Vale Brenda Richards

Sisters in Crime and the St Kilda community are mourning the death of Brenda Richards at the age of 85.

What a woman! What a life! Brenda was born in country Victoria. She started working in a cannery when she was thirteen. She went on the road as a teenager, picked peas and fruit, worked as a domestic servant, and got advice on Stradbroke Island from fellow hotel worker Kath Walker (the poet later known as Oodgeroo Noonuccal) about how to deal with death adders. Brenda played roller hockey in a mostly Aboriginal boys’ team and then roller derby on the bank track at Festival Hall in Melbourne. She also became a keen swimmer.

Brenda settled in St Kilda in 1961 where both her daughters were born. She initially lived in a rooming house in Wordsworth Street. A few years later, she managed against amazing odds to buy her current house in Acland Street. She was a founding member and inaugural treasurer of the Council of Single Mothers and their Children. The members encouraged her to complete high school. Despite a short bout of cancer, she did so, followed by a degree at Monash – and a heart attack at 40.

Brenda worked for 25 years as the Senior Psychiatric Social Worker in the Children’s Court Clinic. In 1986, Brenda initiated a Step Family Program for parents whose children were before the courts. The program resulted in step-families understanding the structural problems they faced and meeting other families in similar situations.’

Brenda became the Vice-President of the Victorian Council of Social Services and a board member of the Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS). She has also served on the board of the Victorian Adoption Network Information and Self-Help Group (VANISH).

Brenda was inducted into the Victorian Honour Roll of Women in 2011. A few years later she was made an Ambassador for Women by the Labor Party, as well as the Number 1 female ticket holder for the local St. Kilda City Football Club. In 2021, Brenda received an OAM “for service to the community through social welfare organisations”.

Brenda was also a member of Sisters in Crime in Melbourne from pretty much the beginning in 1991. She attended most events, often winning the raffle, and wrote two crime books under the name of Bebe Chardis, Getting Ahead and Kava Flow: A Kip Kelly Adventure. Her other books include Adventures of a Skitterer, Girls on the Track, and Travels with Grandma.

Brenda also won more awards in the Port Phillip Senior Citizens Writing competition than anyone else. She took out awards in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2019, and 2021 and was highly commended in 2016.

Brenda was tremendous fun and had a wide circle of friends and admirers. Plans to celebrate Brenda and her many achievements are underway.