Shirley Andrews

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Shirley Aldythea Marshall Seymour Andrews was recognised throughout her life (1915–2001) for her work as a biochemist, dancer, researcher and aboriginal rights activist.

Early life and education

Andrews was born on November 5, 1915, to Doris Andrews and Arthur Andrews. Andrews grew up in Sandringham, Victoria, living with her mother, grandmother and uncle. She attended school at Miss Montford's school, in Sandringham, until the age of eleven. Later, she boarded at St Michael's grammar in St Kilda, Victoria. After graduating from St Michael's, Andrews enrolled in a science course at the University of Melbourne, from 1934 to 1937.[1] In her first years at university she rented houses and apartments with her mother in the Melbourne area.

Andrews also began to learn ballet during her time at university. She took lessons from Edouard Borovansky and later became interested in Australian folk dance. Andrews helped establish the folk dance society and the Victorian folk music club, meanwhile continuing her studies at university. She wrote a book on traditional dancing in Australia.[2]

After completing her bachelor of science degree, Andrews was offered a Caroline Kay scholarship to the veterinary school at Melbourne University. After accepting the scholarship offer, Andrews worked at the Veterinary School for six years, doing biochemical testing on animal tissue and fluids.[3]


Following her time at Melbourne University, Andrews joined the CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation) in 1947, as a research officer. Later on, the organisation (CSIRO) became aware of a relationship that had developed between Andrews and the secretary of the Seamen's Union. The ASIO (Australian Security Intelligence Organisation) informed the CSIRO of the connection, causing Andrews to find it difficult to continue her works at the organisation. Andrews left the CSIRO in 1951.[3]

Aboriginal rights activity

In 1951, Andrews became a founding member and secretary of the Council for Aboriginal Rights (CAR). The CAR is a confederation striving for equal rights for aborigines. The CAR also contributed to the establishment of the 1967 referendum, when Australia voted to count aborigines in the census. Andrews worked tireslessly to provide a political focus on aboriginal rights for the next 20 years.[1][3]


Although Andrews preferred to work in the back room, she was a self-confident leader. She showed these qualities and many more while working throughout her life to make significant changes to Australian society. Andrews called herself a 'liberated woman' and believed strongly in women's rights.

She never married, nor did she reproduce, although she did have one significant relationship with Bill Bird, secretary of the Seamen's Union of Australia. Her choice to remain single and childless was point of difference between her and her aqaintances.

See also

Aboriginal land rights in Australia Federal Council for the Advancement of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders

Further reading

  • Clark, Jennifer (Aug 2004). "Shirley Andrews: Adding a personal note to history". National Library of Australia News. 14 (11): 14–7.
  • Taffe, Sue; Lowenstein, Wendy (2001) [1927-2006], Shirley Andrews
  • Hibben, JA (2011). Shirley Andrews: A prismatic life (PhD thesis). The University of Melbourne.
  • Taffe, Sue (August 2011), "Shirley Andrews : An architect of the national Aboriginal civil rights movement, 1952-1968", History Australia, 8 (2), pp. 153–76
  • Taffe, Sue (15–17 September 2011). "Shirley Andrews: Social idealist for Aboriginal rights or agent of the CPA?". Labour History and Its People. The 12th Biennial National Labour History Conference. Australian National University. Australian Society for the Study of Labour History Canberra Region Branch. ISBN 9780909944100.
  • Hibben, Jenny. "Shirley Andrews (1915–2001)". Traditional Social Dance Association of Victoria.


  1. ^ a b "Andrews, Shirley Aldythea Marshall Seymour". The Encyclopedia of Women and Leadership in Twentieth-Century Australia. The University of Melbourne. Retrieved 7 March 2017.
  2. ^ Andrews, Shirley (1979). Take Your Partners : Traditional Dancing in Australia (3rd rev. enl. ed.). Melbourne: Hyland House. ISBN 978-0-908090-13-6.
  3. ^ a b c "Andrews, Shirley Aldythea Marshall Seymour". Obituaries Australia. Retrieved 7 March 2017.

External links

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