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Olive Zakharov
Olive Zakharov

Photographs supplied by Kent Watson

Alice Olive Zakharov, born in 1929 was an Australian politician who tragically died on March 6, 1995. Elected as an Australian Labor Party member of the Australian Senate in 1983, Zakharov entrered the political arena relatively late in life.

She sought pre-selection to run as a Labor Senate candidate in Victoria at the double dissolution 1983 federal election, received the fifth position on the Labor ticket, and easily swept into parliament in the landslide Labor victory, taking the final position well ahead of her nearest rival, Democrat John Siddons. She soon established herself as a loyal member of the Socialist Left faction and as an advocate for equal rights for women and the rights of the disadvantaged. This early advocacy for progressive causes brought her the second ever Australian Humanist of the Year award in 1984.

In November 1993, Zakharov publicly revealed that she had been a victim of domestic violence at the hands of her deceased husband for ten years prior to their separation. She launched the government's Campaign to Stop Violence Against Women, and urged other victims and their neighbours to speak up. She said at the time that she had kept silent because "There were no alternatives. There were no refuges for women, no supporting parent's benefit and almost no child care. I made the break when my youngest was old enough to go to school so I could work."

Born in Kew, Melbourne, before her role in the Senate Olive Zakharov studied psychology as part of an arts degree at Melbourne University. It was during her studies that she joined the local branch of the Communist Party of Australia. She later learned that her involvement with the party had gained the attention of ASIO, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation.

She was married for a brief time while at university, but after separating from her husband in 1949 she soon moved to Yallourn to live with her new partner, unionist John Zakharov. Marrying for a second time, she began a family with John Zakharov and spent many years a young woman juggling family commitments with several jobs that included market research interviewer, clerk, waitress, mail officer, psychiatric nurse and pathology assistant, all the while maintaining an active contribution to her local branch of the Australian Labor Party.

In 1968, after the last of her children had reached primary school, Zakharov separated from her husband, and later divorced him, though she retained his surname. Raising the children alone, in 1969 she took a role as a student welfare co-ordinator at Melbourne’s Montmorency Secondary College. Again displaying a remarkable ability to juggle a great number of priorities, she also served as president of her local party branch, was a delegate to the party's state conference, and during the 1970s she was offered a safe Labor seat in the Parliament of Victoria, but declined the offer for family reasons.

Entering politics in the 1980s, she was re-elected in 1984, 1987, and 1993. It was during her final term in the Senate in 1995 when she was sadly struck by a car on February 12, while crossing St Kilda road after leaving the Midsumma gay and lesbian festival. She lay in a coma for more than a month, but did not regain consciousness. While in hospital, the Coalition arranged a pair, so as not to take advantage of Zakharov's injuries in a closely divided Senate. Having never regained consciousness, Zakharov died on March 19.

Upon her death, the Senate adjourned early and several red roses, the symbol of the international socialist movement, were placed upon her desk as a mark of respect. More than two hours of condolence speeches were delivered in parliament, and after her funeral on March 30, a memorial plaque was unveiled in the courtyard at Parliament House.

Deputy Prime Minister Brian Howe attempted to convince the state Kennett government to save the historic Missions to Seamen building in Port Melbourne, which Zakharov had been fighting to save, as a memorial to her, but the request was unsuccessful. The memorial to her in a park in Bay Street, Port Melbourne was unveiled in March 2002.

Among her many achievements both in life and politics, Zakharov also had the honour in 1988 of being the only Western politician invited to witness the first destruction of nuclear weapons at a ceremony in the Soviet Union after the signing of a disarmament agreement. Upon returning from Russia, she described the occasion as, “the chance of a thousand lifetimes.”


Address:Liardet & Lalor Streets, Port Melbourne, 3207
GPS Coordinates:Lat: -37.838209
Long: 144.942035
Note: GPS Coordinates are approximate.
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Monument Type:Monument
Monument Theme:People
Sub-Theme:Government - Federal
Monument Designer:Chimera Collections


Approx. Monument Dedication Date:March-2002
Front Inscription

Olive Zakharov (1929 - 1995) was a parent, teacher, psychologist, ALP senator in the Federal Parliament, Port Melbourne resident & lifelong community activist. 

She worked passionately for the welfare and rights of individuals and communities who lacked power and influence. 

Olive's Corner is a memorial to her life and values.


Source: MA
Monument details supplied by Monument Australia - www.monumentaustralia.org.au
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