Each year the Jean Arnot Annual Luncheon remembers Ms Jean Arnot’s contribution to the struggle for equal pay for equal work and honours women in their 90th year and older for service to their community.

Graduate Women NSW is proud to have so many long-standing members, several of whom we’ve been able to recognise for their service. We hope you enjoy reading about these inspiring women.

Mrs Yvonne Jayawardena

Yvonne Jayawardena (Recipient of Luxembourg Award – War Resistance and the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Medal for Nursing)

Born in Luxembourg, an activist for health, equality and the Australian Democrats. Candidate for Vaucluse in 1991, for the House of Representatives, Wentworth in 1984 and 1987, and Councillor for Waverley Municipal Council from 1987-91.

Yvonne has an extraordinary past. Her secondary education, in the Lycee, Esche was interrupted by World War II due to her participation in the resistance of her country, and for this she was interned by the Gestapo. Upon her return to Luxembourg she was not allowed to continue her higher education, but was forced to work in a steel plant. Transferred to the plant’s laboratory, she worked in inorganic chemistry.  At 18 she was forced into a national work program in a camp.   

When Luxembourg was freed by the American forces, she went on strike in the work camp. Remarkably she was then ordered into military training to go to the Russian front. She escaped, making her way to the front line by the Rhine. When after six months in hiding, the American forces arrived, she escaped, on a Russian truck making her way to the Luxembourg border where she was returned to Luxembourg by the Canadian Red Cross.

Upon her return, she went back to her secondary education, completing three years of secondary study in three months!  Yvonne went on to study Nursing at the University of Brussels, Belgium (1945-1948) and following this, she completed clinical nursing studies in Belgium and Denmark. She was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship and an American University Women’s Scholarship (1951), and completed a Bachelor of Science. She then lectured at the University School of Nursing and completed a Master’s Degree in Research Methods (New York, 1954). During the late 1950’s she became Assistant Director, at the Florence Nightingale International Foundation situated with the International Council of Nurses, London. 

She arrived in Australia in 1960 and married Dr. Chandra Jayawardena, then a lecturer in Anthropology. She initially came to Australia as a consultant, and then became Director of the National Nursing Education Division. Her son Rohan was born in 1964. In 1975 she took further courses in statistics, and subsequently worked as an assistant to Professor Palmer at the School of Health Administration, UNSW. From 1975-1978 she undertook research for the NSW Nurses Education Board and contributed to a book with Dr. Palmer (Dept. of Sociology), including research in areas of interest: Karitane and Nursing education. She worked for the Tertiary Education Department of UNSW.

Tragically, Yvonne lost her husband in 1981 when he was 52. She had always been interested in politics, and became a member of the Australian Democrats. She stood as a candidate for two Federal and two State elections, resigning from the party in 1988. Yvonne’s interest switched to local government and she was a local government Councillor from 1987-1991, and addressed parliament on local issues.     

Why she joined Graduate Women Yvonne joined Graduate Women in the early 1980’s. During this time she attended meetings of the National Council of Women and conducted research about women experiencing domestic violence. She became interested in the education of women and considers it an important element in their empowerment. She has maintained her membership since this time. Yvonne has been a tireless advocate for women and relocated to Canberra (2016) to be closer to family. Graduate Women-NSW is honoured and privileged to have Yvonne as one of our members.

Dorothy Balcomb OAM

Dorothy Balcomb OAM

Dorothy was born in Cowra to George and Anne Davidson who lived on a farm at Gambarra, Greenethorpe. Dorothy attended Greenethorpe PS and Grenfell IHS. She matriculated 1944 to the University of Sydney graduating BA1947, DipEd 1948.

Dorothy taught at Queanbeyan IHS, Grenfell IHS, and Mudgee HS. She then spent nearly a year and a half overseas, some of that time with a French family to improve oral French. Returning to Sydney in 1954 she taught at the Conservatorium High School. She resigned from teaching in 1955 to marry Harold Balcomb, a farmer at Toogong.

It was eleven years before Dorothy returned to her profession. However she was certainly kept busy helping with the farm books and office, producing two sons and a daughter, supporting Harold as he took on executive positions in NSW and national farming and rural organisations. She was also very active in her community. Dorothy was founding President of Canowindra & District Historical Society, has written several books on local groups and is now Honorary historian. She was a leader in the Girl Guides Association at community and District level and was one of four representatives from NSW at Queen’s Coronation, London, 1953. She has also worked with the Australian Red Cross (Cudal); the Country Women’s Association of NSW (Canowindra); Cudal Show Society Women’s Auxiliary; and various Musical and Dramatic Activities in Cudal, Canowindra and Cranbury. Dorothy was also involved in Cranbury Uniting Church especially in music as singer and organist, organising Back to Cranbury celebrations and recording the church’s history.

