North Coast MP Jan Barham resigns from politics
GREENS MP Jan Barham has announced her resignation from politics after battling depression and watching 11 of her friends die in the past five years.
The Byron-based upper house MP has been in politics for the past 17 years, and was elected to NSW Parliament five-and-a-half years ago while still serving as Byron Shire Council mayor.
Ms Barham told parliament the rigours of public life and time away from home had taken a heavy toll.
She had taken a leave of absence from parliament since the winter recess.
"I had been living with depression and migraines for a while but, being an optimist, I thought I could manage," she said.
"I also thought that the external circumstances that were troubling me would improve. They have not.
"Life has been exhausting; depression is debilitating.
"I have been living with anxieties that make it difficult to perform my role as an elected representative.
"I have been anxious about travelling, particularly flying, and about social and public interactions.
"I have experienced difficulties with concentration, a lack of confidence, little joy, and I have been homesick."
My colleague @janbarham has announced she will not be returning to parliament in 2017. She needs and deserves a life outside politics.— David Shoebridge (@ShoebridgeMLC) October 11, 2016
Ms Barham's brother was diagnosed with terminal cancer at age 59 within six months of her mayoral election in September 2012.
"I turned 58 last week. In the last five years, 11 friends aged between 53 and 60 have died," he said.
"I include both my brother and the late Dr John Kaye in that list."
The break from parliament allowed Ms Barham to self-reflect and make tough decisions about what was best for her health.
She said she would not return to parliament next year.
"After a quarter of a decade in politics - that is the longest I have ever done anything - I have decided it is time to step aside and make way for someone who has the energy, enthusiasm and capacity to do the job," she said.
"I am proud of the work I have done and the things I have achieved working within this parliament and in my North Coast community, but it is time to make some changes."
Farewell & thank you Jan. You deserve a wonderful private life after decades of service. https://t.co/52y5n1zOCU— Jenny Dowell (@JennyRDowell) October 11, 2016
She had another reason for stepping aside - taking care of her 87-year-old mother who lives at home alone and does not want to go to a nursing home.
"I have been a member of two inquiries that looked into the issue of aged care - the registered nurses in nursing homes and elder abuse - and I know how important it is that the people we love are cared for in their later years," Ms Barham said.
"I feel now is the time for me to take on more of that responsibility and also to spend some quality time with her.
"She has certainly supported me.
"Now I am going to continue with the self-care I should have been doing and do what is best for me and my family, which I have begun by making this decision."