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Condon, Doris Catherine (1908–1979)

by B. Marginson

This entry is from the Australian Dictionary of Biography

Doris Catherine Condon (1908-1979), mayor, was born on 28 September 1908 at Richmond, Melbourne, daughter of William Arthur Lennox Forsyth, a Scottish-born cordial-waggon driver, and his wife Dora Jane, née Barnden, from South Australia. In 1917, when William was granted a fourteen-acre (5.7 ha) soldier-settlement block, the family moved to the Mildura district and lived at first in 'two tents and a hessian kitchen'.

On 16 September 1928 Doris married Arthur Edmund Condon at the Methodist manse, Berri, South Australia. Settling in Victoria, the Condons ran a bus service between Mildura and Bendigo; after it closed in 1942, they shifted to South Melbourne where Arthur became a taxi driver. In 1957 Doris was appointed a justice of the peace. She joined the women's committee of the Honorary Justices Association.

Active in the Australian Labor Party, Mrs Condon was treasurer of the South Melbourne branch, a member (1964-65) of the State central executive, an executive-member of the women's central organizing committee and a regular broadcaster over radio station 3KZ. In August 1962 she was elected as an A.L.P. candidate to the South Melbourne City Council. She immediately became the council's representative on the Baby Health Centre, the Pre-School, and the Day Nurseries and Crèches associations.

Elected mayor of South Melbourne in 1969, during her year of office Condon spoke out against proposals that the council be amalgamated with that of the City of Melbourne. Relations with the latter body were not helped when she was asked to nominate a male colleague to attend in her stead its traditional lord mayor's dinner. Her assertion, 'I think the first citizen of a city is the first citizen regardless of sex', received support from the press. In 1970 she joined with three other South Melbourne Labor councillors in a public letter to the national executive of the Labor Party, advocating federal intervention in the organization of the Victorian branch.

A persuasive speaker who was hard to deflect from a course to which she was committed, Condon was always aware of the problems of the underprivileged. She was particularly sympathetic to the needs of women, whether recent immigrants or residents of the new, high-rise, Housing Commission flats. In her mayoralty the council decided to proceed with Victoria's first, municipal, family-planning clinic, which she strongly supported, particularly in light of the report on battered babies submitted by the medical officer Dr Dora Bialestock. Condon saw family planning as part of the council's preventative health measures.

Lacking the advantages of social position and formal education, Condon came comparatively late to public life. With its tradition of municipal welfare services fostered under the town clerk Harold Alexander, South Melbourne provided fertile soil for her ideas. Before it was common for women to be outspoken in public affairs, she projected a pioneer image—bluff, direct, honest, hard working and sensible, but ever aware of the less fortunate. Her concern for world peace led her to serve on a committee of the United Nations Association as a co-opted (1970-71) and an elected (1971-73) member. A former State president (1968) of the Australian Local Government Women's Association, Condon was national president in 1971-72. She retired from the council in 1974 and was appointed A.M. in 1975. Survived by her husband and four sons, she died of hypertensive coronary vascular disease on 25 March 1979 at her South Melbourne home and was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • A. V. Smith, Women in Australian Parliaments and Local Governments, Past and Present (Canb, 1975)
  • Age (Melbourne), 25 Sept, 2 Dec 1969, 14, 27 May 1970
  • Herald (Melbourne), 28 May 1970
  • Emerald Hill and Sandridge Times, 29 Mar 1979
  • Record (South Melbourne), 3 Apr 1979
  • Biographies of members of Victorian Labour Womens' Executive, and letter to Federal Executive ALP, in the papers of the Victorian Labour Party (State Library of Victoria)
  • private information.

Citation details

B. Marginson, 'Condon, Doris Catherine (1908–1979)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://labouraustralia.anu.edu.au/biography/condon-doris-catherine-9802/text17327, accessed 23 November 2017.

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