Dorothy’s life was to change dramatically in 1965. She heard of a meeting at the Hotel Canobolas in Orange of a newly forming branch of the Australian Women Graduates Association. She applied for membership and has been a member ever since of the Central West Branch. She became a member of the committee and later secretary and president. Apart from local activities, Dorothy attended some triennial meetings and conferences at state, national and international level. The first was in 1981 at state level in Sydney at the NSW Biennial Conference. Her first Triennial Australian Conference was in Tasmania. Then she represented the Central West Branch at the 32nd Triennial Conference in Melbourne and attended the Triennial International Federation of University Women (IFUW) Conference in 1992 at Stanford University, California.

It was not only a whole new interest for Dorothy but the reawakening of her professional life. At Dorothy’s first Graduates’ meeting the guest speaker was Professor Leonie Kramer. Her theme was that married women graduates had a duty to use their training and talents and return to or enter the work force. It was just the encouragement Dorothy needed. In 1966 she applied to the Department of Education for a teaching position and was fortunate that there was a vacancy in 1967 for a teacher of French and English at Canowindra Central School.

After five years at Canowindra, she needed a change of direction. Having majored in Psychology in her Arts Degree she applied and was accepted in 1972 into the NSW Department of Education School Counsellor Training Course. She and her daughter moved to North Sydney for the year and in 1973 she was appointed District School Counsellor to Forbes High as her centre, Cowra High as her second centre, and a total of twenty-five schools in her district. She travelled over 25,000 miles that first year alone. Dorothy retired in 1984 at the age of 57 but continued working part time until she was 75. Dorothy was a Registered Psychologist, NSW from 1991 until final retirement.

On the Queen’s Birthday of June 2006, Dorothy was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) in the General Division: ‘For service to education as a teacher and counsellor, and to the community through a range of historical, youth and charitable organisations.’

We at Graduate Women-NSW are honoured and privileged to have Dorothy as one of our members.

Doreen Todd OAM

Doreen Todd OAM

Doreen was born in Waverley, Sydney the elder daughter of Bill and Edna Relton. She attended St Catherine’s Anglican School for Girls (1934-46) before enrolling in Arts at the University of Sydney while at the same time continuing her piano and singing studies at Sydney Conservatorium of Music achieving her AMusA. She transferred to Physiotherapy in1950 and graduated with Dip.Phthy in 1953.

She married Robert Todd in 1952 and immediately experienced the difficulty of finding employment in the Departments of Health – both State and Commonwealth – due to her marital status. This was her first experience of discrimination. Doreen was unable to obtain Income Protection Insurance because she was a woman, and there were no superannuation schemes readily available.  Even when she joined the Department of Health she was still unable to access superannuation because she was not employed full time. This discrimination led to her keen interest in gender equity issues.

Doreen eventually found work at Rachel Forster Hospital for Women, a hospital run for women by women (1953-4) and then the Spastic Centre at Mosman (1955-7). After time out to raise three children, she returned to practice as a locum and eventually established her own private practice, where she continued until 1981. She joined the staff at Neringah Hospital and specialised in the treatment of Motor Neuron Disease (1980-2000).

Throughout her life Doreen has been involved in volunteering.  As a teenager during WW2 she joined her mother to entertain soldiers on leave in Sydney with singalongs and chatting to lonely young men with nowhere to go. She joined Soroptimists International in 1982 and held many executive positions at club, region and federation level.  She was made an Honorary Life Member in 2021. She joined the NCW NSW in 1994 as a Soroptimist delegate, was elected to its Executive Committee 2002-2017 and President 2008-11.She joined the Women’s Club in 2012. She has regularly entertained residents in nursing homes and hospitals and for many years Doreen was a Volunteer Court Support worker at Manly Court.

In the Queen’s Birthday list 2019 Doreen was awarded an OAM for ‘services to women’.

Her interests include reading, current affairs, music, education for all, gender and what she calls cultural equity.  She is a fan of most sports, and enjoys attending musical events whenever she can. She has two sons and a daughter, and six grandchildren, who, she says, are the light of her life.  She enjoys spending time with them but tries not to be an interfering grandmother!

