Woman Murphy, Violet Matilda Myrtle

Social Worker
Alternative Names
  • Murphy, Viva

Written by Ruth Lee, Australian Catholic University

Born, Victoria, Viva Murphy, Social Worker, was born in Yan Yean in 1904 to David Murphy and Christina Constable Mann. Her mother was a volunteer community worker and her father was a lecturer at the Ballarat School of Mines. Educated at the Loreto Mary's Mount College, Ballarat, Murphy attended Melbourne University and graduated with an Arts Degree in 1928. She had wanted to study medicine but her family was unable to afford it (Gleeson, 2006, p. 210). After teaching at the Church of England Grammar School, Ballarat, for 10 years enrolled in the two year almoners' course conducted by the Victorian Institute of Hospital Almoners (VIHA). In an interview in the early 1980s she said she 'loathed teaching' and had been attracted to social work because it offered a stronger outreach to the community (Gleeson, 2006, p. 210).

In March 1940, before she completed her certificate, she was employed by the Catholic Social Service Bureau, Melbourne where she was mentored by Constance Moffit. Willing to take risks, after one year she followed Moffit to Sydney to begin an assistant almoner's position at St Vincent's Hospital Sydney, where she met Norma Parker (Gleeson, 2006). In early 1942 her talents were recognised when she was appointed Director of Social Welfare in the Red Cross Society (New South Wales Division). The job involved family welfare work for World War Two soldiers and their dependants (Sydney Morning Herald, 8 April 1942 ). In November 1943 she moved to Brisbane to take up the appointment of Deputy Director of Rehabilitation for the Queensland Division of the Red Cross (Sydney Morning Herald, 8 September 1943). Murphy's Brisbane work included close liaison with the Charity Organisation Society in assisting families dealing with wartime conditions. She was active in establishing the Queensland branch of the Australian Association of Social Workers and became its foundation president in 1946.

In 1947 Murphy moved back to Sydney to take up the practical work supervisor position at the University's Social Work Department; she also worked closely with the Child Welfare Department of New South Wales (Gleeson, 2006, p. 210). From 1949-1951 she undertook overseas study at McGill and Columbia Universities (Turner and O'Brien, 1979, p. 148). She was then appointed to the Australian Legation in New York, advising Americans interested in migrating to Australia (Sydney Morning Herald, 10 January 1951). Murphy rose to the position of Vice Consul of the Australian Consulate General in New York (Marriage and Family Living Journal, 1955).

In 1956 she returned to Sydney to work as a senior social worker at the Commonwealth Department of Immigration until 1961 (Gleeson, 2006, p. 193 and p. 344). She also worked for the Commonwealth Department of the Navy and tutored in social work at Sydney University (Turner and O'Brien, 1979, p. 148). A well known identity in Paddington, Sydney, in 1964 Murphy was a founding member of the Paddington Society. This was Australia's first community activist association devoted to the preservation of the historic suburb of Paddington (www.paddingtonsociety.org.au/history.php ). She died in 1997 at the age of 92.

Published Resources


  • Turner, Cynthia and O'Brien, Laurie, Establishing Medical Social Work in Victoria: Discussion and Documents, The University of Melbourne: Department of Social Studies, Parkville, Victoria, 1979. Details

Journal Articles

  • Murphy, Viva, 'Social Services in Australia', Marriage and Family Living Journal, vol. 17, no. 3, 1955, pp. 205-207. Details

Magazine Articles

Newspaper Articles


Online Resources

See also