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Fanny Brownbill

Fanny Brownbill was Victoria's first woman Labor MP.

Honour Roll

Fanny Brownbill held the Legislative Assembly seat of Geelong for 10 years from 1938 until her death in 1948. At the time, she was only the second Labor woman to be elected to a State Parliament in Australia. In Parliamentary debates, Fanny raised many issues relating to the rights of women, children and family. Her inaugural speech to Parliament on 20 July 1938 was against the ban on perambulators on suburban trains in Melbourne. Fanny was also a tireless worker for the Geelong community.

Fanny was born at Modewarre near Geelong in 1890 and was educated at local state schools. Her marriage to Bill Brownbill in 1920 marked the start of her long association with the Australian Labor Party. Bill was the Member for Geelong for a total of 15 years, first from 1920 to 1932 and then from 1935 to 1938, when he died in office. Fanny decided to stand for his seat in the resultant by-election. Fanny won the seat of Geelong in 1938 by more than 2000 votes despite stiff opposition, including a call by the then Federal Treasurer, Richard Casey, that parliament was no place for a woman. She went on to hold the seat at the next four elections, sometimes unopposed - a testament to her popularity with the local electorate.

As a committee member of the Old Folks Home and through her long association and work with the Geelong and District Ladies' Benevolent Association, she gave considerable support to elderly members of the Geelong community. She worked hard to assist elderly and deserving people to obtain the old-age pension. Fanny was President of the Matthew Flinders Girls' School Council and the Geelong and Western District Orphanage Ladies Auxiliary and a member of the Geelong Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA).

In addition to her parliamentary duties and community work, Fanny was a Justice of the Peace. The Geelong City Council named a ward after Fanny Brownbill in commemoration of her contribution to Geelong and in honour of her achievements as a woman in Victorian Parliament.

When Fanny died, she was the only female Member of Parliament in Victoria. At her funeral, thousands of people lined the streets of Geelong as a mark of respect. The Acting Leader of the Opposition at the time of Fanny's death, Mr L W Galvin MP, said that Fanny exemplified the Christian approach to politics. "Victoria will be the poorer for her passing," he said. "Women in particular have lost an advocate to whom they indeed owe much."