Marion Heloise Studdert

Wednesday, August 14, 1996 - 10:00

Veteran political activist and environmentalist Marion Studdert died on July 29, following a 13-month battle with complications after an operation for cancer.

Marion's political involvement began in 1941 when, aged 18, she joined the Communist Party of Australia, shortly after graduating from Fort Street Girls' High School. As an arts student at the University of Sydney from 1942 to 1945, she threw herself into political activity in the Labor Club and the University Branch of the CPA.

Looking back on those heady days of leafleting, petitioning and even speaking publicly from the back of a lorry, she was to remark, "I thought I was the heroine of the revolution". She joined the communist movement in the belief that it was "the spearhead of the international movement against fascism". At this time she also helped to organise a branch of the Union of Australian Women and the Australian Peace Council.

Having married in 1944, she was retrenched as a typist with the Australian Broadcasting Commission, which did not then employ married women. She was to be fired again in 1952, this time because Overseas Telecommunications discovered that she was a member of the CPA.

From 1952 to '58 she and her husband lived on a farm at Thora, where, having "got the bug" for political organising, as she put it, she established a local party branch and revived the Primary Producers Union.

After returning to Sydney, in 1963 she took up secondary teaching — a career that lasted 20 years until her retirement. Her years at Enmore Boys' High, 1970-77, were the high point of her teaching career.

During these years of general radicalisation, she was actively involved in the school branch of the NSW Teachers' Federation. Although Marion had long since left the Communist Party, her critical and principled stance on many social and political issues had a powerful influence on her students and colleagues alike.

During the last decade of her life, Marion once again committed her time and energy to the peace and environment movements where, she said, she had at last found a home. She established a branch of the short-lived Nuclear Disarmament Party in the electorate of Lowe. For two years, 1983-85, she was a member of the Socialist Workers Party [now Democratic Socialist Party].

Shortly after this, she helped establish the Concord Peace Group, the forerunner of the Concord, Burwood and District Peace and Environment Group. Through this group Marion became actively involved in local politics around a plethora of issues: dioxin contamination, the Gulf War, aircraft noise and, more recently, the Olympic Games — which she vehemently opposed.

The movement for a safer environment and a peaceful and just world has lost a valiant and tenacious champion. Marion leaves a daughter Katie, son-in-law Grahame and grandchildren Odette and Ambrose. Her memory was honoured on Hiroshima Day by the Peace and Environment Group, representatives of Concord Municipal Council, family and friends: a Norfolk Island pine was planted at Harmony Point, Concord, itself the site of a commemorative plaque to the victims of the world's first use of a nuclear weapon.
Therese Doyle

From GLW issue 242