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Alice Olive Zakharov (1925–1995)

Olive Zakharov

Olive Zakharov

Victorian ALP senator Olive Zakharov, who died in Melbourne last night aged 65, was yesterday lauded as a politician who had experienced the struggles of women.

Senator Zakharov during her political career had been a champion of women's and gay rights and an outspoken campaigner against domestic violence, having been a victim herself.

Former Victorian premier Joan Kirner yesterday paid tribute to Senator Zakharov, who she said had touched thousands of people.

Senator Zakharov was an atypical politician who went about her business without fuss, she said.

"She was a hard and solid worker, she was a supporter and absolutely committed on human services issues," Mrs Kirner said.

"She was a woman who'd experienced the struggles of women.

"All the issues that make up the social fabric of Australia are the issues that Olive touched on."

In 1993, Senator Zakharov spoke publicly for the first time about her 10 years of physical and mental abuse from her ex-husband in the hope other victims would take heart.

"You always think things are going to get better but they don't. It wasn't every day, it was just when I guess he thought it was justified ... when I annoyed him or didn't do something he thought I should do," Senator Zakharov said at the time.

"There were no alternatives. There were no refuges for women, no supporting parents' benefit and almost no child care."

Senator Zakharov left her husband in 1968, as soon as the youngest of her three children started school, so she could work while studying psychology part-time.

In her maiden speech, Senator Zakharov spoke out for the impoverished, condemning former prime minister Malcolm Fraser's use of the term "dole bludger". She described herself as a socialist, unionist and feminist.

Senator Zakharov was first elected to the Senate in 1983 when Bob Hawke led Labor back into government.

She was a school counsellor before her election but had been a fruit picker, waitress, mail sorter, shop assistant, clerk, market research interviewer, pathology assistant and teacher.

Her parliamentary career included chairing Senate standing committees on employment, education and training; community affairs; national resources; and environment, recreation and the arts.

As a member of the joint committee on the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation she revealed she attracted ASIO interest as a member of the Communist Party at Melbourne University.

In 1988 Senator Zakharov was the only Western politician invited to witness the destruction of the first of Russia's military rockets as the Soviet Union crumbled.

Senator Zakharov was hit by a car as she left a gay and lesbian concert at the arts centre in the city on February 12.

She did not regain consciousness in Melbourne's Alfred Hospital, although she was moved to intensive care a week ago.

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'Zakharov, Alice Olive (1925–1995)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 26 July 2024.

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