Nola Barber OBE

2021 Inductee

In 1901, Nola was born at Woodend and by 1918 she had completed her secondary education at Kilbreda College. Following this she attended Emily McPherson College and the University of Melbourne, becoming a teacher until 1940 when she married David Raeburn Barber, settling in Aspendale where they had three children.

In 1948 she was appointed a Justice of the Peace. From then until 1957 and from 1960 to 1975, she served on Chelsea City Council. In 1962 she became the first female Mayor of Chelsea. “As a councillor, she endeavoured to implement her vision of how a civilised society should provide for the needs of its members. Conservative colleagues often opposed her, but she persisted, sponsoring the appointment of a trained social worker, the establishment of a home-help scheme, Meals on Wheels, kindergartens, a municipal
library, a sewerage authority and a spastic centre at Aspendale”.

Nola co-founded the Australian Local Government Women’s Association in 1951 and was made
a life member. As a member of the Australian Labor Party, she travelled to China and Japan as a
delegate in 1958. She contested the federal seat of Flinders and the state seat of Mentone without
success at a time when prejudice in the party made it difficult for women to gain preselection. Nola
was very aware that “women’s needs and those of their families would be better met if women were active citizens in the public domain.” 2

Known for being organised and efficient, Nola found time for an extraordinary amount of community work. She was active in the Aspendale Elderly Citizens Club, Citizens Advice Bureau, Historical Society, the Girl Guides’ Association, Australian Red Cross Society and the Victorian Baby Health Centres Association. In 1963, she was awarded the ‘Royal Life Saving Association Badge’, a Rotary Club of Aspendale community service award in recognition of her efforts in teaching children to swim. Nola’s extensive commitments extended to membership of the United Nations Association of Australia (Victorian division), the Union of Australian Women and the Aborigines Advancement League (Victoria). In 1965, always keenly interested in the cause of peace, she became Foundation President of anti-conscription organisation, ‘Save Our Sons’.

Further awards and recognition followed and it was in 1970 that Nola was awarded an Order of the British Empire (OBE) for ‘her services to the community’. In 1983, she received the inaugural Victorian ‘Senior Citizen of the Year’ award.

In 1985, Nola died in Colac. Later, in 2001 she was honoured with inclusion on the ‘Centenary of
Federation Victorian Honour Roll of Women’. Nola “sought peaceful solutions to conflict and fought strongly for human dignity and justice. Maintaining a positive outlook, she preferred to see the good in people”. 3


  1. Australian Dictionary of Biography website
  2. Kingston Local History website
  3. Australian Dictionary of Biography website