Profile - Della Elliott (1917-2011)
Kondelea (Della) Xenodohos (later known as Della Elliott) was born in Melbourne in 1917. At the age of 14 she was forced to leave school in order to contribute to the household during the Depression. She graduated from business college as a typist but found it difficult to gain regular paid work. She instead worked for lunch and fares with the International Labour Defence before gaining paid work with the Friends of the Soviet Union and the Militant Minority Movement.
Della was drawn to activism from an early age and joined the Young Communist League as a teenager before joining the Communist Party of Australia (CPA) in the 1930s. In 1937 she married future CPA leader Laurie Aarons, but they later divorced.
Della joined the New South Wales Branch of the Federated Clerks' Union in 1936 and was elected to the union's Central Council in 1940 and then as organiser in 1942, the first woman to hold the position.
In the 1940s Della was a delegate to the Labour Council of NSW and the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) and passionately pursued the issue of equal pay for women. This included working as a member of the Australian Women's Charter Committee alongside feminist activist Jessie Street.
Della and Laurie divorced in 1945 and she began working for the Waterside Workers Federation (WWF). Here she met Seaman's Union of Australia (SUA) leader Eliot V. Elliott. They were partners for the rest of their lives, eventually marrying in 1982.
Della began work at the SUA in 1955 as an administrator in the federal office, keeping meticulous records and facilitating a number of industrial campaigns, as well as editing the Seamen's Journal. Della eventually retired from the SUA in 1988, four years after Eliot's death.
Della was a strong supporter of the League for Democracy in Greece and the Union of Australian Women. She was also passionate about Indigenous issues and founded a scholarship at the University of Sydney for female Indigenous students.
Della Elliott died in Sydney on 2 October 2011 at the age of 94.
Henningham, N n.d., Elliott, Della, The Encyclopedia of Women & Leadership in Twentieth-Century Australia, accessed <http://www.womenaustralia.info/leaders/biogs/WLE0010b.htm>
Cahill, R 2011, Della Elliott Remembered, Maritime Union of Australia, accessed <https://www.mua.org.au/news/della-elliot-remembered>
Johnson, A 1990, Bread & roses: a personal history of three militant women and their friends 1902-1988, Left Book Club Co-op, Sutherland, NSW.
Stevens, J 1987, Taking the revolution home: work among women in the Communist Party of Australia 1920-1945, Sybylla Co-operative Press an Publications, Fitzroy, Vic.