1863 – 1947
Blind Author, Teacher and
Founder of the Victorian Association of Braille Writers
“Achievement was another aim with me from the beginning and whatever effects my life attainments may have upon others, there has been a fair amount of personal satisfaction in my victories over circumstance.”
In 1873 Matilda Ann (Tilly) Aston was born in the small country town of Carisbrook Victoria. Born with vision impairment, Tilly became blind at the age of 7. At this time in history very little support was available to the blind and opportunities were limited.
Rather than accepting the status quo, Tilly set to reshaping the world.
At the age of 17, Tilly became the first blind person in Australia to be enrolled in University.
The relative newness of Braille in the country and the resulting lack of Braille books became Tilly’s “chief disability” during this time. As a result, Tilly spent most of her time arduously transcribing her textbooks by hand. Ultimately she could not complete her Arts degree due to the lack of braille textbooks.
Tilly set about breaking through this barrier by teaching women from the Stenography Association Braille. They worked together to copy printed books into tactile ones. The hand-bound books produced marked the beginning of the Victorian Association of Braille Writers (now known as the Victorian Braille Library) in Prahran.
In 1895, Tilly and seven blind friends founded the Association for the Advancement of the Blind, an enduring organisation now called Vision Australia. Tilly said:
“something had to be done to alter these conditions, and I realised at the same time that no one but the blind themselves could handle such matters in the proper Spirit”
Tilly advocated persistently with this group working to enable blind people to participate more fully in Victorian society.
Among the goals achieved through her efforts was the introduction of free postage for heavy Braille materials, reduced travel costs on public trains (first in Victoria and then throughout Australia), and voting rights for the blind.
Aston, T. (1946). Memoirs of Tilly Aston, Australia’s Blind Poet Author and Philanthropist. Hawthorn Press.
Culture Victoria. [Victorian Collections]. (2011). Tilly Aston. [Online video]. https://cv.vic.gov.au/stories/a-diverse-state/the-girl-from-carisbrook/tilly-aston/
Memorial: Erected by the children of Carisbrook State School and the Midlands Historical Society 1970. This was to honour the 75th anniversary of the founding of the Association For the Blind. On Sunday, October 25, 1970 a simple ceremony attended by 400 people took place at the side of the Pyrenees Highway, Carisbrook. Mr E. Ault, a grandnephew, unveiled the plaque. In 2013, the Carisbrook Lions Club updated the memorial and erected an information gazebo detailing Tilly’s life story. A plaque in the gazebo recognises the contribution made by Lion Susan Tully towards the completion of the project. The Tilly Aston Memorial project was endorsed by the MDHS RITCH Community Development, Victorian Women’s Trust and the Horticultural Therapy Association of Vic.
Site: Tilly’s memorial resides in the beautiful town of Carisbrook beside the Pyrenees Highway. The memorial is surrounded by a sensory garden which includes Tilly Aston Roses donated by the Rotary Club of Maryborough.
Acknowledgement of Country: The town of Carinsbrook sits on the lands of the Dja Dja Wurrung people. We acknowledge the ancestors and descendants of the Dja Dja Wurrung. We acknowledge that their forebears are the Traditional Owners of the area we are on and have been for many thousands of years. The Djaara have performed age old ceremonies of celebration, initiation and renewal. We acknowledge their living culture and their unique role in the life of this region.
Photo: Tilly Aston as a young woman with flowers in her hair. She wears a cream blouse with a star badge and a rose corsage.
Cite this page Victorian Collections https://victoriancollections.net.au/items/581136f3d0cdd12f803f6b05
Extra Quote: Poor eyes limit your site, poor vision limits your deeds.