A firm belief in the importance of education led Doreen to join AFGW-NSW in 2012. She was elected president of the North Shore Branch in 2013 and in 2018-20 was State president.  She also contributes as a Trustee of their Education Trust. Graduate Women-NSW is honoured and privileged to have Dorothy as one of our members.

Joan Bell

Joan was born in Sydney to Dr Leslie Parr and his wife Lucrecia. She was the elder of two girls. Dr Parr was a graduate of the University of Sydney and practiced in Ashfield before specialising in rheumatology. He was the Liberal member for Burwood in the NSW Parliament from 1951 till his death in 1956. Her mother trained as a nurse at Newcastle Hospital.

Joan was a student at PLC Croydon and MLC Burwood before matriculating to the University of Sydney where she graduated with an Economics degree specialising in Government in 1952. She obtained a Library qualification from the State Library of NSW and worked briefly in the library at the Sydney Technical College before becoming secretary to a NSW Senator.

In 1950 she married Stanley Bell of Strathfield. They had one daughter and four sons in a family that has now grown to eight grandchildren and eleven great grandchildren and counting. Joan has dedicated her life to her family, her church and active volunteering. She has worked with the School of the Deaf, mentally and physically disabled groups, Meals on Wheels, the Home Library Service.

One thing that has played an important role in her life is Graduate Women, of which she has been a member from around 1960. She first joined the Western Suburbs Group and claims it was ‘one of the best decisions in my life‘. She has been active and on committees at branch and state level. In the 1970s when they moved to Longueville she joined the River branch. In the 1980s they mover to Exeter and finding there was no group there worked with Jan Milburn and Alison Stalley to found the Southern Highlands branch. Returning to Sydney, Joan reconnected to River Branch and then to the North Shore Branch.

During her long membership Joan has attended International Graduate Women’s conferences at Stirling, Vancouver, and San Francisco and extended her friendship circle from the women there who shared her belief in the great contribution of education to women’s lives. While her increasing age has curbed her active involvement in Graduate Women we were delighted that she could join us in celebrating our Centenary year. GW-NSW is honoured and privileged to have Joan as one of our members.

Kathleen McCredie AM

Kathleen was the first child and only daughter of Dr Donald McCredie and his wife Ida nee Thompson. Ida was the first European child born on the Diamantina River near Birdsville and later trained as a nurse. Kath was followed by brothers Richard Michael, who became a cardiologist, and Donald John who became a lawyer and District Court Judge.

The family grew up around Roseville and from 1940-45 Kath was a secondary pupil at Abbotsleigh where she became a Prefect. She matriculated to the University of Sydney where she achieves a BA and a Diploma of Social Studies. Kath was an active and involved student at university and held executive positions in the Women’s Union, the Women’s Sports Association, the Guide Club and the Evangelical Union. Kath also starred and won University Blues in hockey and cricket representing Sydney in the varsity sports in every Australian capital.

After graduating Kath embarked on what was to become a life passion of adventurous travel. In 1951 she left with her great friend Grace for England and hitch-hiked in Europe catching up with relatives in Stockholm. She taught in East London but still made time to travel around southern Europe with friends. In May 1952, after answering an advertisement in the Times Education Supplement, she took off to Canada as a driver for the Anglican Sunday School Mission spending four months in Manitoba, three months in British Columbia, then Prince Rupert Land visiting families and holding church services. Six week later after travelling across USA she returned to the UK in January 1953. Her parents joined her there for the Queen’s Coronation and together they drove around Europe. Since then Kathleen has been trekking in Nepal, and visited Russia, India, China, Oberammergau (1960, 1980), Canada, South America, South Africa and UK.

Returning to Australia at the end of 1952, Kath embarked on her long career in teaching. In 1954 she taught at SCEGGS Moss Vale. In 1955 Kath was appointed foundation Head of SCEGGS Wollongong where she remained for fifteen and a half years. Her final move was back to her alma mater Abbotsleigh where she was Head from July 1970 till her retirement in December 1987. During that time she was President of the Association of Independent Schools – NSW in 1975 and 1985. The boarding house opened at Abbotsleigh in 1990 was named in her honour. In the Queen’s Birthday honours 1989, Kath was awarded AM for her services to education.

Kath has been a member of Graduate Women-NSW since 1960.She was instrumental in the foundation of the Illawarra branch in 1962 and hosted their annual dinner at Gleniffer Brae, the manor building taken over by SCEGGS Wollongong. Returning to Sydney she increased her involvement at the North Shore Branch and at state level. Since her retirement to Molong near Orange she has been part of the Central West branch.

We at Graduate Women-NSW are honoured and privileged to have Kathleen McCredie as one of our members.