Mourners gather at Brunswick City Hall for the Jane Garrett State Memorial


Fierce, funny and quick-witted, Jane Garrett was remembered as a force of nature who swept through people’s lives and was electric to be around.

A state service honoring the former Minister of Labour, who died aged just 49 in July, heard from some of her dearest friends Friday at Brunswick Town Hall filled with Victorian identities.

Former prime ministers, union bosses, politicians and community advocates came together to remember a woman who wanted to change the world and used to change the lives of those around her.

In the style of Jane Garrett, she was even honored with a musical tribute from You Am I frontman Tim Rogers.

Close friend and fellow Labor upper house MP Mark Gepp was the emcee and said it was fitting that the service was held in Brunswick, a longtime playground for the Garrett family.

He praised her for the litany of accomplishments she has accomplished in a short time.

This included a busy legal career, an advisory role for Steve Bracks, a term as mayor of the town of Yarra, and her accomplishments as a state deputy and cabinet minister.

During this time she also met her husband James and brought along her children Molly, Sasha and Max.

“I just feel tired thinking about it,” Mr Gepp said.

Former MP Sharon Knight spoke as a member of the group of ‘Class of 2010’ Labor politicians who were elected to parliament that year alongside Ms Garrett.

She was moved as she remembered how Mrs. Garrett would energize the lives of those around her.

“If you were lucky enough to be loved by Jane, then you were really lucky,” Ms Knight said.

“She also really appreciated your opinion. I wish I had $1 for every time I heard her say ‘So Shaz, what do you think?’

“Jane always stood up, even when she wanted to fall.

“She always remained scary even when she was consumed with fear.

“And she always, always remained the best, funniest, loudest, strongest, spirited, most loyal friend you could ever have.”

Ms Knight said she did not believe in an afterlife, but Ms Garrett did.

“I really hope she’s right and I’m wrong,” she said.

“Because I would give anything to see her again and hear her say, as she was showing me around, ‘So Shaz, what do you think?’.”

Former Prime Minister Steve Bracks says he can still remember the day his chief of staff, Tim Pallas, upset then-Attorney General Rob Hulls by trying to poach Ms Garrett from his office.

”He (Mr Hulls) said she is the smartest and most politically savvy Labor lawyer he has met and he needs her in his office,’ he said declared.

“Jane joined my office. I don’t know if Rob forgave me, I know he hasn’t forgiven Tim.

Mr Bracks said some of Ms Garrett’s legacies from that time included her help in restoring the powers of democratic institutions, sending more police to the streets, introducing fixed four-year terms in parliament of the State and the modernization of the courts.

“Jane knew that the secret to a deep and meaningful life is to seize every opportunity to make the world a better place,” he said.

“She lives in the social justice reforms she helped put in place for Victoria and, more importantly, she lives in Molly, Sasha and Max.”

Once seen as a future prime minister in the making, Ms Garrett spent months in the public eye during a bitter pay dispute involving the fire service and the Andrews government.

She resigned as Minister of Emergency Services when she could not support the state’s plan to end the standoff.

Luba Grigorovich, former public transport union boss and aspiring Labor MP, said Ms Garrett fought hard in the turmoil of politics but remained honest.

She said her friend and mentor also took it upon herself to foster the development of women

“What you saw is what you got,” Ms Grigorovitch said.

“Australian Labor Party politics and politics in general. It’s not for the faint hearted.

“Jane would play tough but there was vulnerability and there was also softness in his politics.

“She always knew how to have a good laugh about it.”

“She was held in high esteem and affection by a community that recognized integrity and courage when they saw her.”

Originally published as Jane Garrett bid farewell to the State Memorial in Brunswick


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