Update, 3.15pm WA senator Judith Adams has died after a brave and inspirational battle with cancer. She was 68.
The former nurse, midwife and farmer was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1998 before a secondary diagnosis in 2009, leading to extensive chemo and radiotherapy treatment in Perth.
She regularly spoke about the harsh realities of a prolonged fight with cancer and became a passionate advocate for those diagnosed with the disease.
“I live with cancer but I do not let it control my life,” she said during an interview with the Breast Cancer Network Australia.
However, the disease eventually spread further within her body and she died this morning.
“Senator Adams had many friends in the Australian Parliament, on all sides of the political divide, and she will be greatly missed,“ federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott said in a statement.
“Senator Judith Adams was a proud and passionate advocate for West Australia, a well-respected senator and a much-loved member of the Liberal Party family.”
Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, Eric Abetz, said his colleague was a passionate Liberal who worked tirelessly for WA.
“During Judith’s illness she never once complained about her lot,” Senator Abetz said.
“Instead she soldiered on in an inspirational manner.
“On occasions one could detect the substantial discomfort she was experiencing but she would never mention it.”
Senator Adams was elected as a Liberal senator for WA in 2004, becoming deputy opposition whip in the Senate and playing a key role securing changes to wheat laws and Defence Force drug policy.
Before entering politics she worked as a nursing sister in the New Zealand Territorial Army, with a stint as a civilian nurse during the Vietnam War.
During her political career she became a strong advocate for ANZAC Day and for those living in regional and remote Australia.
Senator Adams’ husband, Gordon, a former Royal Flying Doctor Service pilot, died in 2008, just three weeks before her secondary cancer diagnosis.
The couple farmed at Kojonup, in WA’s wheatbelt region, for 36 years with their sons Stuart and Robert.
“The thoughts of the Liberal Party are with her family and in particular her sons Stuart and Robert, their partners Anne and Tammy and her grandchildren Taylor and Maelle,” party spokesman Ben Morton said in a statement.
“The Liberal Party, Western Australia and the Senate has lost a strong and determined advocate, a person who put up a fight and stood strong for what they believe in. Judith will be sadly missed.”
Prime Minister Julia Gillard also expressed her condolences.
“Senator Adams, coalition deputy whip, was a representative who brought a depth and breadth of life experience to the Parliament,“ Ms Gillard said in a statement.
“She had friends across traditional party lines, and her absence will be keenly felt by her colleagues of all political persuasions.
“Our thoughts are with her family and friends at this difficult time.
“On behalf of the federal parliamentary Labor Party, I pay tribute to Senator Adams for her contribution to public life, and offer our condolences to those she loved.”
A funeral service will take place in the coming days.
Senator Adams’ family asked well-wishers to make a donation in her memory to Breast Cancer Care WA or The Royal Flying Doctor Service.
Leader of the Nationals in the Senate, Barnaby Joyce, said Senator Adams’ perseverance was an example to everyone.
“As a colleague, Judith was always frank with you but in a way that was inescapably warm,” Senator Joyce said in a statement.
“She will be sorely missed in the Senate and by many others throughout Australia.”