In the early 1980s the Hon. Joan Child was Australia’s first female Speaker in the House of Representatives in Canberra. Her electorate secretary, Julie Cooper, was the first lady mayor of Moorabbin, Victoria.
Such women set the scene for the election of Joan Kirner as Deputy Premier of Victoria in 1988 and Premier in 1990. Funny that cartoonists always drew Joan Kirner wearing polka dots, though she said she never wore them. On the other hand, her namesake, Joan Child, did. I remember her on the hustings with Bob Hawke, at Dandenong Town Hall, wearing a most feminine black chiffon blouse with white polka dots and fashionable ruffles. Thirty years later, polka dots and ruffles are back in style, and there will probably be more than a few women wearing them to Joan Child’s well-deserved state funeral. It will be held on Tuesday, 5 March 2013, in the Monash university chapel at 11am. The main eulogist will be Robert Ray, and the Prime Minister, the Hon. Julia Gillard, will speak.
It is to be seen whether it will be conducted by the civil celebrant whom Joan had asked to officiate at her funeral: the master of such ceremonies, Dally Messenger III. The request came after he had conducted the state funeral in 1988 of a former Labor Victorian health minister, the Hon. Val Doube, a much earlier contender for Joan’s later seat of Henty.#
I was fortunate to meet Joan Child when I was commissioned by Women Australia magazine to write about her in 1985 while she was still Deputy Speaker. It appeared in the June-July issue, and though the magazine is long defunct, the feature still exists in my personal archives. Anyone interested may contact me on quillpowerATbigpondDOTcom. By the generosity of the former managing director of Women Australia, Helen Sykes, I retain the copyright. Feel free to quote the article, with attribution. /p>
(Following Murphy’s Law, which editors know intimately as Muphry’s Law, my byline has a glitch. Much as I would like to borrow some glory from Daniel Radcliffe, aka Harry Potter, our surname is Ratcliffe — Rat as in Mouse.)
# The celebrant was indeed Dally Messenger III. The main address was given by Her Excellency the Honourable Quentin Bryce AC CVO, Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia; PM Julia Gillard, and Joan’s sons added theirs, reminding us, though we surely would never forget, of the pluck and resilience in their mother’s petite frame. There were as many laughs as tears, and few could resist a grin at the end, when her beloved Hawks’ football team song resounded through the chapel as her flag- and flower-covered coffin passed us by.