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Bessie Rischbieth

Protester Bessie Rischbieth honoured at Elizabeth Quay is an odd way to introduce such a well respected and accomplished Lady.

Bessie Rischbieth

Statue of Bessie Rischbieth by Jon Tarry Based on a picture from A news clipping inThe Canberra Times, 30 April, 1964 edition

Bessie Rischbieth

 In 1906, Rischbieth and others founded the Children's Protection Society in Western Australia and joined the Women's Service Guilds of Western Australia in 1909.

In 1915, she was given honorary appointment to the Perth Children's Court and acted on the bench there for fifteen years. She was also the first woman appointed a Justice of the Peace at the Perth Court after a successful campaign to alter remnant legislation forbidding women to be seated at the bench.

Rischbieth was the British Commonwealth League of Women's foundation vice-president from 1925 and inaugural secretary of the Western Australian Women Justices' Association. 

The next year she became a board member of International Alliance of Women for Suffrage and Equal Citizenship. In 1928, she led the Australian delegation to the Pan-Pacific Women's Conference in Honolulu. She lobbied for women's representation in, and was appointed to, the Australian delegation to the League of Nations. 

Amongst the many issues relating to the welfare of children and women that Rischbieth became involved with was the welfare of the indigenous population. In 1934 she addressed the Moseley Royal Commission calling for investigation of the "present alleged practice of taking children of a certain age to the Government mission stations and thus depriving their parents of the custody of their children".  

Mentor to the activist and author Mary Montgomerie Bennett, their correspondence reveals her ongoing concern for Aboriginal women and children. In England during the war years, she assisted with establishing “World for Australian servicemen” at Australia House.

Rischbieth served again as president of the Women's Service Guilds of Western Australia from 1946–50. The WSGWA was a conservatively based and politically independent organisation that helped to advance projects such as a maternity hospital (KEMH) that accepted single women, despite widespread opposition.

Rischbieth was appointed as an OBE at Buckingham Palace on 3 June 1935 for "service with the women's movements".

Rischbieth promoted a Citizens Committee for the Preservation of Kings Park and the Swan River and successfully prevented an Olympic swimming pool being built for the 1962 Empire Games in Kings Park. During construction of the Narrows Bridge, Rischbieth, almost ninety years old, symbolically attempted to block it by entering the river ahead of the bulldozers. The photo A Symbolic Protest appeared in the Canberra Times was taken during her time standing in the water and was used by Jon Tarry as the inspiration to recreate the event by way of the statue at the Quay. This statue is located at the front of the Island restaurant, ironically facing the Narrows Bridge.  

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