Cleland, Rachel, (Dame, DBE) (1906-2002)

Also known as
Cleland, Rachel, (Dame) (1906-2002)
Cleland, Rachel (1906-2002)
Evans, Rachel (1906-2002)
Field of activity
Community Worker; Conservationist; wife of PNG Administrator
Libraries Australia
http://nla.gov.au/anbd.aut-an35028951
NLA Persistent Identifier
https://nla.gov.au/nla.party-459150

Biographies

Born in Perth in 1906, Dame Rachel Cleland lived an active life which was centred around politics and community organisations. At one time considered the matriarch of the liberal party, in her later years Dame Rachel was very vocal on her opposition to the logging of old-growth forests. She insisted that the Liberal party under Menzies would never have taken the same stance as the current party on such issues. Dame Rachel's community work with women and children was recognised in 1959 when she was appointed as a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) and again in 1966 when she was appointed as a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE). In 1980 Dame Rachel became the only western woman to be appointed as a Dame of the British Empire (DBE) by the government of Papua New Guinea for the volunteer work she did for many Papua New Guinea organizations and for helping involve women in public affairs.

'I enjoy now whatever is happening - my idea is you can't enjoy tomorrow, and you can only enjoy yesterday if you are enjoying today.'

At 90, Dame Rachel Cleland was still keeping audiences entertained with her words of wisdom born of a life of political activism and community work.

Born in Perth beside the Swan River, the oldest of six children, Rachel Cleland remembers her childhood as being happy and free-ranging. She, like her brothers and sisters, was encouraged to take an interest in social issues from an early age and was given a range of regular chores to do that encouraged them to be independent and resourceful.

Dame Rachel's background and her later training and work as a kindergarten teacher stood her in good stead for the expatriate life she eventually embarked on in Papua New Guinea. Her husband, Sir Donald Cleland, was Administrator of Papua New Guinea for 15 years from 1951. Like many expatriate wives in the 1950s, Dame Rachel identified with her husband's work, which in turn provided her with the opportunity to get to know and help the local people. She was well liked and respected by the local people who appreciated her contribution to organisations like the Red Cross, Girl Guides, Country Women's Association, and Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA) as well as the integral role she played in establishing pre-schools throughout Papua New Guinea. Not surprisingly perhaps, recent research also indicates that Dame Rachel was more involved than was earlier thought in Papua New Guinea affairs via her husband's work.

After Sir Donald's retirement the Clelands decided to remain living in Port Moresby, never seriously considering moving back to Australia. Sir Donald died in 1975, two weeks before Papua New Guinea's independence ceremonies. Dame Rachel stayed for a further three years before eventually returning to her extended family in Australia, where she felt herself to be something of a displaced person. She had, by then, lived in Papua New Guinea for 27 years. She continued to make trips back to her expatriate home country for the rest of her life, making a total of eight visits between 1979 and 2000.

Dame Rachel was appointed as a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in 1959 and a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1966 for her work with women and children. In 1980 Rachel Cleland became the only western woman to be appointed as a Dame of the British Empire (DBE) by the government of Papua New Guinea for services to the country she had lived in for so much of her adult life. She was honoured for the volunteer work she did for many Papua New Guinea organisations and for helping involve women in public affairs.

Dame Rachel died peacefully in Goondiwindi, Queensland, aged 96, on 18 April 2002, after a heart attack. She had only a week earlier moved there from Perth to be near her son Evan and his family.

View the full record at Australian Women's Register

In title and in life she was a grand dame, with great verve and spirit, a matriarchal figure who, even in her nineties was still game for anything.

View the full record at Obituaries Australia

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Resources for Rachel Cleland

Selected resources (28)

