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“When one has known the life and work of Dr. Fanny Reading, one never again doubts the power of the individual in creating peaceful change” (Stella Cornelius AO OBE)

Fanny Rubinovich was born in 1884 in Karelizt, Russia, near Minsk, and arrived in Australia at the age of six. Her family settled initially in Ballarat and Fanny taught Hebrew to private students before entering the University of Melbourne to study music and later medicine. 

Graduating as a doctor  in 1922 – an almost unheard of achievement for a woman of her time – she moved to Sydney to join her brother’s medical practice. The practice was in Kings Cross, NSW. “No one wants to know that there is so much heartbreak, suffering and…degradation in the Cross. I must live and work here,” she said. 

In 1923, inspired by the visit of Zionist emissary Bella Pevsner, she founded the Council of Jewish Women – a Zionist organisation which was also active on a range of women’s issues. “At our first meeting, we promulgated the aims of our organisation: service to our religion, to our people and to the country in which we live.”

In 1925 Dr Reading travelled to the United States, Europe and Palestine, and helped organise a conference for the International Council of Jewish Women. In 1929 she organised a conference in Sydney at which the National Council of Jewish Women was formed. After serving as President of the Council of Jewish Women from 1923, she then served as National President from 1929 to 1955 and Life President from 1955 until her death in 1974.

During WWI, the Rubinovich family  changed their name to the more Anglicised Reading. Dr Reading lobbied at the highest government level, before, during and after that war, to open doors for Jewish refugees to enter Australia, especially refugees from Nazi Germany. She also lobbied the British Government “that the gates of Palestine be opened for unrestricted Jewish immigration as an urgent necessity for the saving of Jewish lives” (NCJW Conference Resolution, 1943).

In 1948 she (unsuccessfully) brought a libel suit against Smith’s Weekly which had alleged that Jews had raised money to buy weapons to fight the British in Palestine. She was named as a “Woman of Distinction” by Justice Herron of the NSW Supreme Court for this principled stand.

 Through her life Dr Fanny was accorded multiple honours, including the George V Jubilee Medal (1935), the George VI Coronation Medal (1937) and an M.B.E. for her Welfare Services to NSW (1961). She held numerous Board positions, including Honorary Medical Officer at St. George Hospital and Rachel Forster Hospital, Life Governor of the Benevolent Society, Dalwood Children’s Hospital and Women’s Hospital Crown Street, and Trustee of Wolper Jewish Hospital. A wing of Wolper Jewish Hospital was named after her in 1966 and a lounge there later dedicated to her as well. In 2010 she was inducted into the Victorian Honour Roll of Women.

In 1962, suffering from Parkinson’s disease, she moved into Wolper, where she lived until her death in 1974.

Click here to view The Australian Women’s Register’s extensive archive of material about Dr Fanny Reading MBE.  (Sarita This needs to hyperlink to an email to

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