Victorian Minister for Family Violence Prevention Fiona Richardson has died aged 51 on Wednesday night, one day after she announced an extended leave of absence from her political role to receive treatment for multiple tumours.
We've lost a remarkable, brave and inspirational woman. This is so sad. Thinking tonight of everything Fiona Richardson achieved.— Bill Shorten (@billshortenmp) August 23, 2017
In a statement released by the Minister's office on Tuesday, Richardson said the extended period of leave granted by the Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews would allow her to focus on her health.
"I have been diagnosed with multiple tumours for which I am receiving treatment. I intended to return to work part time next week, however my recovery is not going the way I had planned," she said in the statement.
"I remain passionately committed to the vision shared by myself and other victim-survivors to eradicate violence in the home within a generation and to end its dangerous and costly impact on families and children.
"In light of my health challenges, I have made the decision not to recontest the seat of Northcote in 2018. I would ask for privacy for my family and I at this time."
My dear friend Fiona Richardson, RIP. You were an outstanding Minister- I will always have immense respect for you, my love to your family— Tim Smith MP (@TimSmithMP) August 23, 2017
We *owe* Fiona Richardson so much. Mourn her by acknowledging her pioneering contribution to gender equity & #VAW. Vale Fiona— Anne Summers (@SummersAnne) August 23, 2017
Richardson, a mother of two, overcame cancer in 2013 before returning to the Victorian parliament to become Australia's first-ever Minister for the prevention of family violence.
On Wednesday night, Richardson's family remembered her as "a quiet champion of women's rights" who was able to "achieve so much for victims in a short space of time", particularly by voicing her own experiences with family violence.
"Her decision to talk about her own family's experience on Australian Story took guts," a family statement said.
"Her strength and insight -- the love between her, mother Veronica, brothers Hamish and Alastair -- touched the lives of many people and allowed them a glimpse of why she was such a fearless champion for victim-survivors.
"Fiona had unfinished business. She wanted violence in the home to stop and she knew for that to happen it would take dedication and leadership over the course of a generation."
Vale Fiona Richardson— Joanne Ryan MP (@JoanneRyanLalor) August 23, 2017
A great loss to Northcote, to Labor, to Victoria and mostly of course, her loving family.
In a separate address, Andrews paid respect to Richardson for her work with the Victorian government, saying "she knew no fear and tolerated no prejudice."
"Before she had even stepped foot in Parliament, she had busted the party's sexist back rooms and committees wide open. She made things that much easier and fairer for the next generation of Labor women. And for the one after that," he said in a statement.
"Under her watch, a dark and silent tragedy was brought into the harsh and unforgiving light of a Royal Commission – and the two thousand pages of that Commission's final report are her greatest legacy to public life.
"She was a person of conviction, of character, of extraordinary composure. Those qualities – combined with an intellect and instinct that's among the sharpest I've known – made her someone who can never be replaced. Not in our Government. Not in our movement. Not ever."
Fiona Richardson was always so strong and so decent on the vital issue of domestic violence . Thoughts are with her family and colleagues.— NickMcCallum7 (@NickMcCallum7) August 23, 2017
Just one day after posting this, Vic minister Fiona Richardson has died. She was state's first minister for prevention of family violence. https://t.co/SjfRjhH8AB— Dave Meddows (@davemeddows) August 23, 2017
Federal Opposition leader Bill Shorten also described the MP as "a steely-eyed legend" who "was as tough as they make them".
"Her focus on family violence alone changed the lives of thousands of Victorians for the better," he said in a statement.
"She was a fighter until the end, strong and resilient."
Richardson is survived by her husband Stephen and her children Marcus and Catherine.
Victorian Minister for Health and Ambulance Services, Jill Hennessy was announced as Acting Minister for Women and Prevention of Family Violence.