Tribute to Rona Okely a WA pioneer of consumer rights

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Acting Commissioner for Consumer Protection David Hillyard has paid tribute to Rona Okely, a pioneer of consumer rights in Western Australia who passed away on Wednesday night (20 January 2016) at the age of 90.

Born in Bunbury in 1925, Rona Okely spent her early years living in regional 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 more than 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.

Mr Hillyard said Rona’s contribution to consumer protection and fair trading in WA was immense.

“Rona was a child of the Great Depression and that experience influenced her later in life to become a consumer advocate and devote her life to the service of others,” Mr Hillyard said.

“Each year she would entertain the audience during the Consumer Protection Awards, which has one category named in her honour, with stories of her many battles for consumer justice during her long and meritorious career.

“In a unique achievement in those days, Rona was the first woman to be in charge of regulating the male-dominated motor vehicle industry, a role that earned her a great deal of respect and admiration. She would often tell stories of being stalked by disgruntled applicants who had their dealer’s licence applications refused, but nothing would distract her from the performance of her duty.

“Even in her later years, Rona continued to inspire us by writing books and maintaining her independence despite daily struggles with the neuromuscular disease, Myasthenia Gravis.

“All consumers in Western Australia, past and present, owe a tremendous gratitude to Rona, whose early pioneering work built the foundations of consumer rights in WA and contributed to the hard-fought protections that are in place today.

“Rona will be greatly missed but her spirit and legacy will remain and her enormous contribution to public service will endure.”


Media contact (Consumer Protection)

Consumer Protection
Media release
22 Jan 2016

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