Australian Federation of University Women

New South Wales

AFUW - NSW Incorporated is an association of women graduates from universities throughout the world



SHIRLEY MARION MANION 17/1/1931 – 9/4/2006

It is with a deep sense of sorrow that we farewell our friend, Vice-President and Public Officer, Shirley Manion. A much-loved and respected member of AFUW-NSW, Shirley joined the organisation in 1952 and was involved and committed to the end. Shirley held office at branch and state levels and always fulfilled her duties with exceptional care and dedication. I knew whenever Shirley undertook to do something for AFUW, I could rest easy because it would be done well and on time. I came to rely on Shirley’s good humour and support at functions because if she was there she would lend a hand when required.

Shirley was guest speaker at branch meetings. One such talk I remember was of her visit to the Maharishi Vedic University in Cambodia where we supported a woman student through the Study and Action Programme. Shirley was SAAP Coordinator at the time and she took her role seriously deciding to see for herself where and to whom our money was going. Although surprised, she accepted with her typical good humour that getting to the university involved a hair-raising journey on the back of a motor bike while she hung on to her trusty camera.

Members were shocked and saddened by Shirley’s sudden death and many tributes were made.
Here is a sample of some:

I am so sorry to hear about Shirley she was a real trooper. A lively and lovely person; I found her a role model for women’s issues and just getting there and getting the job done … The world could do with a lot more amiable, conscientious, accomplished, intelligent and frank Shirley Manions.

What devastating news about Shirley… Shirley was such a nice lady and always made me laugh. I’m sure she will be missed.

Oh what news! ... the most cheerful, friendly face at all meetings.

Shirley was such a loyal and hard working AFUW member over many years and our sympathy goes out to all those NSW fellow members and friends who must be grieving at this untimely death.

What a great shock! And what a great loss for AFUW. I know that she will be missed in many other activities also.

Shirley made a great contribution to AFUW and will be remembered gratefully by many for years to come.

What a tragedy. Shirley gave selflessly of her time. Great way to go for her but such a shock for her family.

(The picture shows Shirley speaking at the tribute to Mary Kane on her retirement from office last year.)
Shirley we miss you.   May you rest in peace.   Ivy Edwards President

On Tuesday, 18 April, many AFUW friends attended the funeral service celebrating her life, including several members of both the Northern District and the North Shore Groups which Shirley had served so well. We register our appreciation for the hospitality of the residents of Lutanda Village at Pennant Hills who provided afternoon tea after the service. The eulogy was given by Shirley’s son, Michael, who has graciously made available a copy for us to include.

Editor: In our last Newsletter I brought to you a Dubai newspaper piece about education of girls there, which Shirley had brought home for Merle and myself. Of the many obituaries I have brought you over ten years this is the hardest, along with my blind school friend, Leah Francis. When Shirley’s computer was talking to her we often had late night exchanges on AFUW and other bits and pieces - some serious, some trivial. I would like to share with you our last interaction. Taken to task for the Newsletter’s use of both Marjorie and Margery Murray, I resorted to the internet - the NSW B, D & M Indexes. Our benefactor was born and died Marjorie but was married as Margery, the name in which she joined and participated in AFUW. I conveyed this information to Shirley with the comment: As she was beyond the age of consent, perhaps Margery was the name of choice.

Saturday, March 18 Hello Lyn! What a lovely Trivia item! That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. Who has been making all the fuss about it? Best wishes … Shirley

Sunday, March 19, 2006 Re: Mrs Murray You are so right! After all, girls have always tried to change - their hair colour, their school tunic length, even their first/second name. A classic case of adolescent rebellion.
I agree with your decision. C U … Shirley

In the Sydney Morning Herald notice the simple words encapsulated it: “She taught us all so much.”



Shirley was born in North Sydney in 1931 to Charles and Marion Dare. Charles was a successful industrialist who enjoyed his golf. Mim, as we knew her, was an intelligent lady whose father had not let her go to university. This denial of what we see today as a natural right would be a major spur to Shirley through her life. Shirley also had an older sister, Valerie, to keep her on the straight and narrow. They went to school at Sydney Church of England Girls’ Grammar School. However after the midget submarine attack on Sydney they moved to Abottsleigh, Wahroonga, to be further away from the harbour and potential danger.

