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May Kentish

22 February 1935 – 14 December 2021.

May Kentish was born in Townsville, and spent much of her early life in cane growing country. Her great grandparents were pioneers in the sugar industry. May had only one year of high school, but remembered that she was always reading history and being interested in political economy and politics. ‘I looked for women in history and found very few. I joined a political party, and became an advocate for women’s rights.’


From 1977, May worked in the University of Queensland Library. As a mature age student she gained an Arts degree at the University of Queensland in 1984. Always an activist, she was elected to the Senate Standing Committee for the Status of Women, which she described as ‘a wonderful experience, that gave me skills and the confidence that comes from working with a group of diverse and talented women.’ May was an active member of a union throughout her working life.


When May retired she relocated to the Mornington Peninsula. There she became a member

of SWAN, the Southern Women’s Action Network, a group of women who shared her commitment to gender equality, human rights, full recognition of our First Nation peoples,

and Climate Emergency.


In 2016 she joined Graduate Women Victoria, becoming its Secretary and Co-ordinator of

International Relations. She represented AFUW national on the Human Rights Consultative

Committee of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and Womenspeak, the national

women’s organisations’ consortium.


Looking back on her career, May remarked that the skills she learned in her working life served her well in a retirement devoted to ‘continued advocacy for women, peace and

human rights.’ We will miss her passionate commitment and her clarity of moral purpose.

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