✝︎ Dr. Patricia Harrison - BPW Australia
BPW International President 1999-2002
by Sylvia G Perry, BPW International President 1996-1999
Ripples of sadness went around the world on 13 October 2022 when the news broke that we had lost a much respected member of BPW and, to so many, a treasured friend.
Patricia (Pat) became International President in 1999 elected at the Vancouver Congress having served and contributed to BPW in many roles from club to international, beginning when she joined BPW Woy Woy in 1977. These included being Vice President of the NSW division and from 1965-67 the Vice President of BPW Australia.
Moving on to international roles, she was a member of the International Standing Committee from 1983–1987. Next, she had an outstanding leadership role as the Regional Coordinator for Asia Pacific. In Venice, Pat was elected the Vice President United Nations Status of Women, a role to which she was truly dedicated, successfully setting up new communications technology systems for aiding and reporting the work of her team.
Pat started her vocation as a doctor of medicine, qualifying at the University of London in 1959 and after her graduation she spent two years with the British Army in Libya as medical doctor to the Army families. In 1966, with John her husband, also a doctor, and her two older children Pat migrated to New South Wales, Australia, and then had a lifetime of working in general practice, specialising in women’s health. Her family grew to three daughters and one son and now with several grandchildren.
Alongside her medical career and BPW activities, Pat undertook many business and public life commitments. These included being Chair of a media group that published two local newspapers and specialised publications in the city of Gosford, where she was the elected Mayor for four years. Pat also chaired a language college which taught English to overseas students and she served on the Board of NSW Economic Development Corporation.
I feel privileged to write this tribute bringing attention to her impact on BPW as I did in sharing so many experiences with Pat when working and travelling together as Regional Coordinators and afterwards in our respective presidencies. Special were the weeks we spent at the United Nations in New York at various conferences but principally at CSW and for the lead-up to the Fourth World Conference in Beijing, with the icon that was Esther Hymer being our mentor and sharing her knowledge. Gaining a place in the IFBPW delegation, Pat successfully presented a statement to the conference which she had drafted with Dr Claire Fulcher, something not achieved by many NGOs.
Her leadership of Asia Pacific brought enthusiasm and closer connection in that widespread region. Many members benefited from her mentorship, two of whom were special to her: Susan Jones (Australia), who followed Pat into leading international roles, and Chonchanok (Nok) Viravan (Thailand), whose promise Pat recognised when Nok first emerged as a YoungBPW.
There are many instances when Pat’s determination shaped the development of BPW International. Recognising the strength, it would add to the global governance and communication Pat successfully advocated for the Regional Coordinators to be full members of the Executive, and also for sub regions to be formed.
In her presidency, she had to bring her business acumen to the fore and deal with the closure of our permanent office in Battersea, London, skilfully developing a new management model for the organisation’s head office to move with the President and having some functions outsourced.
Pat chose an apt title “The World of Peace” for the successful seven-day International Congress she managed and chaired in Melbourne in 2002, getting delegates to overcome their fears of flying so soon after 9/11. And there was so much more that everyone will recall personally.
Pat was awarded BPW International’s two most prestigious awards: The Lena Madesin Philips Award and the Badge of Honour.
Pat’s style was open and direct but with great warmth, humour and understanding. Not only her devoted family, but everyone who has known her as a colleague and a friend, will miss this very special woman who made a difference in her and our lives and inspired so much love and respect.