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Jayne Wilson (1955–2014)

by Melanie Nolan and Stephen Wilson

Jayne Wilson, n.d.

Jayne Wilson, n.d.

Jayne Wilson (1955-2014), businesswoman, was born on 26 May 1955, the daughter of John William (Jack) Wilson, a raspberry and later a dairy farmer at Neika, and Dulcie Doreen Wilson. Jayne picked raspberries, fed chooks, chased cows through the mud and raised calves during her childhood and early teenage years. At the end of 1966 she won a scholarship to St Michael's Collegiate School in Hobart. In 1967 Jayne’s brother Stephen’s birthday came up in the conscription ballot, which led her to join in moratorium marches and protests and led to threats of expulsion from school. She also joined the ill-fated fight to save Lake Pedder. Ultimately she was to take an active role in formation of the United Tasmania Group, forerunner of the Tasmanian Greens. She was a pianist, who, as an avowed atheist, played the organ for the local church, and loved knitting and fast cars.

Jayne attended the University of Tasmania studying science. By the end of first year, however, she had dropped out and got a job as a clerk in the Commonwealth Public Service. She returned to university, this time studying commerce, which became her passion. Study was suspended for a year and she travelled through South-east Asia, in 1976, with two school friends. When they returned to Tasmania she continued on, travelling alone through central Asia and overland to Europe. In Europe she even managed to enter (then) communist Poland to visit old friends who had picked raspberries on the family farm. Back in Australia to complete her undergraduate degree, she worked as a full-time tutor, first in the Commerce Faculty at the University of Tasmania, 1980-1981 and, after graduation (BCom. Hons., 1981), in the Economics Faculty, Sydney University, in 1982. She returned as a part-time tutor to the Commerce Faculty, University of Tasmania in 1982-83. She was a member of the winning team of the National Enterprise Workshop. Six team members researched and prepared a report The Crab Grab – A Business Plan which won them a USA study tour in 1984. First prize included visits to entrepreneurship courses at Stanford University and University of Southern California, technology companies in Silicon Valley, innovative companies involved in biotechnology and alternate energy and providers of start-up funding.

Jayne entered private business as a consultant for Price Waterhouse Accountants in Hobart, 1983-1984. She then became a Finance Executive for the Tasmanian Development Authority, Hobart, 1984-1987, Project Manager, Tasmanian Innovation Centre, Launceston, in 1987 and, from 1987 to 1990, she was a financial controller for Roberts Ltd, an agricultural services and supply company and real estate agent. She re-entered private practice this time as a consultant for Morton & Co. Pty Ltd Chartered Accountants from 1990 to 1994 and was made a partner in what became Morton Wilson Chartered Accountants, 1994-1997. She opened her own business in 1997, becoming Managing Director of Wilson Management and Administration Pty Ltd, which provided public accounting, consulting and administrative services to a range of professional boards including the Pharmacy Board of Tasmania; Optometrists Registration Board of Tasmania; Psychologists Registration Board of Tasmania; Chiropractors and Osteopaths Registration Board of Tasmania and  Physiotherapists Registration Board of Tasmania. With formation of the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency from 1 July 2010 she closed the business.

A passionate voice for Tasmania, a consistent theme of her early business involvement was to develop industry sectors that are now taken for granted in Tasmania, particularly working with the very early proponents of wine, essential oils and aquaculture industries and becoming a member of the Tasmanian Innovations Advisory Board from 1999 to 2010. Throughout her business life she continued an interest in industries and individual businesses that she saw as contributing to a bright future for Tasmania. She was Company Secretary of Shellfish Culture Ltd, 1991-2011. This unlisted public company produces oyster seed for the industry in Tasmania, South Australia, New South Wales and South-East Asia. She was first woman to have a directorship on a public board in Tasmania and  accepted a raft of invitations to sit on boards and committees over three decades. Her financial skills and experience were readily sought but she was also valued for her strategic participation on Boards. She made valuable contributions to small and large organisations, for-profit and not for profit. These included the Trust Bank, TDA, RACT, Tasmanian Innovations Advisory Board, Hobart Water, TTLine and more recently Transend and TasNetworks. After she closed her business she continued to serve on the TTLine and Transend/TasNetworks boards until she was forced to resign due to ill health.

Her professional affiliations included being a Fellow of both the Australian Society of Certified Practising Accountants and the Australian Institute of Company Directors and she served as a member of the University of Tasmania Foundation from 1996-2002.

Outside business, her interests included bushwalking, general health, fitness and exercise and she was a keen skier. She continued to travel widely in Australia and overseas: a camping trip from Broome to Kunnanurra and the Bungle Bungles in 2001, tramping though the Overland Track in Tasmania in 2001; a walking tour though Provence in 2003 and gourmet trek through the Dordogn in 2004, France again, Italy, Morocco and Brittany, Sicily and the Amalfi Coast. She also enjoyed gardening, theatre and the arts. She was always a joiner and these interests led her to take up professional positions too. She became Chairman of the Australian Wooden Boat Festival Inc, from 1997-2001, the Tasmanian Theatre Company and also Board member of the Big Monkey Inc theatre company from 2007 to 2014.

Historical research, which had always informed her reading, saw her volunteer at the Tasmanian Maritime Museum, 2002–2003 and she collaborated on the publication of A Tide of Success: A History of Shellfish Culture Ltd 1979-2000. With closure of her business in 2010 she began to re-develop her academic interests and enrolled in a Masters of Biographical Research and Writing at the National Centre of Biography at the ANU (MBRW, Distinction, 2013) where she researched her great grandfather: bushranger Barrabee Jack Wilson and aspects of Tasmanian social history close to her childhood home. Just before being diagnosed with cancer she enrolled in a PhD to research 'Building a colonial intellectual elite: A collective biography of the forty seven winners of the Tasmanian Scholarship awarded in the period 1862 to 1891'. The only previously published paper on the Tasmanian Scholarship Scheme was read while having a chemotherapy infusion, much to the fascination of the oncology nurses more used to patients reading magazines.

Her friends and companions in the First Saturday Walk Group and her regular weekend breakfast club were inspired by her bravery during the final months. As the end became inevitable, she gave very strict instructions about a funeral: a simple get-together, no coffin, no god, no flowers, no photos, no music, and no speeches. The location was to be at her favourite coffee shop down the road. Near the end she conceded that a larger venue might be necessary and a celebration of her life was held at Cascade Reception Centre after she died on 9 March 2014. Jayne’s body was cremated and her ashes will be spread on her beloved Mount Wellington and at her favourite campsite near the beach at Coles Bay.

Original publication

Citation details

Melanie Nolan and Stephen Wilson, 'Wilson, Jayne (1955–2014)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 23 May 2024.

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