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Dr Stella Cornelius AO OBE
, 1989

by Judy Cassab

oil on canvas (frame: 104.0 cm x 81.7 cm, support: 88.0 cm x 66.0 cm)

Stella Cornelius AO OBE (1919-2010), businesswoman and peace activist, was born Stella Cohen to Jewish parents in Sydney and grew up moving around New South Wales as her father, a draper and tailor, found work. She married a German Jewish furrier, Max Cornelius, in 1943 and together they established and built Cornelius Furs, which traded on the corner of King and Castlereagh streets and remained one of Australia’s leading luxury retailers for decades. Max Cornelius died in 1978. In 1982 Stella proposed an Australian Ministry of Peace, and in 1986 she established the Conflict Resolution Network. From 1984 to 1986 she was director of the Australian Government Secretariat for the United Nations International Year of Peace. She initiated the Media Peace Prize for the United Nations in Australia and founded the Gateway Committee supporting Indo-Chinese refugees. She was vice-president of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, a member of the National Committee for Human Rights Education, a founding member of the Inter-Religious Council for Peace and a life member of the Australian Red Cross. Having helped to establish the Centre for Conflict Resolution that opened at Macquarie University in 1988, she received an honorary doctorate from the institution in 1999. In 2000 Nelson Mandela recognised her human rights activism, and in 2005 she was amongst the 1000 women jointly nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. In 2010 she gained the United Nations Association of Australia International Peace Award.

The portrait was a gift to Stella Cornelius from immediate family for her 70th birthday. She and Judy Cassab formed a warm connection as work on it progressed over the second half of 1989.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Gift of the Cornelius family 2019
Accession number: 2019.7