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Esther Muriel Meaney (1914–2002)

by Julie T. Wells

This article was published:

This entry is from People Australia

Esther Muriel Meaney, née Sargent (1914-2002), agricultural and mining worker, manager, caterer, unionist and Communist

Birth: 10 August 1914 at Dawson Valley, southwest of Rockhampton, Queensland, daughter of Harry George Sargent (1874-1951), farmer, born at South Bingham, Somerset, England, and Alma, Louise Brown, born at Hallowell, Prince Edward, Ontario, Canada. Marriage: 1937 at Tennant Creek, Northern Territory, to John Henry (Jack) Meaney (1911-2006). They had two sons. Death: 17 December 2002 at Cairns, Queensland. 

  • Parents and older siblings had arrived in Queensland aboard the Marama in May 1913.
  • One of fifteen children, she attended Alma Creek School.
  • Family moved to Northern Territory, 1923, to Stapleton station, about 70 miles south of Darwin. Sailed on the S. S. Montara. Her education was intermittent.
  • Assisted in farm work, working full-time on the farm from age of 10, chiefly stock work and agricultural activities; with other family members she took on contracts, including cutting pylons for mines at Brock's Creek and wood-cutting contracts for Commonwealth Railways during the early 1930s.
  • Assisted father in tin-mining on the old Lucy mines and on father's mining lease on Mount Tolmer.
  • Left Stapleton in late 1935, obtaining assistance and employment from Charlie and Eva Sacks of the Railway Hotel, Adelaide River. Worked at Mataranka Hotel for twelve months; Roper Valley Cattle Station as manager of the homestead staff and sometimes as station manager.
  • Met her husband, Jack Meaney, at Roper Valley Station. They Moved to Birdum, 1938, where their first son, John was born; Francis was born at Katherine in 1940. With her husband Jack she took a job yard building back at Roper Valley Station, 1940.
  • Esther and children evacuated just before Christmas 1941, to Maranboy. After the bombing of Darwin in February 1942, ordered to evacuate to Alice Springs and from there to Adelaide.
  • Returned to Katherine in March 1945 to the house that Jack built for her. Stayed till November and then moved back to house in Fannie Bay in Darwin, 1945. Lived there in Fannie Bay for the next ten years.
  • Worked as caterer for Territory hostels during the 1950s. Active member of both the North Australian Workers’ Union (NAWU) and the Communist Party of Australia. President of the Darwin Housewives Association. Lobbied for increase in the basic wage, February 1950.Was the delegate endorsed by the NAWU to the Melbourne Peace Congress April 1950. Lifelong membership of NAWU.
  • Moved to Batchelor in June 1975. Embraced Christianity in early 1980s. Author of The True Life Story of an Australian Country Girl, 1987.

Sources
Esther Meaney, Esther. The True Life Story of an Australian Country Girl. 1987; Northern Territory News, May 13 2003; Northern Standard, April 21, 1950; https://wmoa.com.au/collection/herstory-archive/sargent-esther-1914; Notes from interviews with Barbara James; Interview with Julie T. Wells 15 December 1992.

Additional Resources

Citation details

Julie T. Wells, 'Meaney, Esther Muriel (1914–2002)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, https://labouraustralia.anu.edu.au/biography/meaney-esther-muriel-33559/text41948, accessed 25 May 2024.

© Copyright Labour Australia, 2012

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Sargent, Esther Muriel
Birth

10 August, 1914
Rockhampton, Queensland, Australia

Death

17 December, 2002 (aged 88)
Cairns, Queensland, Australia

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

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