From Australia’s Jewish Past:
Lillian "Leah" Kloot
An inspiration to her community
First published in J-Wire November 29, 2022
During World War I, she met and later married a wounded Australian soldier. The couple arrived in Melbourne in 1919 in a converted troopship, Leah was highly pregnant with a daughter on the way and their fifteen-month-old son. The family settled in South Melbourne, and her husband worked as a printer for The Age Newspaper.
As soon as the children were ready for school, Leah became involved with the school’s Mothers’ Club.
She soon realised that, while each Mothers’ Club did a worthwhile job for its own school, together, they could lobby forcefully for reforms in matters concerning children. She founded and became the first President of the Victorian Federation of Mothers’ Club. At the initiative of this Federation, the Safety Council and the Children’s Cinema Council were formed.
There was no stopping Leah. Her next move was to work with the inner-city youth where she developed the Richmond and Collingwood Opportunity Clubs, providing young people with a cut lunch that became known as the ‘Oslo lunch’ using bread from the Oslo bakery.
In 1937, she was a candidate for the State election. Her election brochure stated:-
’’I make no promises because promises cannot always be kept, but I will do all in my power to develop: economic security; the scientific distribution of food; an adequate housing scheme; free education from kindergarten to university; a national health and insurance scheme’’.
Some of the voters of the Albert Park electorate accused her of trying to take a man’s job and did not support her.
As President of the National Council of Jewish Women of Victoria from 1933 to 1936, she was closely involved with all that the organisation stood for and was a role model for many. In the late twenties and during the pre and post-World War II years, she busied herself, under Council’s banner, with meeting migrants and refugees at Port Melbourne, providing hospitality and helping to settle people into accommodation and employment.
When the Kloot children left home in the morning, they could never be sure with whom, or with how many, they would be sharing their home and their dinner in the evening. Leah passed away in 1962, aged seventy-six. She is honoured for her contribution to community service and social justice in the Victorian Honour Role of Women.
- Victorian Honour Role of Women; Centenary of Federation Honour Roll Book
- Inspirational Women From All Walks of Life (2011)