Betty Olive Osborn (nee Roberts) – 1934–2020

The Society mourns the loss of a Life Member – Betty Olive Osborn (nee Roberts).

Photo of Betty and her husband Bruce, when the Maryborough Midlands Historical Society visited Bacchus Marsh Historical Society in 2012. Courtesy of the Bacchus Marsh and District Historical Society Inc Collection.

Betty Osborn (nee Roberts) was a young female journalist ahead of her time.

After marrying Bruce Osborn, Betty moved to Bacchus Marsh, Victoria. Here began her abiding interest in local history.  Betty was an early member of the Bacchus Marsh and District Historical Society.

In May 1969, Betty Osborn and fellow Society members began researching the Bacchus family history, eventually finding Captain Bacchus’ great granddaughter, Mrs Mona Denny in England. An early positive outcome of these endeavours was the donation to the Society of Captain Bacchus’ Militia Badge, Mourning Ring & family photo in October of 1969, followed by a $200.00 donation towards the preservation of Captain Bacchus’ grave. A very warm regard developed between the Bacchus Marsh and District Historical Society and Mrs Denny who was very grateful for the interest shown in her Bacchus ancestors.

In 1980 the Society, through a bequest, established the Mona Denny (Bacchus) Memorial Trust.

The Trust honours Captain Bacchus’ descendant, Miss Mona Denny, and her desire to foster the work of the Bacchus Marsh Historical Society.

Bill Payne, Jean Oomes and Betty Osborn were the first trustees of the Mona Denny (Bacchus) Memorial Trust.

The Trust has supported a number of Historical Society endeavours in the ensuing years, including many of its publications.

Betty Osborn’s ‘A History of Holy Trinity, Church of England, Bacchus Marsh’ was published in 1971, (republished in 1977).  The book cost only $1.00 and all proceeds were dedicated to raising funds for the restoration of Captain Bacchus’ grave.

A History of Holy Trinity, Church of England, Bacchus Marsh, By Betty Osborn, 1971.

 In 1973, Betty published ‘The Bacchus Story: A History of Captain W.H. Bacchus and his Son’.

The Bacchus Story: A History of Captain W. H. Bacchus, and his Son, By Betty Osborn, 1973

That same year, the Osborn’s moved to Maryborough with their four children: Robyn, Diana, Cathy and Philip.

Betty was made a life member of the Bacchus Marsh and District Historical Society, and she was also a member of the Royal Historical Society of Victoria.

An accomplished journalist and local historian, Betty Olive Osborn (then Betty Roberts) was known as the ‘girl reporter’ of the Argus newspaper in the 1950s.

In 1951, a young Betty Roberts took herself to the Argus offices to enquire about a career in journalism. She was advised to complete her matriculation at University High School, keep up her typing and short-hand, and return the following year. Betty began work as a secretary for the Weekend Magazine at the Argus in 1952, and noted that – unusually – men and women journalists were being paid equally. That year, she wrote a report for the paper on the itinerants living at Melbourne’s Dudley Flats (now the exclusive Docklands development site), who survived by scavenging from the tip. She took photographs for the feature herself, using her mother’s box brownie camera.

Feeling there was little prospect for a career in journalism, Betty enrolled to do a Bachelor of Laws at the University of Melbourne, but on the eve of her first week as a law clerk was offered a cadetship with the social pages of the Argus. She accepted, but continued at the university as a part-time Arts student. She remembers, on returning to the Argus: ‘Virginia Gerrett, of Sydney, was in charge of the Social pages… She had replaced Gladys Hain much to the consternation of all the women journalists who considered Freda Irving as the heir apparent. Freda cooled her heels briefly on the Weekend Magazine where her deep voice would often have telephone callers referring to her as “Peter Irving”. This greatly appealed to her sense of humour.’

Under Freda Irving, Betty worked with Kath Coyne, Grace Hutchinson, Cynthia Strachan, Elaine Young and Julie Sparrow. In addition to the usual social pages fare, Irving encouraged her young proteges to investigate stories of importance to women, and to write detailed profiles of women in the news. The cadets were expected to look the part, with hats, gloves, and appropriate evening wear when necessary. In 1955, Betty Roberts won the Australian Journalists’ Association’s Montague Grover Prize for cadet journalists. She was soon transferred to the general staff:

“For a start I didn’t have to worry about hats and gloves any more. Ellie Knox, the Town Hall roundswoman, and I were the only women in a sea of men, young and old. The newsroom was a vast open space with the day chief of staff Laurie Kerr’s office at one end, an array of reporters’ desks in the middle and the subs tables at the northern end where a door led to the printery. Once opened, the noise of the old linotype machines could be heard clattering away and in the distance the compositors could be glimpsed, quietly going about arranging their leaden trays of type. How close we all were, journalists and printers, bringing out the news of the world to the people of Melbourne”.

Betty was assigned to cover nearly every session of the Legislative Assembly as a gallery reporter in 1956 – ‘competition was fierce and I can remember being absolutely appalled when I came upon the Sun political roundsman rifling through Lance [Loader]’s papers one day’ – and made the most of the parliamentary library for her studies. She remembers: ‘There was not one woman in the Victorian Legislative Assembly that year and the only woman I recall coming into the press gallery was Rose Kinson from the Sun’. Outside of parliament, Betty was given a number of reporting tasks, including coverage of a Coroner’s Court case in which Frank Galbally was representing an Italian man whose wife had been stabbed to death.

To her delight, Betty Roberts was assigned to cover the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne. She spent a great deal of time at the Olympic Village in Heidelberg, chasing up stories on famous (and infamous) international athletes. Just six weeks after the closing day of the Games, the Argus folded.  Betty wrote for the Sun, but the Argus was the paper she truly loved. She returned to full time study at the University of Melbourne.

Courtesy of The Australian Women’s Register

OSBORN (nee Roberts), Betty Olive 1934-2020

Loved wife of Bruce (dec). Devoted mother of Robyn, Diana, Cathy and Philip. Mother-in-law of David, Edward and Zorana.

Adored Grandma of Jonathan, Nathaniel, Bohwen, Dashiell, Sienna, Grace and Lewyn.

Life and Love – know no end.

The Funeral Service for the late Mrs Betty Osborn will be held at the Jubilee Chapel, Cnr Clarendon and Inkerman Sts Maryborough, on Tuesday 15th December, 2020 at 2pm. A private cremation will follow the service.

No flowers by request,
Donations to the Midlands Historical Society in lieu would be appreciated.


Courtesy of The Age Tributes.

Tributes for the family can be left at the The Age Tributes link above. Betty and her family resided in Bacchus Marsh for eleven years and lived opposite the Manor House. If you have any stories or photographs relating to Betty’s time in the Marsh, we would love to know. Please share on our Facebook page.