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Victorian federal Labor MP Peta Murphy has been remembered for her dignity, courage and quick wit and as a rare politician who won admiration and affection across the aisle, as loved ones and friends gathered at a memorial service in Melbourne on Friday.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, speaking at the service in the Olympic Room at the MCG, said Murphy – who died from breast cancer this month, aged 50 – was a “a cherished member of the Labor family”.

A memorial service for federal Labor MP Peta Murphy was held on Friday in the Olympic Room at the MCG.Credit: Eddie Jim

“There are some members of parliament whose contribution earns the grudging respect of the chamber,” he said.

“There are others – much rarer – who win genuine admiration and real affection across the political spectrum. Peta was one of those.”

Murphy was a barrister and public defender before defeating the Liberals to win the Melbourne seat of Dunkley in 2019, rising to become chair of the House of Representatives committee on social policy and legal affairs.

Albanese noted 83 MPs spoke when parliament was recalled to pay tribute to Murphy – a process that lasted hours. He honoured her sense of social justice, selflessness, authenticity and courage – and her quick wit.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese speaking at the memorial.Credit: Eddie Jim

Praised by government and opposition MPs for her spirited arguments in parliament and her willingness to talk about her experience with cancer, Murphy was in parliament for work in the days before her death – despite undergoing treatment.

Her family said at Friday’s memorial that her final trip to Canberra left her exhausted.

Last week, independents called on the federal government to build on Murphy’s legacy by banning online gambling ads. Murphy led a public inquiry into the social damage from problem gambling that ultimately called for an advertising ban in four stages over three years.

Murphy’s husband, Rod Glover, fondly remembered waking up on Sunday mornings with her at their Frankston home. He then paused, overcome by emotion.

Murphy’s husband Rod Glover remembered her dignity, courage, and sarcasm.Credit: Eddie Jim

“She left us 11 days ago, and she left the way she lived – with dignity, courage, and sarcasm,” he said.

Glover said the prime minister was the first person to call him after Murphy died.

“I burst into tears, and he simply cried with me,” Glover said. “He has a big heart too.”

A tribute video compiled by Murphy’s friend and fellow Labor MP Anika Wells was played at the service. Former prime minister Julia Gillard and former Victorian premier Steve Bracks were among the mourners.

Federal Labor MP Mark Dreyfus wipes away tears.Credit: Eddie Jim

Murphy’s father, Bob, remembered her growing up in Wagga Wagga as a driven child and said he disagreed with her belief that she wasn’t special.

“In fact, you were bloody awesome,” he said, describing her as “authentic, smart, driven, caring, fun to be with, inclusive, a champion of social justice and equity … brave, and I added one more: sarcastic.”

He concluded his speech quoting her signature sign-off when his Murphy called him and her mother Jan.

“‘I gotta go. There’s someone I’ve got to help. I love you’,” he said.

“Well Peta, unfortunately, that time has come. I’ve got to say farewell, I’ve gotta go – we love you.”

Murphy was remembered as a rare politician who won admiration and affection across the political spectrum.Credit: Eddie Jim

Murphy’s sisters, Penni and Jodi, said she was a role model to them and a superhero to their children.

Friends Fiona Todd and Breast Cancer Network Australia chief executive Kirsten Pilatti also remembered Murphy’s compassion and fighting spirit.

The service concluded with a video of Murphy explaining what drove her to continue to work hard after she was diagnosed with cancer in 2011: the chance to improve the lives of others.

“I can either go under the doona and say that things are a bit tough, or try to use those feelings to achieve something,” she said.

Albanese said it was cruel to lose Murphy so soon.

“May Peta rest in eternal peace.”

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