Della & E. V. Elliott

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Kondelea (Della) Xenodohos (later known as Della Elliott) was born in Melbourne in 1917. At the age of 14 she left school and worked with the International Labour Defence, Friends of the Soviet Union and the Militant Minority Movement.

Della joined the Young Communist League as a teenager before joining the Communist Party of Australia (CPA) in the 1930s. In 1937 she married future CPA leader Laurie Aarons, but they later divorced.

Della joined the New South Wales Branch of the Federated Clerks' Union in 1936 and was elected to the union's Central Council in 1940 and then as organiser in 1942, the first woman to hold the position.

In the 1940s Della was a delegate to the Labour Council of NSW and the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) and passionately pursued the issue of equal pay for women. This included working as a member of the Australian Women's Charter Committee alongside feminist activist Jessie Street.

Della and Laurie divorced in 1945 and she began working for the Waterside Workers Federation (WWF). Here she met Seaman's Union of Australia (SUA) leader Eliot V. Elliott. They were partners for the rest of their lives, eventually marrying in 1982.

Della began work at the SUA in 1955 as an administrator in the federal office, keeping meticulous records and facilitating a number of industrial campaigns, as well as editing the Seamen's Journal.

Della Elliott died in Sydney on 2 October 2011 at the age of 94.

Eliot Valens Elliott was born Victor Emmanuel Elliott in New Zealand in 1902. He joined the Federated Seamen’s Union of Australasia (FSUA), later the Seamen’s Union of Australia (SUA) at the age of 17. Elliott came to prominence during the 1935 seamen’s dispute as Assistant-Secretary of the Sydney strike committee and was elected Queensland Branch Secretary of the FSUA.

Elliott was also a committed communist and member of the Communist Party of Australia (CPA).

He became General Secretary of the FSUA in 1941 and in 1942 served as the seamen’s representative to the Maritime Industry Commission. He was also active in the international labour movement, sponsoring union recruitment and organisation among Australian and visiting seamen and promoting collective action by Chinese, Greek and Indonesian seamen. He also defended the rights of SUA members in bitter battles with BHP and the Utah Development Co.

In 1949 Elliott joined the CPA’s central committee and was appointed vice-president of the maritime section of the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU), which had strong backing from the USSR. Although the Australian Council of Trade Unions withdrew from the WFTU that same year, the SUA didn’t disaffiliate until September 1952. Elliott maintained a long-term pro-Moscow view, which contributed to his removal from the central committee of the CPA in 1969, and him joining the new Socialist Party of Australia in 1971.

Elliott's long-time partner was prominent trade unionist and activist Kondelea Xenedohos (more commonly known as Della Elliott), whom he met while both were working for the WWF.

After 37 years as General Secretary, he retired from the SUA in 1978. He died in Sydney on 26 November 1984.


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