Born in Melbourne, Victoria, she attended Oak Park High School before receiving her tertiary education at the University of Melbourne (Bachelor of Arts 1968, Diploma of Education 1969) and at La Trobe University (Bachelor of Education 1979). She is also a Justice of the Peace. In 1970 she became a secondary school teacher, and from 1982 to 1989 she was electorate officer to state Labor minister Pauline Toner.
In 1989, she succeeded Toner in the seat of Greensborough in a by-election. In 1992 her seat was abolished and she transferred to Bundoora. She also entered the shadow ministry that year, serving as Shadow Minister for Community Services (1992–96), Women's Affairs (1993–96), Environment, Conservation and Land Management (1996–99), and Water Resources (1997–99). When Labor won office under Steve Bracks in 1999, she became Minister for Women's Affairs, Environment and Conservation. In 2002 she transferred to Community Services. She retired in 2006.
Minister for Environment and Conservation
As Minister for Environment and Conservation, Garbutt was subject to scrutiny by the Parliament’s Public Accounts and Estimates Committee (PAEC) Inquiry into 2002–03 budget estimates on 25 June 2002, concerning her failure to table the 1999-2000 and 2000-01 Reports of the Surveyor-General of Victoria, Keith Clifford Bell, as required under the Survey Coordination Act (1958).  Although she advised the PAEC that the reports were not tabled as she considered them inaccurate, the reports were subsequently tabled without alteration. Garbutt was advised by both the Victorian Government Solicitor and the Auditor-General that such reports should be tabled without interference. Concerns raised in the Surveyor-General's reports were confirmed by the Auditor-General, who in 2002 reviewed the functions and responsibilities of the Surveyor-General. The Auditor-General identified the interference by Land Victoria in the performance of the Surveyor-General's responsibilities, including the wrongful transfer of the Surveyor-General's responsibilities to areas of Land Victoria outside of the Office of Surveyor-General. The Auditor-General advised that the Surveyor-General's responsibilities could not be transferred without legislative mandate. The Auditor-General found that the transfer of the functions of the Surveyor-General had seen them delivered unsatisfactorily by other units under Land Victoria, and failing to meet the legislative obligations.  The Opposition directed all blame for concerns to Garbutt, and emphasized the extreme political interference in the performance of the statutory functions of the Surveyor-General by Garbutt, the Department of Natural Resources and Environment (DNRE) and Land Victoria senior management under Executive Director, Elizabeth O'Keeffe. It was also reported that O’Keeffe had approved a $100,000 contract for a consultant to “lobby her own Minister” Garbutt to discredit the Surveyor-General. 
Further concerns about Garbutt were raised in the Parliament, on 17 April 2002 and again on 17 October 2002, by Opposition environment spokesman Victor Perton, regarding the attempted misuse of millions of dollars from the Estate Agents Guarantee Fund (EAGF) by Land Victoria and the Department of Justice (DoJ).   Specifically, Perton reported that Land Victoria and the Department of Justice had "conspired to invent a 'survey reform' project to win $7.5 million from the fund. Land Victoria, a division of DNRE, under direction of the Executive Director, Elizabeth O’Keeffe, and in collaboration with DoJ, was reported to have attempted to create “the survey project” to obtain extra government funding though EAGF, despite already having been funded. The administration of EAGF was under DoJ. It was later reported that the Surveyor-General had reported his concerns to the Auditor-General who stepped into to prevent it proceeding. The Surveyor-General also reported his concerns to the Ombudsman. Perton, in April 2002 in Parliament and earlier in the media, quoted "from documents from 2001 in which the assistant director of land records and information services, Ivan Powell, talks of having 'invented some benefits' in regards to the project and of a request to 'invent another layer of detail'. Powell was a senior Land Regisry official (under Land Victoria).  
Preceding an Ombudsman's investigation, Garbutt asked the DNRE Deputy Secretary (Mr. Dale Seymour) to investigate the opposition claims. . Thereafter, Garbutt authorized Land Victoria to hire a private investigator to investigate alleged leaks, targeting the Surveyor-General's Office. The private investigations were dropped due to adverse media reports and when it was learned that the Surveyor-General, had acted responsibly and correctly followed due process in reporting to the Auditor-General and the Ombudsman, after his concerns were earlier dismissed by both Garbutt, Munro and O'Keeffe. Apparently, alleged leaks were from the Land Registry under Land Victoria and O'Keeffe used the private investigator to intimidate both the Surveyor-General and the staff of his office.
The Ombudsman's investigation, “A conspiracy between members of the Department of Natural Resources and Environment and of the Department of Justice to defraud the Estate Agents Guarantee Fund”, found the attempt represented a conflict of interest and was not ethical. The Ombudsman reported that two whistle-blowers had come forward to his office which led to his investigation in accordance with "public interest disclosures" under section 50 the Whistle-blowers Protection Act 2001 and launched on 19 June 2002. The Ombudsman found that the "projectising" of the survey function was little more than a scheme to obtain additional funding, despite already being appropriated. The Ombudsman concluded: “Finally, the allegations that arose when this matter was placed under scrutiny ought to stand as a warning to those entrusted with determining the eligibility of applicants and/or programmes for funding from the various Statutory Trust Funds.”
Significantly, Munro's letter neither acknowledges the Ombudsman's finding of the significant conflict interest of public servants, nor does it acknowledge the Ombudman's reporting of the pressure placed on the Surveyor-General by an officer of Land Victoria "to cajole" him into taking responsibility for the invented project. Munro also did not acknowledge the finding of the Ombudsman of the key role of the whistle-blower (later identified by the Opposition as the Surveyor-General) who earlier reported the matter to the Auditor-General, whose official investigation prevented the attempts of public servants to misuse the EAGF. Further, Munro did not acknowledge the Ombudsman's finding that Land Victoria Executive Director, O'Keeffe, deliberately did not inform the other members of the EAGF Council on the proposed used of EAGF funds. Also, Munro's letter also did not acknowledge that the EAGF Council had informed the Ombudsman that "that such a proposal would be an inappropriate use of the Fund.”
Harmsworth did acknowledge the conflict of interest and also acknowledged that his department had failed to provide sufficient information to the Auditor-General to appraise the proposed use of funds that would have been approved by the Expenditure Review Committee of Cabinet (ERCC).
- Parliament of Victoria (2008). "Garbutt, Sherryl Maree". re-member: a database of all Victorian MPs since 1851. Parliament of Victoria. Retrieved 22 October 2009.
|Parliament of Victoria|
| Member for Greensborough
| Member for Bundoora
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