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Violet Barry Lambert (1898–1975)

by Helen Coulson

This article was published:

Violet Barry Lambert (1898-1975), grazier and shire councillor, was born on 4 February 1898 at Footscray, Melbourne, younger daughter of Victorian-born parents Robert Gustavus John James Powell, horse-shipper, and his wife Maria Ada May, née Barry. Educated at Aldworth Girls' Grammar School, Malvern, Violet was a competent pianist and needleworker, and a fine horsewoman. During World War I she helped to promote enlistment and also joined the Purple Cross Society, a group of young women dedicated to the care of horses used in war.

At St George's Anglican Church, Malvern, on 12 July 1922 Violet married George Frederick Lambert, who acted as her father's agent in India until 1925. When the couple returned to Victoria they bought a grazing property at Lysterfield, which she named Chandanagore. After her husband's death in 1930, Violet ran it alone. When her father died in 1934, she also took over the management of Netherlea at Fern Tree Gully, his Red Poll stud and dairy farm. Throughout World War II Mrs Lambert ran her own property almost single-handed, producing wool and fat lambs. In addition, she was president of the local Red Cross and fire brigade units, senior air-raid warden for the district and a member of the Volunteer Air Observer Corps. She had been appointed (1936) a special magistrate of the Children's Court, Caulfield, and was made a justice of the peace (1946); she was, as well, foundation president (1936) of the Fern Tree Gully branch of the Country Women's Association.

One of the first women councillors in Victoria, Lambert was elected to the Shire of Fern Tree Gully council in 1931. She represented the south riding for twenty-eight years and was shire president in 1946-47. A founder (1951) of the Australian Local Government Women's Association, she presided over its Victorian branch in 1952-56.

Mrs Lambert was one of the council's leading policy-makers for almost three decades. Her slight stature and ladylike manner belied her authority, tenacity and fluency in debate. She was largely responsible for the shire's first permanent baby health centre, its first emergency housekeeping service and for visits by the Melbourne District Nursing Service. While shire president, she founded the Fern Tree Gully and District Agricultural and Horticultural Society. In 1954, as founding president of the Fern Tree Gully Aged People's Welfare Association, she led moves to establish homes for the elderly, which were opened in 1956 and later known as Glengollan Village. She remained its president until her death. In 1957 she was appointed O.B.E. The Glengollan Village hostel was named after her in 1978.

While fighting an unsuccessful battle against compulsory acquisition of Chandanagore as part of the catchment area for Lysterfield reservoir, Lambert suffered a heart attack and moved in 1950 to Netherlea to live with her sister. Following her sister's death in 1971, she lived there alone and re-established its Red Poll stud. Survived by her daughter, she died on 15 August 1975 at Berwick and was buried in Springvale cemetery.

Select Bibliography

  • H. Coulson, Story of the Dandenongs, 1838-1959 (Melb, 1959)
  • A. V. Smith, Women in Australian Parliaments and Local Governments (Canb, 1975)
  • A. Cerutty, A History of Glengollan Village (Melb, 1981)
  • Pakenham Gazette, 20 Aug 1975
  • private information.

Citation details

Helen Coulson, 'Lambert, Violet Barry (1898–1975)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 17 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (Melbourne University Press), 2000

View the front pages for Volume 15

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