Peter Lyons and his son Peter Lyons unveil an interpretative panel
honouring Dame Enid Lyons located near the National Library of
Australia.
30 may 2013
The Canberra Times
Photo jay cronan


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Peter Lyons and his son Peter Lyons unveil an interpretative panel honouring Dame Enid Lyons located near the National Library of Australia. Photo: Jay Cronan

It’s not every day you hear a Liberal voicing support for the Prime Minister, but the family of Enid Lyons believe the late conservative politician would have been proud of Julia Gillard.

Peter Lyons spoke about his grandmother, the first woman elected to the House of Representatives, at a ceremony in Canberra held 70 years after she was first voted in as a politician.

He said the wife of former Prime Minster Joe Lyons and self-described rabblerouser would have been “absolutely thrilled” to see Prime Minister Gillard leading the country.

“She was a person who believed that women should be treated as citizens and believed that their duty as citizens was more important than anything,” he said.

“She believed that women didn’t have to strive be to be like but should be women that are equal.”

Dame Lyons was elected to Tasmania seat of Darwin in 1943, a victory followed by re-elections with increasing majorities in 1946 and 1949.

Mr Lyons said his grandmother, a mother of 12, was a pioneer for women and campaigned for issues including maternity services, discrimination against married women the workforce and pension for widows.

Helping unveil a plaque at Enid Lyons Place at the foot of the National Library of Australia steps, he said the commemoration should inspire more women to take part in politics.

“The one thing that pleases me more than anything else is that the sign talks about her achievements and I want any young girl to walk past and say I could do that too,” he said.

“That’s what she would have wanted.”

Dame Lyons’ son, Peter Lyons Senior, also spoke at the unveiling.

“It’s to be hoped that my mother’s public feats, achieved under enormous handicaps, will inspire many other  women to follow their own dreams  regardless of the personal hurdles they may face,” he said.

National Capital Authority chief executive Gary Rake spoke from Dame Lyons’ maiden speech, reading that she believed “very sincerely that any woman entering the public arena must be prepared to work as men work”.

“She must justify herself, not as a woman but as a citizen,” he read.

“She must attack the same problems and be prepared to shoulder the same burdens.”

The ceremony came amid a push by political lobby group Emily’s List have a female candidate replace retiring long-term MP Martin Ferguson in the seat of Batman.