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Nell Williams OAM

Tasmanian Honour Roll of Women logo
Nell Williams

Awarded for service to Industry

Born: 1912

Died: 2006

Entered on roll: 2005


I can say now that equal pay has not come to what it should be. I think women are still losing out on equal pay. Unless someone stands up and is counted again I think the women will lose out on equal pay because there are no two ways about it. If the women let the males dominate they will dominate again. (Nell Williams)

Nell Williams was born in Lorinna, in North-West Tasmania. After her family moved to Hobart, Nell started working at Cadbury’s but left after four years because the cocoa troubled her lungs.

Nell worked as a volunteer for the Red Cross and was presented with an award for good service from 1939-1964.

In 1948, Nell started work as a cook at the Royal Derwent Hospital where she worked for 27 years. She joined the Hospital Employee’s Federation in 1953 and became State President in 1966. She was the first woman in Australia to be elected to such a position, which she held until 1973. During that time, she campaigned for equal pay and better working conditions for women.

Nell was also the first person to be awarded an Order of Australia in 1987 for her work in unions, which included the Tasmanian Pensioners Union and the Hospital Employee’s Federation. She continued to take an active role in the Pensioners Union, of which she had been State President and Senior Vice President.

Nell was an active voluntary worker all her life. In 1968, she was an inaugural member of the Board of Management of the Royal Derwent Hospital. Nell served on this Board for 25 years, as an advocate for people with mental illness or intellectual disabilities and staff. Nell was actually one of the inaugural members of the board of management in 1968.

Nell was also an active member of the Australian Labor Party and in the 1970s was one of the only women to hold a position on the executive. She received the 1998 Australia Day Citizen Award.

Nell died on Christmas Eve 2006, aged 94.

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