Marie Roslyn Bashir was born in 1930 in Narrandera, New South Wales, Australia, to Lebanese parents Michael Bashir and Victoria Melick. Her father and her paternal uncle were both Medical Doctors who completed their studies at the American University of Beirut. Her maternal family migrated to Australia in the early 19th century.
Marie Bashir attended Narrandera Public School and in 1943 enrolled at Sydney Girls High School, which her mother had also attended. Upon graduating, she studied at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, becoming a proficient violinist.
She completed the degrees of Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) in 1956 at the University of Sydney Medical School, residing at The Women’s College from 1950 to 1955.
While at university, she met rising rugby player, Nicholas Shehadie, to whom she was married on 23 February 1957 in Sydney. They had their first child, Michael, in 1959, followed by two daughters, Susan and Alexandra. Her incredible career spans a lifetime, and here is a brief timeline:
In 2001, upon the recommendation of Premier Bob Carr, she was appointed by Queen of Australia Elizabeth II to the position of Governor of New South Wales, making her the state’s first female governor, and the first governor of any Australian state of Lebanese descent.
She was sworn in in March 2001, and was appointed a Companion of the Order of Australia shortly after. On 17 May 2001, the Governor-General, Sir William Deane, invested Bashir as a Dame of Grace of the Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem (DStJ).
In 2002, Bashir became Patron of the Australia-Vietnam Medical Trust and became intimately involved in collaborative health programs in Vietnam, particularly in rural areas, and on 31 March 2006, the Queen appointed her a Commander of the Royal Victorian Order (CVO).
On 19 April 2012, Bashir was presented with the insignia of a Grand Cordon of the National Order of the Cedar by the President of Lebanon, General Michel Suleiman, at Government House, Sydney, during his state visit to Australia.
Ahead of her retirement from office of Governor, Bashir noted that the time was right for her to go just short of the record in office set by Sir Roden Cutler, stating: “The time is right, It was myself who said I would conclude my term around the anniversary of World War One. That would mean that I would not exceed the longest term of Sir Roden Cutler for whom I had the greatest admiration and respect.”
Marie Bashir retired in 2014. She will always be remembered as the former and second longest-serving Governor of New South Wales, breaking records for women across Australia and everywhere.