Beecroft-Cheltenham History Group

Una Parry Boyce (1911 – 2003)

Champion of Australian war widows

Una was born in Sydney to Charles Robertson Swan and his wife Kate Emma Swan. The family were well known Beecroft residents with considerable community involvement.

Una attended Abbotsleigh School at Wahroonga and went on to train as a nurse at Royal Prince  Alfred Hospital. She graduated in 1934 as the gold medal nurse. After studying and working in London she returned to RPA as a sister tutor.

In 1940 she married Norman Grandison Boyce who had volunteered for army service the day after World War 11 was declared. At the time they were living in New Zealand. Norman was wounded during service in the Pacific and died of his wounds in 1946. Una was left with three children. Her parents died the following year and her only brother Raoul was already dead. Living in Glenbrook in the Blue Mountains, she did some part-time work with the NSW College of Nursing, and concentrated on rearing her children. Encouraged by the founder of the War Widows Guild, Jessie-Mary Vasey, she became secretary of the Katoomba branch.

In 1961 she moved back to Beecroft and became state secretary of the Guild, a position she held until she retired in 1989 – 28 years of service.

Jessie-Mary Vasey had secured for war widows a modest tax-free pension. Una Boyle expanded the guild clubs all over the state and built up the membership. When she retired there were 85,040 in Australia and 26,702 of them were living in NSW. War widows won increases to their tax-free pensions, with automatic CPI increases, children’s education benefits, medical expenses, rates concessions, transport concessions, nursing home care and housing assistance. Guild Housing built 254 units for older war widows. She aimed to make the Australian example a model for improving the lot of war widows everywhere,  representing Australia at three World Veterans Federation conferences.

She became a long-serving committee member of Outward Bound and chairwoman of the girls’ division until it amalgamated with the Outward Bound Foundation in 1973. Then she became a member of the Foundation’s board until 1989.

Una was awarded the OBE in 1971 and became a member of the Order of Australia in 1990. She was made a life member of the War Widows Guild in 2000.

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