About the Awards
The annual Consumer Protection Awards, first presented in 2004, form part of the Western Australian Government’s ongoing commitment to consumer protection services in our community. They recognise and reward significant contributions in advancing consumer protection in Western Australia.
Many individuals, organisations and businesses are involved in helping their communities understand, and have better access to, consumer protection in everyday situations. This work can take many different forms, including championing the cause of vulnerable consumers, raising awareness of consumer rights, improving complaints handling, mediation or dispute resolution processes, undertaking relevant research, making a significant contribution to policy formulation, developing outstanding promotion and education programs on consumer protection issues, and working in the interests of the safe use of products, especially those intended for use with children.
Pioneers of consumer protection
Categories within the Consumer Protection Awards have been named after a number of pioneers of consumer protection in Western Australia. Rona Okely, Ruby Hutchison and the late Richard (Dick) Fletcher have been recognised in this way. Rona and Dick were each awarded a Centenary Medal commemorating the Centenary of Federation in 2002. In recognition of their outstanding service, the individual and organisation award categories are awarded in their names.
Born in Bunbury in 1925, Rona Okely spent her formative years living in country towns in Western Australia before working in the Army Office and Munitions Stores and Transport during World War II. This experience influenced her life of public service for over half a century.
In 1981, Rona volunteered as a founding co-ordinator of the Gosnells Community Legal Centre, which remains an effective community based support facility today. She served on many government boards and committees, including the Commercial Tribunal and the Painters’ Registration Board, before proving her credentials as chairperson of the Motor Vehicle Dealers Licensing Board from 1992 until 2002. Rona Okely was honoured in 1999 as an outstanding Western Australian as part of the centenary of women’s suffrage in Western Australia.
Richard (Dick) Fletcher
The late Richard (Dick) Fletcher was not only the second (and longest-serving) Commissioner of Consumer Affairs in Western Australia, he was an innovator who changed the face of consumer protection.
Dick Fletcher’s balanced view of consumer protection established the department’s credentials. As Commissioner for Consumer Affairs between 1975 and 1989, he brought dynamism and professionalism to public service that continues to inspire today’s consumer advocates to reach their goals. Dick’s straightforward honesty, tenacity, and accessible approach to people became the ethos behind the department’s initiatives. His high standards, personal ethics, and practicality towards consumer protection set the benchmarks to which everyone in government and non-government organisations can aspire.
Ruby Florence Hutchison (1892–1974) moved to Perth as a single mother with her seven children, earning an income by taking in boarders and dressmaking. She later attended Business College and the University of Western Australia’s summer school studying public administration, public speaking, psychology and languages. She won a seat in the Legislative Council in 1954 to become the first female member of the State’s Upper House; a position she held until her retirement in 1971.
In 1959, at a time when consumer rights and protections were practically non-existent, Ruby founded the Australasian Consumers’ Association – known today as CHOICE. Ruby was outspoken about vulnerable consumers, such as housewives, falling victim to pushy salesmen selling substandard goods. Her determination to see consumers informed about their rights as well as product value and safety, led to the birth of CHOICE magazine in 1960. By December of that year membership was 4,700 and at the end of the decade it had risen to more than 100,000.
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