A voice for Indigenous rights
The eldest daughter of Monash’s third Chancellor, Sir Richard Moulton Eggleston, Elizabeth Eggleston was educated at Presbyterian Ladies’ College and Tintern Girls’ Grammar School. She studied law at the University of Melbourne (LL.B., 1956) and the University of California at Berkley (LL.M., 1958). She was active in the Australian Christian Students Movement and on the Student Representative Council during her time at Melbourne, and was a volunteer at legal aid. It was her time in the United States, however, that sparked her interest in social justice issues for Indigenous people. She enrolled at Monash as the Law Faculty’s first doctoral candidate (Ph.D. 1970). Her thesis examined Aboriginals and justice, and involved extensive fieldwork in Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia. Later published as a book, her work was hailed as a major contribution to Australian scholarship.
Eggleston was appointed as a lecturer in law at Monash in 1969. In his tribute for her, Monash Professor of Law Louis Waller noted that she was a strong teacher, helping to establish courses in Industrial Law and in Legal Aid. From 1971, she was the director of the Centre for Research into Aboriginal Affairs. She extended the Centre’s work into issues of law, health and race relations. She was a founder of the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service. As Waller noted, ‘[S]he worked for what she constantly underscored in her writing: the removal of those burdens and barriers which clothe Aboriginals with a lesser status that other, larger groups in Australian society’.
Eggleston died of cancer in March 1976. At her memorial service at the Monash University Religious Centre, Aboriginal friends sang and played traditional music in a fitting tribute.