Valerie Breen Turner, born in Bangor, 29 October 1947, died in Swansea on 17 July 2001.
Val was one of the most highly regarded members of the National Assembly for Wales, across the political spectrum, as one of the leading architects of devolution, achieved in 1997.
Val had been largely responsible for promoting women’s participation in Welsh politics, and 25 of the 60 members were women. The Welsh Cabinet was the first in the world to have a majority of women members, which was remarkable in a very traditional, macho political culture.
Val’s politics were always based on her work with people, as a Councillor in Chorley, Lancashire, where she worked as a welfare rights and housing worker. She returned to Wales as the first Director of Shelter Cymru, in 1981. As an all Wales organisation, independent from the English organisation, it was important for her that the housing rights charity was based in Swansea, and her values and principles of listening, and involvement and promoting of others were critical.
After completing a Women’s Studies course in Cardiff, Val was appointed Director of the Equal Opportunities Commission in Wales. She was instrumental in ensuring that the Government of Wales Act 1998 included clauses requiring due regard to equal opportunities.
All Val’s work was underpinned by her commitment to equality and social justice, and she was a powerful force for women and minority groups, supporting Swansea Women’s Centre, Jazz Heritage Wales, Women’s Archive of Wales, Multi Ethnic Women’s Network (MEWN Swansea), among many causes.
Val was involved in establishing organisations such as Chwarae Teg, promoting the skills of women. In 1999 she became Chair of the Welsh Assembly Government’s Economic Development Committee, crucial at a time when the economy was moving from reliance on heavy industry to services and electronics, always ensuring women were equipped and supported.