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Kondelea (Della) Elliott
, 1979

by Ivy Shore

oil on masonite (frame: 145.5 cm x 115.0 cm, support: 121.5 cm x 91.5 cm)

Kondelea Elliott (1917–2011), union official and women’s rights lobbyist, was the daughter of an Australian mother and a Greek migrant father who ran cafes in Sydney in the 1920s. At 14, Kondelea (known as Della) left school to train as a shorthand typist and became involved in Young Communist League activities, speaking on the Communist Party stump in the Domain and engaging in left-wing theatre. Known as Della Nicholas, in 1940, she was elected to the central council of the NSW branch of the Federated Clerks’ Union; in 1943 she became its assistant secretary, remaining in the post for five years. During the 1940s, as a delegate to the NSW Labor Council and the ACTU, she campaigned for equal pay for women, and during the 1950s worked for the Waterside Workers’ Federation. In this way she met Eliot V Elliott, long-term leader of the Seamen’s Union of Australia; they married, and she worked in the federal office of the Seamen’s Union from 1955 to 1988. In retirement, she researched union history and helped establish the Jessie Street Women’s Library, while breeding champion Scottish terriers. She received a NSW Premier’s Award for Community Service in 2000. Her name is perpetuated in her gift of an annual scholarship for an Aboriginal student to the Women’s College at the University of Sydney.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Gift of Jeannie Highet and Kim Buchan 2012
Accession number: 2012.235