Tribute to ASC Board Member Betty Hounslow AM

July 28, 2023

The Asylum Seekers Centre pays tribute to the inimitable Betty Hounslow AM who died on Thursday 27 July after a short illness.

Betty was a courageous and compassionate board member of the Asylum Seekers Centre for ten years, including three years as Chair, leading from 2018 to 2021, through the toughest times of the pandemic.

When first elected to the Board Betty said, “I am delighted to be able to make a practical contribution to the lives of asylum seekers when they first arrive. Everybody deserves a second chance in life…”

“Betty cared deeply for matters of social justice, acted upon these matters and always did so with humour and warmth and care,” says Frances Rush, Asylum Seekers Centre CEO.

“I came to know Betty as a fellow Board member, as Chair of ASC, but so much more importantly as a friend. Her insightfulness, her wit, her laugh and her kindness is what she brought to all she was involved with. Her work, often behind the scenes for ASC, has made a huge difference on all fronts of advocacy, fundraising and real change for people seeking asylum.”

Alongside her deep commitment to people seeking asylum and refugees, Betty was an activist, a campaigner and a true trail-blazer. Her board contributions also involved APHEDA – Union Aid Abroad, the Public Interest Advocacy Centre, Rape and Domestic Violence Services Australia and the Australian Council for International Development.

Betty pictured with CEO Frances Rush and Chair Peter Waters

Betty’s work contributed to community legal centres, indigenous health programs and women’s refuges; she was also the Executive Director of ACOSS (Australian Council of Social Service) and the Deputy CEO of the Fred Hollows Foundation. In 2003 she was awarded the Justice Medal for her long term commitment to improving access to justice for socially and economically disadvantaged people.

The Medal also recognised her success in lobbying for changes to legislation regarding gay and lesbian immigration. Betty was a member of the 78ers, the people who marched at the first Sydney Mardi Gras.

At the 40th anniversary of that night Betty said, “We feel a tremendous sense of pride in the fact that we didn’t let the brutality of that night deter us. We went on, fighting for our rights, fighting for recognition.”

In 2013, Betty was recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List for “significant service to the community through organisations promoting social justice, Indigenous health and human rights”.

Chair, Peter Waters, says, “Betty had an innate sense of justice. Her centre of gravity was fairness, from the smallest thing to the biggest. She brought to the Chair’s role humanity, insight, and a gentle but firm hand.”

The Asylum Seekers Centre is deeply honoured to have had such a fierce advocate on our team. We will forever be grateful for her deep contribution and wisdom. She will be very sadly missed by our community.

(L-R) Betty Hounslow, Peter Waters (ASC Chair), Susan Varga, Michelle Champ, Heather Payne, CEO Frances Rush
Why our City2Surf Charity Superstars support the ASC What’s the difference between an asylum seeker and refugee