Helen Davis

Helen Davis - Preston Mayor 1985-1987

In the 1985 elections for the Preston City Council the Australian Labor Party (ALP) held the majority of 10 to 2 seats. They put forward Cr Helen Davis as their mayoral candidate and in August she was sworn in as Mayor of Preston. Cr Davis represented the East Ward and at her election to the mayoral office became the first female mayor in 100 years of Preston councils that transitioned from Shire to Borough in 1921 and City in 1926.

Helen was one of five girls from a Catholic family.  When she was young the family moved from Port Kembla NSW to Captain’s Flat near Canberra and this had a great impact on her future political education. There she helped establish the first Australian Labor Party branch in the small town of 300 people.

Helen had a difficult first marriage and overcame huge setbacks to move her four children in the 1960s to Preston.  She worked for Mistral Fans and joined the Amalgamated Metal Workers Union. Helen was soon elected shop steward and became a strong advocate for women within the union and the workplace.  She also fought strongly to improve working conditions including getting rostered days off and superannuation entitlements.

She was living in a housing commission home in 1978 when she married Chick Davis, who cared for her and her children. She continued her community activism in areas such as health, state education, domestic violence and safe contraception.  This led to an endorsement as an ALP candidate for the Preston Council where she became the first female councillor and subsequently female Mayor in the municipality.  She served on the council for more than 16 years and was twice elected Mayor. She served as secretary and treasurer for the Preston branch of the ALP and was awarded a life membership by Steve Bracks.

Helen was diagnosed with cancer and passed away in March 2012.

City of Preston Post-Times (Preston Leader), Tuesday 6 August 1985, p.1