Reverend Mary Alfred

Alongside community work, Reverend Mary Alfred worked towards the ordination of women in the Anglican church for decades.

Honour Roll

The Reverend Mary Elizabeth Alfred spent six years in the Collingwood and Fitzroy parishes during the war years and for a short period after the war. There she learnt to love and admire the people amongst whom she worked, as she witnessed their struggles in the midst of poverty and hardship. Within their limited means, they maintained their dignity as they gave their children the best upbringing they could.

The move to a more prosperous growing community in Dandenong brought different challenges to Elizabeth's ministry, but there was still a need for pastoral care for families with problems, illness and grief. But Elizabeth continued her involvement with youth work, and in teaching Religious Education in schools.

Over a period of 30 years, Elizabeth taught within the Education Department and in church schools, teaching students from primary to matriculation levels. Elizabeth also taught at tertiary level, lecturing at a missionary training college of the Church of England, the College of the Ascension at Selly Oak. As Principal of Deaconess House in Melbourne, Elizabeth also lectured deaconess students as well as teaching in the Religious Education field at Ridley College.

Having completed the first course in Clinical Pastoral Education, Elizabeth became the first full-time Chaplain at the Royal Women's Hospital in Melbourne. The early mistrust with which she was first received - because of fears that she might 'interfere with the work of the doctors' and 'pray over the patients' - was gradually overcome as nursing and medical staff realised that Elizabeth's ministry was one of support of both patients and staff. After nine years of this ministry, the value of Elizabeth's chaplaincy was recognised by the administration and, since that time, there has always been a full-time chaplain at the Royal Women's Hospital.

Elizabeth's work for the ordination of women in the Anglican Church began in the 1960s, at which time she was invited to participate in consultations and committees, and to accept nomination for election to the General Synod of Australia. Elizabeth was the first woman delegate from the Diocese of Melbourne to the General Synod. The struggle for the ordination of women continued for over twenty years, but ended in the Anglican Church accepting the ordination of women, first as Deacons in 1986 (of which Elizabeth was one) and as Priests in 1992, when Elizabeth was the first women priest to be ordained in Victoria.

Since retirement in 1979, Elizabeth worked as an Honorary Assistant in Dandenong, authored several books and took four groups of pilgrims to places of significance for Christians; Israel and the Palestinian territories, Greece, Turkey and Oberammergau.