• Entry type: Person
  • Entry ID: AWE0514

Brookes, Ivy

(1883 – 1970) Ruth Gibson
  • Born 14 July, 1883, South Yarra Victoria Australia
  • Died 27 December, 1970, Melbourne Victoria Australia
  • Occupation Advocate, Community worker, Musician, Philanthropist, Women's rights activist, Women's rights organiser


The daughter of former Prime Minister Alfred Deakin, and wife of public official Herbert Brookes, Ivy Brookes played an active part in Australian political life. She occupied a central role in the National Council of Women; the Housewives’ Association; the International Club of Victoria; the Women’s Hospital; and in various boards and committees at the University of Melbourne. A talented musician, she won the Ormond Scholarship for singing in 1904, and played first violin for Professor Marshall Hall’s Orchestra at the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music.


Back home from the United States in 1931, the ‘clever, attractive, Titian-headed’ Mrs Brookes, auburn hair swept across her forehead and a posy pinned to her lapel, was profiled by the Dominion. The strong features and somewhat sombre expression belied a ‘fluent speaker’ who was ‘brimming with a keen sense of fun’, and the author couldn’t help but note ‘what a great help she must be to her clever husband, a woman with brains, charm, and filled with the desire to help everything in need – nothing could be more suited for the wife of a trade diplomat’.

Ivy Brookes was the eldest daughter of Alfred and Pattie Deakin. Her husband, Herbert, was secretary of Austral Otis, later Chairman of the Chamber of Manufactures, and served on the Commonwealth Board of Trade. He was appointed Commissioner-General for Australia in the United States from 1923 to 1930, and was Chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. Ivy was involved in charitable work from an early age. Her mother, Pattie, gave much of her own time and energy to child welfare services and to charities for Australian servicemen and, like Ivy, took part in the kindergarten and playgrounds movements. When Ivy returned in January 1931 from that fifteen-month stay in the United States, she reported to the National Council of Women and the Children’s Welfare Association on her extensive investigation of child welfare services there.

Ivy’s particular passion, though, was for music. She relinquished the Ormond Scholarship at the University’s Faculty of Music upon her marriage to Herbert in 1905, but continued to support the Faculty, serving as a council member from 1926 to 1969. Described by Professor Bernard Heinze as the ‘fairy godmother’ of the Conservatorium of Music, Ivy was responsible, with Herbert, for financing a new wing there in memory of Marshall Hall in 1935. Alongside Sidney Myer, Keith Murdoch and Norman Brookes, both Ivy and Herbert were members of the Orchestra Advisory Committee which was convened in 1933 in order to oversee the amalgamation of the Marshall Hall Orchestra and the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. Ivy was also a member of the Lady Northcote Permanent Orchestra Trust Fund, and the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra ladies’ committee. In 1924 she was credited by Sir James Barrett, Chancellor of the University of Melbourne, with having increased the funds of the Lady Northcote orchestra from £4,000 to £10,000. An article in the Australian in 1928 claimed that ‘Mr and Mrs Brookes have shown their practical sympathy with musicians who are finding it not an easy matter to get their feet on the ladder of fame, just as their collection of the works of Australian artists is testimony to their practical patronage of another field of art’.

In addition to supporting music and the arts, Ivy and Herbert Brookes were strong supporters of the University of Melbourne, and of intellectual life in general. Ivy was a member of the Board of Studies in Physical Education at the university for thirty years, and a member of the Board of Social Studies for over twenty-five years. She was involved with the women’s auxiliary for International House, a residential college. Herbert was a representative of donors to Trinity College. Indeed, the Brookes home in South Yarra, Winwick, was described by Trinity’s warden, Alexander Leeper, as ‘the chief intellectual power house in Melbourne’. There Ivy and Herbert held the musical and literary activities of their T.E. Brown Society. In 1928, Ivy hosted a visit from Miss Royden of England, the ‘world-famous woman preacher’ who edited The Common Cause, the official organ of British women suffragists.

Ivy took an active part in social and political life. She joined the League of Nations Union and the National and International Councils of Women. She was founder of the International Club of Victoria in 1933, serving as president until 1958. She was a member of the Women Justices’ Association, and of the Playgrounds’ and Housewives’ Associations of Victoria. She served on the board of the Women’s Hospital for a monumental fifty years. Between 1931 and 1961, Ivy served as Director of the Bureau of Social and International Affairs. She was honorary secretary of the women’s section of the Commonwealth Liberal Party until the National Federation formed to incorporate all sections, at which point she concluded that the new organisation did not give fair representation to women.

