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Thelma Prior

Throughout her life, Thelma Prior campaigned for the wellbeing of women, particularly factory workers.

Honour Roll

At 14, she started work as an unskilled textile worker and continued to work in the industry for the next 47 years, campaigning for improved conditions. Born in 1922 in Essendon, Thelma attended the local state school. She left in 1936 to start work at the Holeproof factory in Brunswick. At the young age of 15, Thelma was elected a shop steward and began her fight for better conditions and better rights for all women workers.

In 1948, Thelma was sacked from her job at Hilton Hosiery for campaigning for an increase of 2/6d for junior wages. She moved to ICI Zips where she worked until her retirement in 1983. As elected shop steward, she campaigned on issues such as childcare, special leave for women to care for sick children or carry out other family responsibilities and unpaid maternity leave. She also addressed issues affecting the increasing number of migrant women workers and fought for English classes on the job because she realised how difficult it was for these women with the double demands of work and family to attend classes after work. Thelma convinced ICI to offer the first-ever holiday care program for the children of factory workers.

Thelma attended the United Nations International Women's Conference in Mexico in 1975 and then went to the conference in Nairobi in 1985 where she met many valuable international contacts. Thelma retired from paid work in 1983 and continued her union involvement by becoming a volunteer with the Union of Australian Women (UAW). In the late 1980s, she was a member of the Victorian Women's Consultative Council and was involved with the campaign to save part of the Queen Victoria Hospital for Women.

Thelma played an important part in her local community and helped to set up a community health centre in Doncaster and Templestowe. She was vocal in highlighting and supporting environmental issues. In 1991, Thelma was declared Manningham City Council's Citizen of the Year in recognition of her work and commitment. Thelma was a quiet and steadfast activist whose tireless campaigning made a great and lasting impact on everything she has been involved in. She had a deep and abiding desire for world peace spurred on since she attended the United Nations World Peace Congress in Poland in 1950.