Levaun Mary Jarvis was Lady Mayoress of the City of Adelaide (married to the Lord Mayor) from 1985-1987.
Early Life and Career
Born in Adelaide Levaun Mary Brazel, Levaun was the eldest of four children of James Francis Brazel (later The Honourable Justice Brazel) and his wife Kathleen (nee Jones). The family lived in Dulwich then moved to Toorak Gardens. While Levaun’s early education was at Loreto Convent, Marryatville (Adelaide), her final year of schooling was as a boarder at Loreto Mandeville Hall (Melbourne). Her mother died after a long illness when she was just 18 years old and she had the care of the family for much of that illness. Her sister remembers Levaun cooking the family breakfast the morning their mother died.
It was working in her first job as a librarian for News Limited, that she met her future husband James (Jim) Jarvis, then a graphic designer. She was just 21years old; Jim was even younger at 19. A young Rupert Murdoch, whose News Limited was a client of Jim Brazel’s legal practice, Alderman Brazel Clark & Ligertwood attended Levaun and Jim’s wedding and reception afterwards at the Toorak Gardens home.
Levaun and Jim wanted to see the world and shortly after their marriage travelled to London with an introductory letter from Rupert Murdoch in Jim’s pocket. That secured him a job on Fleet Street. The young couple soon became parents of 2 boys Timothy in 1956 and Nicolas in 1958. Returning to Australia in 1958 they went on to have a further five children, James, Edwina, Adam, Samuel and Benjamin, The Australian born children were delivered at Calvary Hospital North Adelaide. Jim and Levaun maintained a life long connection with the hospital, fundraising and supporting building appeals to match the ambitious plans of the Sisters of Mercy.
Levaun’s father had a lasting influence on her. Levaun was schooled early in participation in Adelaide’s public life, often accompanying her father to events that required his attendance, whether as a partner of a leading Adelaide law firm or on the board of the Jockey Club. When Levaun and Jim first returned from London they lived in the family’s Toorak Gardens home at 4 Moore Street and it was a matter of great pride when the following year in 1959 Jim, as he was affectionately called, was appointed a Justice of the Supreme Court of South Australia. Sadly he passed away a few years later in August 1961 but Levaun maintained a lifelong friendship with his colleague Roma Mitchell QC and his widow Lynette and her children who included Amanda O’Brien. As Amanda Vanstone she went onto become Australia’s longest serving female Cabinet Minister in the Federal Government. It was Roma Mitchell QC who delivered the eulogy at Levaun’s funeral in 2005. Roma by that time had become Australia’s first female QC, Supreme Court judge, State Governor and University Chancellor of an Australian University.
Jim Jarvis was elected as the 73rd Lord Mayor of Adelaide and served from May 1985-May 1987. Organised by Levaun, all the Jarvis family were involved in the election campaign and Jim won the contest from the incumbent Wendy Chapman, the first female Lord Mayor of Adelaide. Levaun proved a formidable Lady Mayoress by his side.
At the time Levaun was quoted in the Adelaide press as saying Jim would be a damn good Lord Mayor. He was but she was equally a damn good Lady Mayoress in carrying out the civic role that came with her office and also in ‘working tirelessly to re-establish the role of Lady Mayoress as being of considerable importance to the City; She chaired She Lady Mayoress Charitable Trust (now called the Lady Mayoress’ Committee) and as well as the more experienced women, she assembled young women, some only in their late 20s or early 30s who she thought could bring enthusiasm and energy to the Committee.
Levaun and Jim’s term was marked in 1985 by the Sesquicentenary celebration of the City of Adelaide. A highlight was the visit by His Holiness Pope John Paul II. As a devout Catholic this was probably the highlight of many highlights during her term as Lady Mayoress, especially when the Pope gave a private audience to her family before making a public appearance from the Town Hall balcony and lit the peace candle.
The City also received a Royal visit from Queen Elizabeth II & the Duke of Edinburgh as part of the 150 year celebrations. The Queen’s crown dazzled but Levaun was also resplendent in a long pale blue silk gown which perfectly matched her eyes and a emerald set in the pearls her father had given her on her 21st birthday. She and Jim moved effortlessly around a large circle gathered in the main Town Hall ensuring the Royal couple has a chance to stop and talk to many of the hundreds of well-wishers in attendance.
Levaun’s focus was not just on the social occasions although she charmed everyone whether the good or the great including the staff that kept the Town Hall running smoothly. Margaret Roberts who worked at the Town Hall as her Personal Assistant says that
She was loved by us all at the Town Hall, always taking time to speak to us – drivers, secretaries, catering staff. She knew and remembered family details. She felt strongly that the Town Hall belonged to the people and the first Open Days were held as a result of her recommendation. Levaun really appreciated the contribution of community bodies within the City and during her term she invited many groups into the Town Hall. Her focus was on children charities, possibly conscious of the support she had identified was needed for her own first-born son. She raised the profile of SPELD, a charity for children with learning difficulties. She also raised funds for lesser known charities. She has a most compassionate nature and often through conversations would hear of an organisation in need of assistance.
