Historical information

Born in Bendigo and trained as a nurse in the 1950s, Sonia Jill O’Brien devoted a lifetime to social and environmental issues at both the state and local level. From her work in the 1960s with the Family Planning Association of Victoria, of which she was a founding member, through to the 1990s as a member of the Ethics Committee of the Department of Health, she supported efforts to improve women’s health and reproductive rights. At the local level she was most active on committees that worked to save the natural and built environment. The Power-line Action Group, the Studley Park Conservation Society, and the Yarra Bend Park Trust all benefitted from her indefatigable endeavours as well her vision. In 1980, Jill O’Brien successfully stood for the Kew City Council and served as Mayor in 1983 and 1984. With an eye to preserving the past as well as guarding the future, she had the Mayoral robes restored and in 1980 and 1981 was president of the Kew Historical Society. The preservation and restoration of Villa Alba in Walmer Street owes much to her determined efforts throughout the 1980s. On Council, she chaired a number of committees involved in the saving of the Kew River Parklands from the proposed transmission line of the SEC. To this end, she was the Council representative on the Merri Yarra Municipal Protection Committee.


Rare colour photograph, used as the official mayoral portrait of Cr Jill O'Brien.

Physical description

Formal civic portrait of Cr Jill O'Brien in red mayoral robes wearing lace jabot and cuffs. The portrait is part of the larger Jill O'Brien Collection donated by her daughters.