Ruby Hutchinson

Ruby Hutchinson founded the Australian Consumer Association in 1959.

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Ruby Hutchinson was born in Melbourne, Victoria, in February 1892, daughter of a goldminer and bookmaker. The family moved to Western Australia in 1896 and she attended school on the Murchison goldfields.

She married a miner, Daniel Buckley, at Meekatharra while still a teenager. After the marriage broke up she was left to rear seven children in the metropolitan area. She took in boarders and did dressmaking to make ends meet. In 1938, she married Alex Hutchinson.

Later she began to further her education at a commercial business college and summer schools. Ruby was always interested in politics and joined the Australian Labor Party at sixteen. She contested her first election in 1950. In 1954, she won the marginal Suburban Province seat by a little over 500 votes from Hubert Parker who had sat in the Legislative Council for twenty years. In her inaugural speech she dealt with the major theme of her political career, the need for reform or abolition of the Legislative Council. She also urged the decriminalisation of abortion.

Ruby was re-elected comfortably in 1960 and in 1962 her impatience with her opponents led her to become only the second woman to be suspended from a Western Australian Parliament. She said "I am ashamed to belong to the Legislative Council because of the undemocratic nature of the House".

Through the 1950s Ruby was involved in campaigns to buy Western Australian goods. She had received numerous complaints from her constituents about the shoddy quality and poor value for money of goods. She knew of overseas consumer associations so she found out how they worked with a view to creating something similar in Australia. In 1959, Ruby travelled to Sydney to discuss her idea with a group of like-minded people, including Roland Thorp, Professor of Pharmacology at the University of Sydney.

At a public meeting on 17 September 1959 at the Sydney Town Hall the Australasian Consumers' Association (ACA) was born. Their primary aim was to produce a magazine that would inform consumers about their rights and about the safety and value of products. They were also concerned about the misleading nature of advertisements. In their first year, they launched the magazine and had 3200 members. The group was committed, highly focussed and staunchly independent.

The ACA targeted women, addressing the National Council of Women, the Feminist Club and the Housewives' Association. By the end of 1961 they had 20,000 members. The ACA continued to grow and the success of its endeavours resulted in the Federal government passing the Trade Practices Act in 1974. By 1984 Choice had a circulation of over 200,000. ACA continues to publish Choice magazine and now has an internet site, Choice Online.

In 1965 Ruby moved into the safe seat of North-East Metropolitan Province and retired from politics at the 1971 election, aged 79. She died in December 1974.