Maurice McCrae Blackburn

Maurice McCrae Blackburn was born in Inglewood, Victoria on 9th November 1880, the son of Maurice Blackburn, bank manager, and his wife, Thomasina Cole.

The young Maurice Blackburn was educated at Toorak Preparatory Grammar School and from 1893 at Melbourne Church of England Grammar School. He matriculated in 1896 and worked as an office boy in a legal firm. From 1902 he studied at the University of Melbourne while still working as a Teacher and Librarian. He was awarded his Bachelor of Arts in 1906 and his LLB three years later. In 1910 he was admitted to the Bar and in 1914 assisted in the consolidation of the Statute Law of Victoria. On 10 December 1914, he married Doris Amelia Hordern.

Unions and civil liberties

When he founded the firm of Maurice Blackburn & Co in 1919, he dealt mainly with Trade Union Law and appeared in several Police Court cases - especially those involving civil liberty. Maurice Blackburn had joined the Labor Party in 1908 and was active in the Victorian Socialist Party from 1911. In July 1914, Maurice Blackburn was elected as Labor Member for Essendon in the Legislative Assembly. He was elected Vice-President of the Victorian Central Executive of the Labor Party in 1918 and President in 1919.

Women's rights

Maurice Blackburn was an early champion for women as professional workers. As a Member for Fitzroy in the State Assembly from 1925, Maurice Blackburn succeeded in carrying his Women's Qualifications Act (1926), which was aimed at removing discrimination against women in public affairs and professions. In 1927 he was elected to the new seat of Clifton Hill. In 1933 he was elected Speaker of the Legislative Assembly when Labor was not in office.

In 1934 he moved into Federal politics representing the seat of Burke, which he held until 1943. In October that same year, a Maurice Blackburn Testimonial Fund was established in his honour at a large meeting of prominent citizens.

On 31 March 1944, Maurice Blackburn died in Melbourne of a cerebral tumour. He was buried in the Box Hill Cemetery, survived by his wife Doris, his two sons and a daughter, and his mother. Maurice Blackburn is remembered for his consistent defence of underprivileged groups and civil liberties, and for his internationalist socialism. Many of his beliefs and the issues about which Maurice Blackburn felt strongly continue to influence the firm today and are reflected in the profile of its clients and cases.