In addition to being the Chair of the Lady Mayoress Charitable Trust Fund, Levaun also served as state branch President for UNICEF.
Her diverse community roles included:
Chairman, Lady Mayoress Charitable Fund 1985-87 with continuous involvement for 14 years. Foundation President, Adelaide Symphony Orchestra 1988; Foundation President, Friends of the Adelaide Chamber Orchestra 1982-1987 and member, Board 1983-87; Member, Management Committee Abbeyfield Society since 1987; Member of the Council and Convenor of Badge Day, Australian Red Cross Society, SA Division since 1987; Member, Management Committee, Citizens Advice Bureau, SA since 1987; Member, SPELD Foundation since 1988; President, SA Committee UNICEF since 1987; Member, Adelaide City Council City Committee - Himeji (Japan) 1987-89; Board Member, Levi Park Trust 1981-86; Council member, Royal District and Bush Nursing Society of SA (Inc.) 1979-89.
In recognition of her service to community, in June 1990 Levaun was awarded the Order of Australia as a member in the General Division (AM) as part of the Queens Birthday Honours. Due to ill-health she was not able to attend Government House to be presented with her honour and the then Governor Ltn General Sir Donald Dunstan AC paid her the courtesy of presenting it to her in the drawing room of her home “Holmwood” in Walkerville.
One of her most cherished gifts was a set of Rosary Beads that were a gift from Pope John Paul II to mark the occasion of his visit to Adelaide in November 1986.
After travelling to England as a young married women she and Jim stayed with Lady McCann, her Great Aunt. As Lady Mayoress she travelled to several of Adelaide’s Sister Cities. On the visit to George Town, Penang in 1986, she was accompanied by her sons Samuel and Benjamin and her future daughter-in- law, then Caty Beasley. The sister city visit was commemorated by the planting of a Bottlebrush tree on the Esplanade. George Town was founded by Captain Francis Light in 1786 and his son, Colonel William Light founded Adelaide in 1836. With Jim she also visited Himeji and Austin Texas. In Austin, Ladybird Johnson, the widow of US President Lynton B Johnson, received her.
In her own travels, she was a confident woman and liked to travel on her own. She enjoyed a trip to Europe with her daughter Edwina in the early 1980s.
Levaun was a devout Catholic and raised seven children. This informed her on-going commitment to children and especially her commitment to Minda. Her first child Timothy was born with Downs Syndrome but was a source of on-going joy and grounding for the family.
Jim Jarvis was involved with the ACC for 14 years and Levaun was always a great support.
However Levaun always wanted to do more than just be part of her husband’s life. She surrounded herself with strong women.
She strongly believed that women should be given opportunities to succeed in any areas they chose.
She mentored many young women to stand for Council including her daughter-in-law Mary-Lou who served on the ACC from 1987-1990 and Jane Rann who was elected to the Council in 1990 and served a time as Deputy Mayor.
Levaun had a keen eye for political talent and was an influential member of the Liberal Party. She was both well connected and respected. Christopher Pyne MP, Leader of the House in the Australian Parliament and also a Federal Cabinet Minister credits her as
a significant figure in the South Australian Liberal Party. She was the person who first got me involved in Liberal politics.
One of her other Liberal successes was in 1988 as Campaign Manager for the Federal seat of Adelaide when a by-election was held following the resignation of the Labor MP Chris Hurford. Labor had held the seat for almost 20 years and in a few short weeks Levaun enthused and built a strong campaign team to support the Liberal candidate Michael Pratt who went on to win the seat. She helped to give a much needed boost to flagging Liberal fortunes in South Australia. It was not until 1996 that the Liberals won power federally with John Howard becoming Prime Minister and not until 1993 that the LNP won office in South Australia. She was a friend of John and Janette Howard through her sister Pauline Gibson.
Levaun was a very sociable woman and all were welcome in her home. Elegant and extroverted, she enjoyed entertaining and gathering a very eclectic mix of friends and acquaintances.
During her time as Lady Mayoress, despite the added duties, it was business as usual in the Jarvis home. She had no regular help running the household and was often in the kitchen, either cooking or ironing when the family gathered.
Levaun was a confident woman who knew and spoke her own mind while being devoted to both her husband, and her large and extended family. She was generous with her time, well organised, knew what was going on but above all was a great mother and later grandmother. She was an untiring influence and much loved by her family.
Levaun has always been described as an elegant woman who knew what she wanted. She was devoted to Jim. Her contribution to Adelaide life through her role as Lady Mayoress is also best described as one of love and devotion.