Vale Elvie Munday 1938-2018
16 Aug 2018
‘We are all reduced by her passing but I am sure that the more senior Fellows will feel this break with their early days greatly. Time and again at Churchill gatherings where they are present and Elvie’s name is mentioned the stories flow of her concern for their arrangements, safety and the success of their project. And funny anecdotes, too.’
Patron of the Churchill Trust, the Honourable Margaret White AO
I have kept in touch with Elvie ever since my Churchill Fellowship in 1995. We often would share a laugh when I remember my Fellowship needed to be varied because of invitations to additional heritage sites in England. Ellvie would listen intently and say “At your own expense”. Many a time I would send her a Christmas Card and mention that I did so at my own expense. I remember Elvie not just as a fine administrator but as a dear friend.
Dennis Overton, 1995 Churchill Fellow
It is with much sadness that we farewell a much-loved icon of the Churchill Trust!
Elvie Munday personally touched the lives of over 2,500 Fellows as she assisted them with their Fellowships and maintained close friendships even after her retirement. Elvie passed away on Tuesday 14 August 2018.
Elvie Munday was Assistant Executive Officer and the ACT Regional Secretary at the Churchill Trust. She was first employed with the Trust in 1969 to fill in for three weeks and proved to be so indispensable to the organisation that Dr Ivor Middleton, the first Chief Executive Officer of the Trust, asked her to stay on permanently. She worked at the Trust for the following 31 years.
In 1976 she became Assistant Executive Officer of the Trust and was awarded an OAM in 1993 for services to the Churchill Trust and its Fellows. She retired from the Trust in 2001.
Elvie was born in Wagga in June 1938, was educated at Canberra’s Telopea Park School and completed her schooling in Sydney. After school Elvie did a secretarial course in Sydney and worked there for a short time, then came to Canberra where her first job was with Sir Eric McClintock in the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, later known as the Department of Trade.
Elvie was nineteen when she applied for a posting at the Embassy in Japan. Rather to her future husband Jim’s dismay, she was successful and spent two and a half years in Japan doing secretarial work in the Trade Commissioner’s service:
‘Australia and Japan trade-wise were doing wonderful things with our wool and our wheat, our coal, everything was just fantastic and so we had a very interesting time, and as well as Japan, the Embassy looked after Korea,’ Elvie said.
When she returned Elvie married Jim Munday in 1961 and had two children, Karen and Glenn.
Elvie joined the Parents and Citizens Association and introduced the teaching of Japanese language to Ainslie Primary School. Soon after, both Campbell High School and Dickson College also introduced Japanese language teaching. Elvie also began a careers counselling service at Campbell High School.
It was when the children were at school that Elvie was asked to fill in at the Churchill Trust for just a few hours a day. At that stage, in 1969, the Churchill Trust was in a demountable building in Childers Street.
At first, Elvie said she knew almost nothing about the Churchill Trust. She told oral historian Leslie Jenkins about the first report she edited and typed written by Cyril Henschke…
...it was all about Germany and the vineyards facing north … and how they crushed the grapes. It was a fascinating report and then the next one was … on garbage refuse, and … I thought it was unbelievable that you can have such diverse occupations and while I was thinking that I had a male ballet dancer … dancing up the corridor towards me to ask a question and it just all seemed to be too good to be true. It was such a wonderful concept.
… I enjoyed every minute of [the job]. I loved the Fellows … We got to know each other very well and after they came back they’d send me photos of their wedding or children. There was a great rapport between the Fellows and myself.
Elvie always claimed that she received more postcards than anyone else in Canberra because the Fellows kept her up to date with all their adventures and achievements from everywhere in Australia and from overseas. Elvie admits to no favourite Fellows, saying that they are all special and she took a personal interest in them all.
She does, however, admit to a soft spot for those who persevered in trying after failing on their first attempt. There are those who kept trying after the first, second or even third attempt. Sometimes these “ended up being some of the best Fellows we had,” she said.
Peter Minson was a glassmaker living at Binalong when Elvie happened to visit his small gallery. Impressed with his work, she left him her card and suggested that he apply for a Churchill Fellowship. He was one of those who simply kept on trying when he failed at the first attempt and he became a driving force behind the ACT Fellows’ Association. Even though technically he was from New South Wales he lived close to the ACT, and as Elvie said, ‘the ACT adopted him and he has gone from strength to strength since he got his Fellowship.”
Others stand out as well, such as the vision-impaired mother of two, Debra White. In 1998 the NSW Churchill Fellows’ Association raised funds to sponsor an Elvie Munday Churchill Fellowship, in recognition of the special and close relationship Elvie had developed with Churchill Fellows over the previous 27 years. Elvie chose Debra White who was from Queanbeyan. Elvie said that having a Fellowship in her name was a great honour and she thought it was wonderful. Debbie White travelled to Macon, Georgia, to learn independent living skills for blind and visually impaired people and returned brimming with keen ideas to implement improvements in the field.
Kirstin Feddersen is another Churchill Fellow remembered fondly by Elvie. Kirstin’s stellar career in training and supplying animals for films, commercials and for series such as Home and Away was given a jump-start by her Churchill Fellowship. Living with and training her animal actors, including horses, dogs, a crow, turkeys, rabbits and a python, Kirstin believes she has the best job in the world. She remains grateful for the opportunities her Fellowship brought her and visited Elvie when she could, sending letters and photos when she was working in Hollywood or in Sydney’s Fox Studios.
For Elvie opera singer Colin Slater was also outstanding, with his engaging enthusiasm about the benefits of singing for individuals and for communities, from curing loneliness to developing the confidence from realising one’s potential.
Asked what the most unusual Fellowship she dealt with in her career was, she said that it was Miles Hodge, from Gippsland, Victoria in 1978. He made orthopaedic horseshoes. Before this practice, horses with broken legs had to be put down. But modern techniques using plastic and fibreglass braces allow a horse to walk around while a bone knits. As Elvie said, ‘if a prize-winning horse gave birth to a foal with a crooked leg, Miles Hodge could fix that foal with an orthopaedic horseshoe, and in six or seven weeks the foal would be perfect.”
Elvie told another Churchill Fellow, journalist Peter Clack, “I get more than most people do out of their jobs. It is the diverse nature of the Fellows that makes life interesting.”
Elvie will be greatly missed but her legacy as part of the Churchill Trust ‘family’ will continue to live on with much fondness and gratitude in our memories and hearts.