Shirley gained a BA from Sydney University, majoring in English and music. She remembered feeling very sophisticated on going to her first lecture and hearing the lecturer say, “ladies and gentlemen, you are permitted to smoke here.” She was also involved in the University Choir, as one of that select breed of Altos, who considered themselves special due to their small number compared with the sopranos. This gave them a good connection with the tenors from the men's side and many happy memories. Despite these distractions Shirley finished her studies in the allotted time and gained what had been denied her mother, a university degree. Whether she knew it or not at the time, she had become a Woman Graduate.

She spent a short while working at the ABC and enjoying the Sydney social life and then set sail for England. There she was part of history, teaching Maths in the East End, still devastated by the blitz of 1940. Her fondest memory was of the coronation of Elizabeth. She waited up all night at a lamp post for her view of the royal procession. She even managed to be interviewed for the BBC World Service, expressing the interest of the antipodeans in the event. She left England to return home but stopped off at Singapore on the way to see a friend from Sydney. One thing led to another and before she knew it Shirley had to make a decision, go back to Sydney or get married. So on 22 December 1954 she married James Manion, an accountant employed by the Singapore glass works. After a year in the tropics, Shirley and James moved back to Sydney where they built a house at Cheltenham, on the then urban fringe and had three sons.

Shirley had a strong sense of justice, she had purpose and she knew she had a duty to participate, rather than comment from the sidelines. She chose “committee” as the means of expressing this. For the next 40 years she would be engaged in supporting a wide range of organisations through committees. The list includes Beecroft Public School, NSW Infant Schools Parents Association, the mighty Women Graduates (AFUW-NSW), which would be a passion of hers for life, First Beecroft Scouts, Beecroft-Cheltenham Civic Trust and lots more, even up to her time with Lutanda (Retirement Village). The key point here is that she gave willingly of her time to help others. She used her gifts of intellect, expression and diligence to help these varied groups to function.

Shirley returned to work taking a position at Cheltenham Girls High. The school played a major part of her life. She taught English with a passion and acted as the coach of the very successful debating team. She made sure that no matter what their capabilities, she encouraged girls to go out and achieve their potential – girls can do anything was her motto. She became the school’s representative on the Teachers’ Federation and has been acknowledged as having “made a great contribution to public education”.

During her time at Cheltenham she had to work through the personal crises of losing her eldest son Richard to asthma and the divorce of her husband. However through both these events she was supported well by her colleagues and friends. As a single mother, Shirley raised her two sons Michael and Steve and found the time to gain her MA in Australian Literature from the University of Sydney.

All the time she was doing this, she was making maximum contribution to her superannuation, to allow her to retire at the age of 55. So in 1986 she retired with some sadness from Cheltenham and headed off back-packing around Europe. Travel was her other passion. She enjoyed seeing and attempting to understand other peoples’ cultures and was never afraid of mixing with the local people and seeing the world through their eyes. Her last major trip was to England last Christmas for a significant family reunion. She greatly enjoyed her move into Lutanda Retirement Village, being surrounded by so many old friends and colleagues.

Now it has all come to an end so quickly. On Saturday 8 April, Shirley, with her sister Valerie, her nephew Mark and great niece Charlotte, went up to the town of Maclean on the North Coast to speak at the centennial commemoration of a remarkable bridge that her grandfather had designed. Shirley gave a speech at the celebration dinner and spoke with her typical passion and clarity, but felt uncomfortable. After she finished she went outside, and fainted. The ambulance was called; she was taken to hospital, then evacuated by helicopter to Southport. I joined her there, spent some time talking and praying and watched her life peacefully depart.


Michael Manion in his tribute to his mother, Shirley, said:

“As I look at how she lived her life I think it can be expressed in the following
four key points:

  • Be passionate about what you do
  • Always look out for the downtrodden or unrepresented and protect them
  • Do not complain from the side lines but get up and get involved
  • Respect the rights of all people to have and express opinions that may be different from your own.”

Virginia Gildersleeve, co-founder of IFUW, in “Many a Good Crusade”, wrote:
“The ability to think straight, some knowledge of the past, some vision of the future, some skill to do useful service, some urge to fit that service into the well-being of the community … these are the most vital things education must try to produce.”

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