Australia for more than 120 years. Whether small, medium or large, existing for a brief period or spanning decades, or designed as a social group or for political lobby, all have helped to make the State what it is today.  In the words of human rights activist Christine Karumba; “One woman can achieve anything, Many women can change everything”

Mrs Irene Hooper AM State Conference Mandurah July 2009
Mrs Irene Hooper AM State Conference Mandurah July 2009
Mrs Irene Hooper Honorary Life Membership 1984
Mrs Irene Hooper Honorary Life Membership 1984
Mrs Irene Hooper State President 1979-82
Mrs Irene Hooper State President 1979-82
Mrs Irene Hooper CWA National Conference in Perth 1983
Mrs Irene Hooper CWA National Conference in Perth 1983
Mrs Irene Hooper CWA Mobile Education Resource Unit
Mrs Irene Hooper CWA Mobile Education Resource Unit