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Awarded for service to Government
Entered on roll: 2005
Born in Mosman, in New South Wales, Phyllis Benjamin was educated at the Presbyterian Ladies College at Pymble and the Sydney Church of England Girls Grammar School. She married in 1926 and had one son and three daughters. The family moved to Tasmania in 1940. Phyllis was involved in wartime support including Red Cross transport and the munitions factory in Hobart.
Phyllis was elected as Member of the Legislative Council (ALP) for Hobart in 1952 and held the seat until 1976. Phyllis became the first woman in Australia to lead an Upper House (1968-69) and was Deputy Leader from 1956-68 and 1972-76. She was the longest-serving woman in any State Parliament in Australia.
Phyllis had a strong interest in social issues including transport, housing, consumer affairs and the needs of pensioners and the disabled.
Phyllis was active in a wide range of political, community and cultural organisations including as a member of the Tasmanian Labor Party Executive (1950-54); the Tasmanian President of the Federal Association of Australian Housewives (1952-62); Federal President of the Federal Association of Australian Housewives (1952-53, 1967-68; 1976-78); President of the National Council of Women; President of the Hobart Orchestral Association; Chairperson of the Salvation Army Red Shield Appeal and Chairman of Directors of the Tasmanian Ballet Company. Phyllis was a Life Member of the ALP.
Phyllis also served on the Royal Hobart Hospital Board and the University of Tasmania Council. Other interests included the Theatre Royal Restoration Committee; National Trust; Flying Angels Club (Missions for Seamen); the Repertory Society; the Arts Council; the Aged Pensioners Association; and the Business and Professional Women’s Club. In 1956, Phyllis was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire and in 1977 an Officer of the Order of Australia.