Australian Senator tears up in powerful speech on grief

Australian Senator Janet Rice tears up in front of Australian Parliament as she grieves her wife and all of the lives lost in the wildfires.

The couple met and married before Dr Whetton affirmed her identity as a woman

Sen. Janet Rice posted a heartbreaking tribute to her wife, climate scientist Penny Whetton, who died "in her favorite spot" at the age of 61. In a Facebook post, Senator Rice said Dr Whetton had travelled to their holiday house in Sisters Beach, Tasmania, alone and was found "still sitting on the couch, computer on her lap". Dr Whetton had helped lead the CSRIO's climate change research and was one of the lead authors on the fourth assessment report of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Action, which was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize.

The couple met at university 38 years ago, getting married shortly after

After Dr Whetton made the decision to undergo a gender transition, the pair became much-loved figures of the LGBTIQ+ community, often speaking candidly about the barriers they faced. Tributes flowed on social media, with many acknowledging Dr Whetton's contributions to the LGBTIQ+ rights movement. Sally Rugg, executive director of Australia, said she was “part of the heartbeat of the LGBTIQ+ activist community”. Rodney Croome, founder of Australian Marriage Equality, former national director of Australian Marriage Equality, said that he was “overwhelmed with sadness” at Whetton’s untimely passing.

Janet said she never considered ending their relationship

This is despite being shocked at first and the subsequent challenges they faced from family and friends. Sen. Rice described her wife as “a scientist and artist, intelligent, creative and able to turn her hand and her intellect to almost anything, from the climate science that was her profession, to landscape painting and furniture making.” Sen. Rice said a memorial fund would be established in Dr Whetton's name, with the goal of supporting revegetation and erosion control work at her beloved holiday spot, Sisters Beach.