It is with honour that I rise to pay tribute to the first woman elected to the Victorian Legislative Assembly, Mrs Fanny Brownbill. Fanny Brownbill was elected to the Legislative Assembly in 1938 after her husband, William Brownbill — who previously held the seat — died whilst in office. Fanny held the seat until her death in 1948, representing constituents through some of the harshest years in Australia’s history. At her funeral thousands of people lined the streets of Geelong, a testimony to the love and respect they had for her. She was a champion of the needs of women, children and the aged. In her inaugural speech to Parliament she vigorously fought the railways department ban on prams, underlining its detrimental effects on women and children.
Just last Sunday I had the pleasure of hosting the seventh annual Fanny Brownbill luncheon in Geelong, where over 100 guests, including the Minister for Education in another place, Bronwyn Pike, and members of the Brownbill family gathered to commemorate Fanny Brownbill. The luncheon was a great success; however, it should not just be on one day that we remember her wonderful contributions, and we are currently pursuing — with community support — having one of the bollard walks along Eastern Beach named in Fanny Brownbill’s honour to mark a longstanding tribute to her memory.