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Victorian MP Fiona Richardson loses battle with cancer

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Emotional tributes are still pouring in for the late Victorian MP Fiona Richardson, who died late on Wednesday after a brave battle with cancer.

Until her death, Fiona was Australia Labor Party’s MP.

She was the state’s first Minister for the Prevention of Family Violence, but had taken a prolonged leave of absence following her cancer diagnosis. Reports confirm she had multiple tumors.

 

Image: Fiona Catherine Alison Richardson

On Wednesday night, her family said Ms Richardson had passed away bravely, and praised the mother of two they described as a “quiet champion of women’s rights”.

“She was an unwavering advocate on behalf of victim-survivors and every Victorian touched by the tragedy of family violence,” they said in a statement.

It was the second time the member for Northcote had fought serious illness, after recovering from breast cancer in 2013.

The 50-year-old was a member of the Victorian Legislative Assembly from 2006 until her death in 2017.  She was Minister for Women and Minister for Prevention of Family Violence in the Andrews Ministry.

Colleagues were in tears last night, and Premier Daniel Andrews led the tributes saying she “knew no fear and tolerated no prejudice”.

“She was Australia’s first Minister for the Prevention of Family Violence. Under her watch, a dark and silent tragedy was brought into the harsh and unforgiving light of a Royal Commission,” he said.

“The two thousand pages of that commission’s final report are her greatest legacy.”

Mental Health Minister Martin Foley this morning said he had known Ms Richardson for over 20 years.

“There’s a family that has lost a mother, a wife, a sister and a daughter, and our thoughts are with them,” Mr Foley said.

“I have never met a more fierce advocate for her cause in the Labor Party.”

Fiona was a researcher of ocular trauma at the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital. She studied at the  University of Melbourne, where she graduated in 1989 majoring in politics and psychology

Speaker Colin Brooks confirmed parliament would adjourn today after statements from the Premier and Opposition Leader.

“Members of parliament are shattered. It’s fair to say the whole house is in a state of collective grief and shock,” Mr Brooks said.

Opposition Leader Matthew Guy said Ms Richardson was a “trailblazer” who “had changed our state”.

“Fiona wasn’t just a politician, she was a friend to so many of us on all sides of the parliament,” Mr Guy said.

“I can’t express my sympathies and sadness enough to her family.”

Ms Richardson is survived by her husband, former ALP state secretary Stephen Newnham, and their two children, Marcus and Catherine.

Her family said she was an unwavering advocate on behalf of family violence victims.

“(Fiona) achieved so much for victims in such as short space of time,” her family added in their statement.

“Her decision to talk about her own family’s experiences on Australian Story took guts. Her strength and insight — the love between her, mother Veronica, brothers Hamish and Alastair — touched the lives of many people and allowed them a glimpse of why she was such a fearless champion for victim-survivors.”

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