Australian Women's Register

  1. Cleland, Rachel
    Published: National Foundation for Australian Women
    Series: IspartOf The Australian Women's Register
  2. Papua New Guinea: pathways to independence: official and family life 1951-1975
    Cleland, Rachel
    [Perth, WA]
    Published: Artlook
  3. Grass roots to independence and beyond: the contribution by women in Papua New Guinea 1951-1991
    Cleland, Rachel
    [Claremont, WA,]
    Published: Dame Rachel Cleland
  4. Caring Grand Dame who went at life full tilt
    Farquarson, John
    [2002]
    Series: IspartOf The Age
  5. Liberal Matriarch Dame Rachel Cleland dies
    [2002]
    Series: IspartOf West Australian
  6. Liberals lose matriarch
    [2002]
    Series: IspartOf West Australian
  7. Dame Rachel, 78, still calls Papua New Guinea home
    [1984]
    Series: IspartOf The Advertiser
  8. Dame Rachel Cleland dies at 96
    [2002]
    Series: IspartOf The National
  9. Obituary [Dame Rachel Cleland]
    [2002]
    Series: IspartOf Australian
  10. Lady Cleland to Live in Perth
    [1978]
    Series: IspartOf West Australian
  11. Conscience of the Libs
    [2002]
    Series: IspartOf Australian
  12. Making a difference [Dame Rachel Cleland]
    [2002]
    Series: IspartOf West Australian
  13. The Dame Who Was Game for Anything
    Farquarson, John
    [2002]
    Series: IspartOf Sydney Morning Herald
  14. Obituary [Dame Rachel Cleland]
    [2002]
    Series: IspartOf Canberra Times
  15. PNG friend dies
    [2002]
    Series: IspartOf Post Courier
  16. Condolences to Cleland Family
    [2002]
    Published: Prime Minister's Office, Papua New Guinea
  17. Liberals mourn the loss of Dame Rachel
    [2002]
    Series: IspartOf The Age
  18. Who's Who in Australia 2002
    Herd, Margaret
    [Melbourne]
    Published: Crown Content
  19. Stalwart won praise of party leader
    [2002]
    Series: IspartOf West Australian
  20. Faith, Hope and Charity Australian Women and Imperial Honours: 1901-1989
    Australian Women's Archives Project
    [2003]
    Published: Australian Women's Archives Project
  21. Mayman, Jan, Old-growth forests inspire old-guard crusader
    [1999]
    Series: IspartOf The Age
  22. Cleland, Sir Donald MacKinnon
    Nelson, H N
    [2006]
    Published: National Centre of Biography, Australian National University
    Series: IspartOf Australian Dictionary of Biography
  23. Poverty requires "community help"
    [1996]
    Series: IspartOf West Australian
  24. [Biographical cuttings on Dame Rachel Cleland, Community worker and wife of Sir Donald Cleland, containing one or more cuttings from newspapers or journals]
    Series: National Library of Australia
    Bib ID 257834
  25. Papers of Dame Rachel Cleland, 19-- [manuscript]
    [14.81 m : 1900s]
    Series: National Library of Australia, Manuscript Collection
    The MS 9601 collection comprises correspondence, drafts, speeches, photographs and papers relating to the Aboriginal land rights and environmental causes Rachel Cleland supported in Australia (63 boxes). The Acc01.001 instalment includes files of papers, diaries and notebooks, "rare books" and tapes (11 boxes). The Acc02.053 instalment comprises correspondence, family letters, drafts, speeches, reviews, photographs and photograph albums, files relating to the Save the Forests campaign and the Kimberley Land Case (12 boxes). The Acc02.225 instalment includes papers that document Rachel Cleland's life and the many organisations with which she was involved (8 boxes). The Acc04.302 instalment consists of 20 cassettes and three movie films (1 box). The Acc05.024 instalment comprises correspondence between Rachel Cleland and her family (1 large carton).
    MS 9601
  26. Rachel Cleland interviewed by Nancy Lutton [sound recording]
    [December 1983 - April 1985]
    Series: National Library of Australia, Oral History and Folklore Collection
    22 sound cassettes (ca. 1300 min.)
    ORAL TRC 1871
  27. Community Kindergartens Association records
    [1.38 m : 1973 - 1990]
    Series: State Library of Western Australia, J.S. Battye Library of West Australian History
    Includes circulars, chiefly from the Pre-School Education Board (1974-1979); letters from Ministers for Education and Dame Rachel Cleland, as well as sample letter sent to the Premier and Minister for Education (1981-1985); minutes, including council minutes of Pre-School Education Board (1973-1976) and AGM minutes of Kindergarten Association (1973); reports (1980-1981); notices; article entitled "The advantages of remaining a community based kindergarten or a pre-school"; correspondence; financial records; guidelines; newsletters.
    MN 1651; ACC 5074A; ACC 6389A; ACC 9616A
  28. Papers of Nancy Lutton, 1918-2007 (bulk 1960-2007) [manuscript]
    [9.3 m, 62 boxes : 1918 - 2007]
    Series: National Library of Australia, Manuscript Collection
    The collection comprises personal papers, including on Lutton's studies and the Girl Guides; personal and work files from Papua New Guinea; personal and work files from Perth; records relating to Pacific Regional Branch of the International Council on Archives (PARBICA); records from Lutton's time in Canberra; research files including on Sir Donald and Dame Rachel Cleland; inward correspondence; and cassette tapes.
    MS Acc07/190

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  1. Papers of Dame Rachel Cleland
    Cleland, Rachel, Dame, 1906-2002
    [ Unpublished : 1900 ]
    View online
    At National Library
    Papers of Dame Rachel Cleland
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  1. Scholarships won by PM ballet pupils
    Papua New Guinea Post-Courier (Port Moresby : 1969 - 1981) Thursday 22 October 1970 p 22 Article
    ... syllabus, devised by the president of the academy, Dame Margot Fonteyn de Arias, DBE, was introduced to ... , Serina Greville-Smith, Lesley Ward, Rachel Nibbs. Highly Commended: Janet Berners, Natalie Clarksou ... 363 words
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  2. The Queen's Birthday Honours list for 1980 41 Canberrans honoured
    The Canberra Times (ACT : 1926 - 1995) Saturday 14 June 1980 p 11 Detailed Lists, Results, Guides
    ... New Guinea Defence Force. ORDER OF THE BRITISH EMPIRE (CIVIL DIVISION) DBE Lady Rachel Cleland, CBE ... community ser vice. DAME COMMANDER OF THE ORDER OF THE BRITISH EMPIRE DBE Professor Ida Caroline Mann, CBE ... 10482 words
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  1. CORPORATIONS LAW Subsection 572(2)
    Commonwealth of Australia Gazette. Periodic (National : 1977 - 2011) Wednesday 3 March 1993 p 39

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    Extract: CORPORATIONS LAW Subsection 572(2) Notice is hereby given that at the end of three months from the date hereof, the registration of the companies mentioned ... 243838 words
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  1. APPENDIX 7 DONORS 2000 - 01 (30 June 2002)
    National Library of Australia; ; National Library of Australia
    Annual report
    [ Article : 2002 ]
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    National Library of Australia; ; National Library of Australia
    Annual report
    [ Article : 2002 ]
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