Greens Senator Janet Rice mourns death of wife Penny Whetton


Victoria greens senator janet rice penny whetton transgender marriage equality
Dr Penny Whetton (left) and Janet Rice (right). Photo: Supplied

Dr Penny Whetton, climate scientist and wife of Victorian Greens Senator Janet Rice, has died suddenly at age 61, the Senator announced.

Senator Rice wrote in a tribute on Facebook: “My darling beloved Penny passed away suddenly and apparently peacefully at our house in Sisters Beach Tasmania on Wednesday evening 11 September.

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“The last anyone heard from her was early Wednesday evening. She was found on Thursday morning, still sitting on the couch, computer on her lap.

“She was in her favourite spot in one of her favourite places in the world — a lovely place to pass away, but just 20 years too early!

“It’s so unbelievable, so unexpected and so so sad.

“Penny and I had been a team for almost 38 years. She was my rock, my best friend, my biggest fan. She was proud of me and I of her.”

Senator Rice wrote Dr Whetton was a “fabulous parent” to their children John and Leon. She was “always supportive, giving, and delighted in sharing her and their passions — language, music, football, cricket, politics, painting, photography,” Rice said.

Dr Whetton led CSIRO’s national climate projections work from 1992 to 2014. She was a lead author of several IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) reports. One was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007.

“[Penny] was deeply angry about current politics that is hurtling us to avoidable climate crisis,” Senator Rice wrote.

“She was deeply worried about the damage being done and the future prospects for our precious natural world.”

Dr Penny Whetton was ‘an inspiration for so many transgender people’

Dr Penny Whetton, who was transgender, met Rice at university almost 38 years ago. The couple have been married for 33 years and they have two sons.

Rice said: “We journeyed with her in her gender affirmation, and loved her all the more.

“She was a role model and an inspiration for so many trans and gender diverse people.”

Senator 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.”

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“She was principled and loyal, a collaborative leader, and a mentor to many,” she wrote.

“It’s still not real. I can’t imagine life without her.

“I know so many of her friends and colleagues feel the same. We’ll get through I suppose, but we will miss her so so much.”

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