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Kondelea (Della) Elliott (1917–2011)

by Sue Tracey

This article was published:

Della Elliott, 1940

Della Elliott, 1940

ANU Archives, N343-712

Kondelea (Della) Elliott, née Xenodohos [Nicholas] (1917-2011) typist, factory hand, journalist, trade union leader and Communist

Birth: 23 December 1917 in Melbourne, Victoria, daughter of Nicholaos John Xenodohos (John Nicholas), Greek migrant, cane cutter, café proprietor, unionist, and Agnes Rachel, née Nicholas, entertainer. Marriages: (1) 1937 to Laurie Aarons (1917-2005), boot operative and Communist activist. They soon divorced. (2) 24 September 1982 to Elliott V. Elliott (1902-1984), seaman and trade unionist. Death: 2 October 2011. (Survived by sisters Sylvia and Merle). 

  • Came from a 'sizeable Greek family' (four children), parents both labour activists. Father prominent in Greek socialist circles and stalwart of Hotel, Club and Restaurant Employees' Union. Mother, Australian-born, had left school aged eight to scrub floors. By 1920s the family had moved to Sydney.
  • Della left school aged fourteen due to Depression. She trained at business college to become shorthand typist, but first worked in a Greek coffee shop, then as a domestic servant and factory hand.
  • Worked in Sydney office of International Labor Defence for no wages, later Friends of the Soviet Union and the Militant Minority Movement for £1 per week. With her mother she was attached to FOSU theatre troupe which produced 'one act plays and skits with a working-class slant'.
  • Joined Young Communist League aged fifteen, and soon after the Communist Party of Australia (CPA). Speaker in Sydney Domain on Sundays on CPA stump. During the CPA ban in early 1940s was active in underground activities.
  • In 1938 worked in federal office of Waterside Workers’ Federation (WWF), then Federated Clerks Union (FCU) having joined the latter in 1936.
  • Member Central Council FCU 1940, organiser 1942. NSW branch assistant secretary FCU 1941-48 (resigned due to bitter union politics). She was the first women to hold a high office in the union: delegate to the Australian Council of Trade Unions 1945 and 1947; delegate NSW Trades and Labor Council in the 1940s and the first women elected to its executive?
  • Early member of Union of Australian Women. Joined State Committee of Australian Women's Charter Committee which organised deputation to Canberra in 1945 re status of women. Active in equal pay campaign 1940s.
  • A member of the Australian Labor Party when living at Leichhardt. Delegate to local Federal Electorate Council. Part of ALP Younger Set with ALP meeting at her flat at Bondi. Member ALP Executive 1940.
  • While working for WWF in 1949 hid union funds in large rice jars in storehouse under her parents’ home during police raid at the time of miners’ strike. From 1955 to 1988 was administrator of the Seamen's Union of Australia’s office and editor of the monthly Seamen's Journal. In the 1960s and 1970s was active in Parents and Citizens Movement, editing news-sheet and was a member of the State Council.
  • In retirement helped researchers with union histories and with establishing Jessie Street National Women's Library. Established annual scholarship to Sydney University's women's college to assist female Aboriginal students.
  • Noted breeder of Scotch Terriers, 'an essential relaxation and hobby'.

The Clerk
, March 1948; Johnson, Bread & Roses; Seamen's Journal, January 1989; Hummer, No. 34, 1992; Sheetmetal Workers' Union, Women and Wages in the War Years 1940-45; NSW ALP Conference Book, interview with D. Elliott, 1997; Sydney Morning Herald, 4 November 2011:, accessed 16 Nov. 2011

Additional Resources

Citation details

Sue Tracey, 'Elliott, Kondelea (Della) (1917–2011)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 21 July 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012