The Labor member for the Victorian seat of Dunkley, Peta Murphy, has died aged 50 after a long struggle with cancer.
Murphy was in the House of Representatives as recently as last week, asking a question on Tuesday about housing.
Her bravery throughout her illness has been greatly admired by parliamentary colleagues. She has been a strong advocate for breast cancer sufferers – her solidarity publicly reinforced by her decision not to wear a wig.
A highly emotional Anthony Albanese paid tribute to Murphy at a Monday news conference, saying “the Labor family is broken-hearted”.
Murphy died at home surrounded by her family including husband Rod and her parents.
“Peta Murphy was brave, she was courageous, and she was loved,” Albanese said. “Peta Murphy was the strongest of local members, the most inspiring of colleagues. And the very best kind of friend.
"To attend a community event with Peta was to bask in her glow.”
“She helped lead the charge for important reforms like reducing the harm from online gambling, because she understood the greatest privilege of public office is the opportunity to make a difference.
"From the squash court to the law courts, to the House of Representatives, everything that Peta Murphy did she did with her whole heart.”
Albanese said that together with the Breast Cancer Network Australia, Murphy advocated for a national registry for metastatic cancer patients – she’d travelled to Canberra last week to launch the national report.
Murphy was elected in 2019; around the time she was sworn in, she found out her cancer had returned.
Albanese recalled the words of her first speech to parliament when she said, “I’m neither unique nor alone in the fight I’m about to take on.”
The prime minister said it was “the best first speech I have ever heard. And what a fighter she was”.
Before entering parliament Murphy worked as a lawyer and as a political staffer.
Opposition leader Peter Dutton said: “Peta was someone who was highly respected across Parliament. As a solicitor, barrister and senior public defender, Peta saw people at their complete lows. It was those experiences which motivated her to seek political office and play a part in championing holistic approaches to breaking the cycle of disadvantage and dysfunction”.
Nationals leader David Littlepoud said Murphy’s “commitment to public duty was exemplary and admirable”.
Former Liberal member for Dunkley, Bruce Billson, who retired before the 2016 election, tweeted, “The passing of Peta Murphy is a tragic loss for her family, friends, the Dunkley community and our nation. A generous heart with a sincere commitment to service. My thoughts and condolences go to Peta’s loved ones. Dunkley has lost a warrior for our community”.
Murphy’s death will trigger a byelection in Dunkley, in Melbourne, which is on a margin of 6.27%.
Authors: Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra