Peta Murphy travelled to Canberra for sitting week before her death

Days before she died, Peta Murphy had a question.

Surrounded by her Labor colleagues last Tuesday, she rose to her feet in the House of Representatives and asked the Housing Minister about the party’s shared equity scheme.

It would turn out to be the last time the late Member for Dunkley would speak on the floor of the house before her death, aged 50, after a lengthy battle with breast cancer.

Peta Murphy asks final question in QT

The Labor MP had made the trek to Canberra for the House’s final sitting week of the year despite her ill health.

She had wanted to launch the Breast Cancer Network Australia’s national report on the Wednesday, charting a path forward to collect and report cancer stage and recurrence data.

“To make sure people living with this disease know that they are seen, heard and counted. Without this visibility, we can’t plan to adequately meet health care needs.” she wrote on Facebook following the event.

“Earlier in the week, a journalist said to me, ‘life deals you cards that you don’t want to be dealt sometimes’.

“It’s true. And it’s not always easy.

“But, as I said then: ‘Let’s see if we can get a national registry for metastatic breast cancer as the trial for a national registry for all metastatic cancers, and then that wouldn’t be a bad hand to play.’”

That Wednesday evening, her friend, and Jagajaga MP Kate Thwaites delivered a speech on her behalf to the parliament about the launch. She was not present.

“I do wish that she were here to do it herself — but I’m also very aware that she will be looking at the Hansard to check that I acquit it properly,” she told the House.

“There is obviously no fiercer advocate for this work and for providing support for those with metastatic breast cancer than the member for Dunkley.”

Ms Murphy was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011 and was told her cancer had returned just days after she was sworn in as the member for Dunkley in 2019.

In her maiden speech to parliament, she said she was neither “unique, nor alone” in her cancer battle but vowed to use her platform to benefit others.

“Let’s be frank though, cancer sucks,” Ms Murphy said at the time.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese fought back tears as he spoke about his friend’s spirit.

“From the squash court, to the law courts, to the House of Representatives, everything Peta did, she did it with her whole heart – and what a warm, generous, strong and proud Labor heart she had,” he told reporters shortly after her death on Monday.

“Right up to last week, she was asking questions in the House, raising awareness of issues she cared about and standing up for the community she was so proud to represent.

“It was so true to Peta’s character that she channelled her personal battle with breast cancer into public policy, advocating always for others: for better treatment, more services and stronger support.”

Ms Murphy led the charge for important reforms such as reducing the harm from online gambling and strongly advocated for a national registry for metastatic cancer patients.

She told Stellar Magazine in August her cancer diagnosis made her determined to do something meaningful.

Ms Murphy won preselection to be Labor’s candidate for Dunkley at the 2016 election, which she lost, before narrowly winning in 2019.

She told Stellar that throughout the 2019 campaign she had chest pain and suspected it was pneumonia.

After seeking a second opinion, they found “two whopping great tumours growing out” of her sternum bone.

“I do remember swearing a lot,” Ms Murphy said.

But she said her diagnosis meant people had to stop and listen when she spoke.

“If I said I wanted to talk about it because it affects one in seven women in Australia then people might listen, but when I say I have metastatic breast cancer and this is what I’m going through, there’s not really much space for someone not to listen,” she told Stellar.

“I’ve got this opportunity to be part of some big stuff, and I’m doing everything I can to do that for as long as I can.”

Before entering parliament, Ms Murphy served as a barrister and Victorian public defender.

She later worked as chief of staff to Labor frontbencher Brendan O’Connor.

Ms Murphy is survived by her husband Rod, family members Bob, Jan, Jodi and Penni Murphy, and her two dogs – Bert and Ernie.

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