Phil Cleary grew up in Coburg in Melbourne's northern suburbs where he completed an Arts degree at La Trobe University, majoring in politics and sociology. He is a former teacher, footballer and Independent member of the federal parliament – winning former PM Bob Hawke’s seat of Wills at a by-election in 1992 and at the general election in 1993.
He is the author of three books; Cleary Independent (1998), Just another little murder (2002) and Getting away with murder (2005).
Phil played 205 games in the late 1970s and '80s with Coburg in the VFA. After 205 games as a player, including a premiership in 1979 he coached the club to consecutive premierships in 1988/89. He provided special comments for the ABC’s telecast of VFL football from 1987 to 2014. In 2008 he coached West Coburg’s under 16 team to a premiership and in 2011 coached the under 18s to a further premiership, in teams which produced AFL players Brandon Ellis and Adam Saad.
Since the murder of his 25-year-old sister, Vicki, in 1987 Phil has been at the forefront of the campaign to stop violence against women. It’s widely acknowledged that his books, newspaper articles and media commentaries were pivotal to the abolition of the law of provocation in Victoria and changing community attitudes to violence against women.
Phil is a member of the Victorian Government’s Victim Survivors’ Advisory Council - along with Rosie Batty - which advises the government on the implementation of recommendations made by the Victorian Royal Commission into Family Violence. Phil is active in speaking to football clubs, community groups and businesses on how they can play a role in ending violence against women.