Olive Zakharov
Women in Federal Parliament

Olive Zakharov

Senator for Victoria

ALP, 1983–1995

Olive Zakharov entered Parliament in 1983 and served as an Australian Labor Party senator for Victoria until her death in 1995. Having worked in a vast range of occupations to make ends meet and as a single parent in an era without much social support, Senator Zakharov spoke from personal experience whenever she championed the rights of the disadvantaged. She chaired the Senate Committee on Community Affairs for seven years.

In 1988 Zakharov represented the Australian peace movement at a ceremony in the Soviet Union to witness the destruction of nuclear weapons as part of a US/USSR nuclear disarmament agreement. She was the only foreign parliamentarian present.

In the Senate Zakharov was one of the early voices for affirmative action and sex discrimination legislation. She was unashamedly a feminist and readily spoke about sexual harassment in the workplace and disparity in pay and opportunities between the sexes. At the launch of a national campaign against domestic violence, Zakharov spoke publicly about her experiences in a violent relationship for over ten years prior to her divorce.

Following her unexpected death as a result of an accident, the Senate sat for over two hours to hear condolence motions.

Olive Zakharov aboard a Hercules C-130 during a Macquarie Island airdrop in 1984.

Image by Steve Brooks supplied courtesy of the Australian Antarctic Division.