Ivy Brookes was involved with just about every voluntary organisation open to her. An overview of her activities paints a valuable portrait of the times. It is illustrative, in particular, of a leaning toward American influences, a shift in philanthropic priorities, and a strengthening independence in women’s philanthropy.



  • 1931 - 1961

    Director of the Bureau of Social and International Affairs

  • 1933 - 1958

    Founder and president of the International Club of Victoria

  • 1927 - 1929

    President of the Royal Women’s Hospital Board

  • 1934 - 1938

    President of the Royal Women’s Hospital Board

  • 1944 - 1970

    President of the Playgrounds & Recreation Association of Victoria

  • 1915 - 1915

    Founded the Housewives’ Co-operative Association of Victoria

  • 1938 - 1970

    Foundation member of the Board of Studies in Physical Education at the University of Melbourne

  • 1941 - 1967

    Foundation member of the Board of Studies in Social Studies at the University of Melbourne

  • 1908 - 1960

    Executive member of the Lady Northcote Permanent Orchestra Trust Fund

  • 2001 - 2001

    Inducted into the Victorian Honour Roll of Women

  • 1903 - 1915

    First violin with Professor Marshall Hall’s Orchestra

  • 1904 - 1904

    Winner of the Ormond Scholarship for Singing

  • 1939 - 1945

    President of the National Council of Women of Victoria

  • 1948 - 1952

    President of the National Council of Women of Australia

  • 1952 - 1960

    Commonwealth member of the Import Licensing Committee

  • 1945 - 1963

    Vice-president of the United Nations Association of Victoria

Published resources

  • Resource Section
  • Newspaper Article
    • Ivy Brookes, Flesch, Juliet and McPhee, Peter, 2003
    • Portraits in Cameo: Mrs. Herbert Brookes, 1936
  • Edited Book
    • Who's Who in Australia 1968, Legge, J S, 1968
    • Monash Biographical Dictionary of 20th Century Australia, Arnold, John and Morris, Deirdre, 1994
  • Report
    • Resume of the second conference, Women's Division, Brookes, Herbert (Mrs) and Goodisson, L E (Mrs), 1915
    • Annual report, National Council of Women of Victoria
  • Book
    • Nation builders : great lives and stories from St Kilda General Cemetery, Eidelson, Meyer, 2001
    • Liberal women : Federation to 1949, Fitzherbert, Margaret, 2004
    • 150 years, 150 stories: brief biographies of one hundred and fifty remarkable people associated with the University of Melbourne, Flesch, Juliet and McPhee, Peter, 2003
    • Jessie Webb, a memoir, Ridley, Ronald T, 1994
    • The Early years of the Housewives Association of Victoria, 1915-1930, Oldfield, Robert, 1989
    • So Many Firsts: Liberal Women from Enid Lyons to the Turnbull Era, Fitzherbert, Margaret, 2009
    • Champions of the impossible: a history of the National Council of Women of Victoria, 1902-1977, Norris, Ada, 1978
  • Journal Article
    • A Mission to the Home: The Housewives Association, the Woman's Christian Temperance Union and Protestant Christianity, 1920-1940, Smart, Judith, 1998
    • The Politics of Consumption: The Housewives' Associations in Southeastern Australia before 1950, Smart, Judith, 2006
  • Thesis
    • In Her Gift: Activism and Altruism in Australian Women's Philanthropy, 1880-2005, Lemon, Barbara, 2008
  • Site Exhibition
  • Resource

Archival resources

  • National Library of Australia, Manuscript Collection
    • Papers of Alexander Gore Gowrie, 1835-1987 [manuscript]
    • Letter, 1967 Oct. 26 [manuscript]
    • Papers of Alfred Deakin, 1804-1973 (bulk 1880-1919) [manuscript]
    • Papers of Herbert and Ivy Brookes, 1869-1970 [manuscript
    • Papers on various Australian women [19--] [manuscript]
    • Records of the National Council of Women of Australia, 1924-1990 [manuscript]
    • Records of the National Council of Women of Australia, 1936-1972 [manuscript]

Digital resources

Related entries

  • Presided
    • National Council of Women of Australia (1931 - )
    • National Council of Women of Victoria (1902 - )
  • Vice President
    • Cancer Council Victoria (1936 - )
  • Membership
    • Housewives Association of Victoria (1915 - )
    • Liberal Party of Australia Federal Women's Committee (1945 - )
  • Daughter
    • Clarke, Jessie Deakin (1914 - 2014)
  • Friend and Colleague
    • Goodisson, Lillie (1860 - 1947)
  • Related Organisations
    • Merton Hall (1893 - 1902)
  • Mother
    • Deakin, Elizabeth Martha Anne (Pattie) (1863 - 1934)
  • Sister
    • White, Vera Deakin (1891 - 1978)