Tributes have poured in from across the international ICT community after the death earlier this month of Brenda Aynsley, the immediate past chair of IFIP IP3 and a former president of ACS (Australian Computer Society).
A passionate advocate of ICT professionalism, ethics and diversity, Brenda was a Fellow and Honorary Life Member of the ACS and received an IFIP Silver Core award in 2016 for her work in promoting professional standards.
Brenda was the kind of person who believed in excellence and in using technology to enrich the lives of those around her. She was quick to recognise the potential of the Internet – establishing Australia’s first Internet café – and played an active role in driving its adoption in Australia as well as helping to define and shape the legislative frameworks regulating its use through her involvement in government bodies.
Never one to sit back and leave the work to others, Brenda was a founding member of Electronic Frontiers Australia (EFA), the South Australian Internet Association (SAIA) and ISOC-AU, serving in senior executive roles with both EFA and SAIA as well as her 20+ years involvement with ACS.
Here, she continued to push the boundaries, rising to become the first female Vice-President and then first female President of the ACS (2014-15) while also leading IFIP IP3 for six years before stepping down in 2017. Even then, despite her on-going battle with cancer, Brenda chose not to rest but was elected and served for12 months as head of Professions Australia, the nation’s peak body for all the major professions.
Brenda led by example, working tirelessly to represent the cause of professionalism through national and international events such as the World Computer Congresses in South Korea and the Netherlands, and the annual WSIS (World Summit on the Information Society) Forums, which she continued to attend even while undergoing treatment for cancer.
She was always happy to challenge the status quo and forge new paths where she felt they were needed, often influencing others to her way of thinking through her unique combination of passion, intellect and good humour.
One of Brenda’s greatest strengths was her ability to establish deep and enduring friendships with her colleagues and peers. She made time for people and leveraged technologies like Skype to stay connected, no matter where she was in the world.
Her friend and mentor, ACS immediate past president Anthony Wong, was at her bedside before she died and played a role in facilitating messages of love and support from many of Brenda’s friends and colleagues around the world.
Anthony later shared the following tribute as part of an article by the ACS: “Words cannot express our heartfelt sorrow. Brenda was a special person who was indefatigable advancing professionalism in ICT. This took her to the highs of being the first female President of ACS, and recognition on the world stage as Chair for six years of the International Professional Practice Partnership (IP3). She passionately represented Australia at international fora of the International Federation for Information Processing (IFIP), the ITU and United Nations, World Computer Congress’ and the World Summit for the Information Society. Even up to mid this year, Brenda was President of Professions Australia overseeing governance reforms to ensure the future success of the organisation. We have lost a shining light amongst our profession and one much treasured, as we embrace the many innovation and challenges of the digital revolution in an uncertain World. Rest in peace, Brenda.”
Many others have posted tributes and messages of respect in the days since Brenda passed, some of which are included below.
Leon Strous, IFIP President 2010-2016: “It was a privilege for me to have known Brenda and to have worked with her on the goals of our community. Brenda was tireless in explaining and promoting the good cause of professionalism. During her period as its chair, IP3 was more solidly embedded in the IFIP structure, which enhanced its status and impact. She was a true driving force, sometimes impatient but always optimistic that ultimately the goals would be achieved. A storyteller with a great sense of humour. She will be dearly missed.”
Yohan Ramasundara, ACS President: “Brenda was always a trailblazer, fighting for the improvement of the lot of women in ICT. In 2014/15 she served as the first female ACS President, driving a diligent and laser-like focus on the growth of professionalism within the sector. It was under her Presidency that the Reimagination Thought Leader’s Summit was born. Following her term as President she continued to serve her profession, most recently as South Australian Branch Chair. I have always enjoyed working with Brenda and will forever be in awe of her unwavering commitment to developing a better profession for every person. She is completely irreplaceable and will be sorely missed. The thoughts of all our members and staff are with Brenda’s wife Sharon and their family at this difficult time.”
Adrian Schofield, Chair SAC, IITPSA Fellow: “Brenda passed away this morning, finally being released from the burden of her illness. She will be sorely missed as a friend and colleague but her legacy lives on through our commitment to her ideals.”
Brenda Byers, past CIPS representative and Director: “We have lost a strong leader and great friend. I can still hear her encouraging words, “We are making progress!”, as she was always the optimist. She will be missed.”
Moira de Roche, IP3 Chair: “Brenda demonstrated superb leadership qualities. In my opinion a good leader:
- Lives the ideals that they evangelize
- Gets you to do something you don’t necessarily agree with
- Is consistent in their behaviour and attitude, but still has the courage to change her mind.
Brenda embodied all these qualities and more, and leaves us with a legacy we will continue in her memory. I know I will always consider, “What would Brenda do in this situation?””
Yasas V. Abeywickrama, President, Computer Society of Sri Lanka: “Dear Brenda, I came to know that you are not well. Prayers of mine, my wife Sasani and kids are with you. I also want to thank you for all the support you have given me, especially the start you gave me in South Australia, which created the path for me to get to where I am today, becoming a board director at ACS, President of CSSL with which I have changed CSSL for good with a few historic milestones and a Board member of IFIP. All this was started because of the opportunity you gave me on my arrival in Australia. Stay strong. Be happy for all what you have done for this world including people like me.” (read to Brenda before she died).
To read more about Brenda and her achievements, you can read tributes from the ACS and IP3 below:
IMAGE: Brenda Aynsley receiving her Silver Core Award from IFIP President Mike Hinchey in 2016