Vale Lilly Murphy, 2003–21

November 17, 2021
Lilly Murphy at a campaign stall.
Lilly Murphy (left) at a campaign stall. Photo: Maureen Murphy

Lilly Murphy was an incredible young person. In her short 17-year life, Lilly had a big impact on the world and those around her.

One incident gives a sense of Lilly’s spirit, determination and commitment to saving the planet from climate catastrophe. Lilly and a few other students from her school were planning to join the first School Strike 4 Climate protest on November 30, 2018. But one of Lilly’s teachers had set a maths exam for the same time. Lilly and her friends asked the teacher to change it; they asked the principal and he refused.

Lilly took on the negotiations with the school principal and other school leaders about cancelling the exam so that they could attend the climate rally. However, the Department of Education had instructed schools to not allow students to attend, so an agreement wasn’t reached.

Lilly and a number of others decided to strike and to go to the protest, skipping the exam. Lilly was interviewed by Green Left at the time. “Striking is one of the things that works for young people,” she said.

At Lilly’s funeral, her father Richard Lane said: “I was so proud of the political leadership she showed there and her determination that participating in that worldwide political statement was more important than missing a maths test!”

As part of her school work in 2017, Lilly studied the political set-up, including looking at different political parties. She decided she wanted to join a socialist party and chose the Socialist Alliance (SA).

Although Lilly had grown up in a left-wing household, with both of her parents having a commitment to anti-capitalist, democratic, working-class and revolutionary socialist politics, it was a surprise to her parents when Lilly told them.

Lilly was active with SA and its election campaigns, and with the Victorian Socialists in the Moreland area over 2018–19. At the time, Lilly was 14.

Lilly was a deep thinker: she never simply accepted others’ views. She would always come to her own conclusions. This strength was evident from a young age.

Towards the end of her life, Lilly outlined her priorities for political activists: climate change, gender equality and women's rights, LGBTI rights, Black Lives Matter and First Nations’ struggles. She said these were “social” issues but that “capitalism has an impact on them all”.

Lilly would never miss an Invasion Day protest because it was a way of showing she didn’t accept the colonisers’ version of history and she recognised Australia had been founded on genocide.

Despite a life cut short by cancer, Lilly had a big impact.

Lilly’s parents Maureen Murphy and Richard Lane have set up the Lilly Murphy and Jenny Lane Memorial Fund to support education scholarships and other projects focused on climate change, gender equality and women's rights, safety for women in mental health hospital wards, LGBTI rights and First Nations' rights, health and wellbeing. You can honour Lilly’s legacy by donating to the fund.

Another way to honour Lilly’s legacy is to be a climate and social justice activist. Lilly was committed to these causes and would want others to continue the struggle for change.

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