In the Beginning ...
In the words of Darwin resident Linda Cracknell, convenor of the spontaneous community group TIAP (Terminally Ill Act Petition):
It all started on the 2nd February 1995 when Mr Marshall Perron, Chief Minister of the Northern Territory, was reported as intending to put forward a private members bill to legalise Voluntary Euthanasia. It seemed the most wonderful thing to me – I’d always believed that terminally ill and suffering people (who wanted it) deserved a more merciful end but never dreamed anyone would consider making it legal.
Following a letter to the NT news asking for other people to contact me. In mid February a group of about 14 people met at the local Tavern, and after talking around the issues for a while, we realised that all of us were supporters. We decided to declare ourselves as a community support group, and circulate a petition for supporters of VE to sign.
We made a submission to the Parliamentary Committee hearings, circulated the petition, provided information leaflets to the public in shopping centres, used talk-back radio and letters to the editor, placed paid advertisements in the newspaper, took part in a public debate, and organised a rally outside parliament house.
For the most part I maintained a distance between Operation TIAP and the Chief Minister Marshall Perron.. It was important to me that the group be viewed as the spontaneous community based support group which it was, and not give anyone cause to suggest that we were puppets of the legislation’s initiator.
Following a tumultuous campaign which generated national and worldwide interest, the Rights of the Terminally Ill Bill was passed by the Legislative Assembly on 25th May 1995.
TIAP’s role in supporting the legislation had been successful and it was decided to morph into a new organisation The NT Voluntary Euthanasia Society. The NTVES constitution was adopted on 23rd Sept 1995.
The first committee was Lynda Cracknell, President; Andy Chapman, Vice-President; Robyn Lesley, Secretary and Acting Treasurer; Dr Philip Nitschke, Member.
Despite the Territory having no powers to legislate for voluntary assisted dying, Judy Dent and a committee of true believers have maintained the NTVES for the last 26 years.