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TONERS GATHER FOR PARLIAMENTARY PORTRAIT UNVEILING

Pictured at Parliament House standing proudly beside a newly-unveiled portrait of the Parliament of Victoria's first female cabinet minister the late Pauline Toner are, from left to right, Speaker of the House Colin Brooks, Deputy Speaker Maree Edwards, Pauline’s daughter (and College science teacher) Madeline and son (and Old Paradian) Denis (1988).

Madeline, one of five Toner children, was granted leave by the College to be there for the recent unveiling of her mother’s portrait.

“I actually gave a speech in Queen’s Hall to a very large group of assembled politicians and other guests to provide some insight into Mum’s passion for politics, social justice and welfare reform so it was great that I was able to attend,” Madeline said.

“It was a great day honouring Mum’s contribution to Victoria.”

Denis described his mother as "a real trailblazer and an amazing role model to all the people that knew her".

"As well as acknowledging Mum, it was great to see that the Victorian Parliament now has so many female politicians to reflect and represent the diverse nature of our society," Denis said.

Pauline’s was one of two portraits of female politicians unveiled at the parliament, the other that of Lady Millie Peacock, who was elected to the Legislative Assembly in November 1933 and served in the parliament for the ensuing 15 months.

“These two women led the way at the Victorian parliament and it is only fitting that we honour them with portraits for our art collection,” Mr Brooks said in a statement.

“These portraits will help to ensure the achievements of these inspiring women are remembered and appreciated for a long time to come.”

Pauline Toner was appointed minister in April 1982 and served as the Minister for Community Welfare Services until March 1985.

Her portrait was painted by Raelene Sharp, who is an Archibald Prize Finalist, Archibald Packing Room prize winner and winner of The Shirley Hannan National Portrait Prize.

Married to the Old Paradian the late Brian Toner (1953) and a sister-in-law to Old Paradians Denis Toner snr. (1947) and Nick Toner (1956), Pauline was born Pauline Therese Hoare in Horsham in 1935.

An early attendee at the Wimmera city’s Brigidine Convent, she trained as a primary school teacher before furthering her studies; obtaining a Bachelor of Arts (University of Melbourne) and a Bachelor of Education (La Trobe University).

Following her early teaching career, Pauline lectured at the State College of Victoria. She joined the Labor Party in 1968 and was elected to the Diamond Valley Shire Council five years later. In 1977 she was elected shire president.

That same year, Pauline was elected to the Victorian Legislative Assembly in a by-election, winning the seat of Greensborough and becoming the opposition spokeswoman on community services and women’s affairs. When Labor formed government in 1982, she took on the Community Welfare Services portfolio. She held that office for almost three years, and continued to serve as a backbencher until her resignation in 1989.

Pauline Toner, circa 1985. Image courtesy Parliament of Victoria

Pauline committed her energies to the rights of children. She facilitated the introduction of laws that made it easier for adoptees to obtain information about their adoption. She also implemented funding for Neighbourhood Houses.

Prison reform was another of Pauline’s key contributions. She established the Victorian Prison Industries Commission in 1984 and led a shift to community corrections programs for young offenders.

In 1986, when the Eltham Copper Butterfly (paralucia pyrodiscus lucida), thought to be extinct, was rediscovered in the Greensborough electorate, Pauline campaigned successfully to acquire land for the protection of this threatened species.

A long illness forced Pauline’s resignation from Parliament on February 28, 1989 - and she died at the age of 53 just three days later.