Whitsunday pays tribute to Margaret
MARGARET Shaw’s eyes glisten with tears and her voice shakes as she recalls the 83year-old woman, who for the first time in her life, couldn’t pay her bills because her insurance premiums were so high.
“People don’t deserve that,” she says, reaching for a handkerchief from her bag.
It is this level of emotional attachment and the desire to right an incredible wrong that has seen Ms Shaw embark on a five-year crusade to bring the insurance industry into line.
On Tuesday she was finally recognised for her efforts on home turf, becoming the 2016 Citizen of the Year for Airlie Beach.
It was 2011 when Ms Shaw’s own strata insurance at Airlie’s Sea Star Apartments went up from $25,000 to $81,000 literally “overnight”.
And she soon discovered she wasn’t alone.
Incensed at the injustice of not just strata but other insurances, Ms Shaw started lobbying insurers and politicians and was instrumental in the establishment of a cross-party federal inquiry.
Though the then-Labor government chose not to implement any of the inquiry’s nine recommendations, she didn’t give up, starting an online petition in 2012 and going on to become the only consumer representative on an advisory panel to the current Northern Australia Insurance Premiums Task Force.
As MC for the Proserpine Australia Day celebrations David Hinschen put it, “Margaret Shaw has gone beyond the barriers... the blank walls, the shut doors, and knocked them down on behalf of Northern Australia and North Queensland in particular”.
“In her volunteer role as an insurance advocate she has refused to take no for an answer and battled on... (and) I know she will not stop until the people of North Queensland can afford their insurance premiums. Thousands of people are relying on her,” he said.
Ms Shaw, who received an anonymous nomination for Australian of the Year in 2015 and was recognised with a state award, said it meant a lot “that my home town now knows what’s gone on and what I’ve done - and that one person can actually make a difference”.
FIGHTING THE FIGHT: Margaret Shaw, pictured with much of Airlie’s strata title buildings in the distance behind her, the residents of which she is still fighting to protect.