PETA Murphy’s first speech as federal member for Dunkley quoted her literary hero, Pippi Longstocking. Pippi was being warned by her friend Annika to refrain from competing against “the world’s strongest man”.
“Man, yes,” said Pippi. “But I am the world’s strongest girl, remember that!”
The speech came just weeks after Murphy received a devastating cancer re-diagnosis. She was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011, and again in 2019 around the time she was elected the first ever female member for Dunkley.
Murphy carried Pippi Longstocking’s attitude with her during her four years in parliament. In spite of deteriorating health, she continued to work hard for the people in her electorate who needed a fighter on their side.
Last Monday, 4 December, Peta Murphy died. She was 50 years old.
In the week since her death, tributes to her have poured in across the country.
The Prime Minister Anthony Albanese was the first to declare his admiration for Murphy on the day of her death: “While Peta’s was a life so very well lived it is hard to come to terms with the fact she is no longer with us – passing at just 50 years of age. Far too young with so much more to offer.
“Peta Murphy was brave, she was courageous, and she was loved. Peta Murphy was the strongest of local members, the most inspiring of colleagues, and the very best kind of friend.”
In Murphy’s final days her wish to be surrounded at home by those she held most dear was granted. Her husband of 24 years, Rod Glover, released a joint statement alongside her parents Bob and Jan and her sisters Jodi and Penni on the day of her death: “We loved her deeply and are so, so proud of her achievements, her character and her courage. She was indeed the strongest girl of all. Still giving sassy advice until the very end – she died the way she lived – with dignity and strength and a touch of sarcasm to boot.”
In her maiden speech Murphy spoke of her love for her family, describing her husband as “compassionate” and “brilliant”. The couple had two dogs – Bert and Ernie.
Murphy was born in Goulburn in 1973. Before her election she worked in law. She was a barrister at the Victorian Bar from 2008 to 2016, including a two-year stint (2012 to 2014) as a senior public defender at Victorian Legal Aid. She unsuccessfully ran for Dunkley in 2016 before her 2019 victory and was reelected in 2022 with an increased margin.
Murphy’s ill health did not repress her tenacity in Parliament. She fearlessly took on Australia’s billion dollar betting industry over its conduct in a senate inquiry this year. The final report, which recommended that advertisements for online gambling be banned in the next three years, was one of the crowning achievements of her tenure.
Even in the final days of her life, Murphy continued to work. She travelled to Canberra for the most recent sitting week and attended Parliament the day before her final hospitalisation.
The mayors of Frankston and the Mornington Peninsula both praised her local impact. Frankston mayor Cr Nathan Conroy said “going above and beyond to advocate for Frankston City was in Peta’s DNA. She was both fearless and tireless in delivering for her community.” Mornington Peninsula mayor Cr Simon Brooks echoed the sentiment, saying “as a result of Peta’s advocacy for our community, the lives of countless local residents who use the reserve will be enriched for many years to come”.
Outside of politics, Murphy was a sports fanatic. She was a force to be reckoned with on the squash court, and a frequent fixture at local sporting events.
Murphy was a tireless advocate for breast cancer research and funding. Her maiden speech highlighted the importance of checking for cancer.
“Let’s be frank, cancer sucks,” she said. “Ladies, check your breasts. Men, stop ignoring what your body’s telling you. Fellow members of this parliament listen to the experts who warn that the promise of universal health care is under threat. Commit to the reform and funding that our health system needs and do whatever is required to ensure that Australia trains, retains, and invests in the health care professionals and researchers who make our system great. We owe it to our community to do that.”
For more information on breast cancer screenings visit breastscreen.org.au