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 married against her family’s wishes and was cut off from them when the abusive marriage ended with her husband being imprisoned for bigamy. She was left shocked at the deception and with the sole care of their four sons one of whom was severely handicapped. Helen moved her family in the 1960s to Preston and worked for Mistral Fans. She joined the AMWU, was elected shop steward and became a strong advocate for women within the union and the workplace. She was living in a housing commission home in 1978 when she married Chick Davis and continued her campaigns for women in community areas such as health, domestic violence and safe contraception. Her activism led to an endorsement as an ALP candidate for the Preston Council where she became the first female councillor in the municipality. She served on the council for more than 16 years and was twice elected Mayor but remained true to her party member roots doing letterbox drops with her family during election campaigns. 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
FORTHRIGHT IN PUSHING CASE FOR WOMEN. (2012, April, 04). The Age (Melbourne, Vic.), p.18.