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Dynon, Moira Lenore (1920–1976)

by M. R. Humphris

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (MUP), 1996

Moira Lenore Dynon (1920-1976), welfare worker and scientist, was born on 4 September 1920 at Elsternwick, Melbourne, eldest of five children of Percy Gerald Shelton, medical practitioner, and his wife Lily Eliza, née Johnston, both Victorian born. Educated at O'Neill College, Elsternwick, and Loreto Convent, Toorak, Moira studied science at the University of Melbourne (B.Sc., 1941). On 10 October 1942 she was commissioned in the Women's Auxiliary Australian Air Force and was posted to the Directorate of Armament on 29 March 1943. She was responsible for 'inspection of R.A.A.F. offensive and defensive chemical warfare munitions and Storage Depots throughout Australia, the disposal of leaking bombs, the unloading of cargoes of chemical warfare stores from ships, the chemical analysis of different charges and the training of persons in both offensive and defensive chemical warfare measures'. Usually the only female officer training or inspecting all-male units, she was the sole female participant in trials. She was burnt several times on the skin, eyes, throat and lungs. On 10 April 1943 she was promoted section officer and on 1 July 1944 flight officer.

After being demobilized on 8 February 1946, Moira became a research officer (antibiotics) with the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories in Victoria. Appointed female officer on the staff council, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, in 1948, she worked with Dr H. C. Forster and (Sir) Ian Clunies Ross. A slight, softly spoken, dark-haired woman, she united her scientific knowledge with sound common sense and organizing ability, and possessed sincerity, warmth and charm. On 2 December 1950 at Xavier College, Kew, she married John Francis Dynon, a barrister and solicitor. They lived at Malvern where they raised five children.

Mrs Dynon worked to establish the Federation of Loreto Old Girls' Associations, of which she was foundation president (1954-55). She was also active in other Catholic women's organizations, particularly as vice-president of the Catholic Mothers' Clubs' Federation (1958-59), the Catholic Women's Social Guild (1966-68) and the Australian Council of Catholic Women (1968). These bodies supported her international welfare campaigns.

From 1952 she belonged to the Stonnington (Malvern) branch of the Liberal and Country Party, but resigned in 1959 over the matrimonial causes bill which she found 'objectionable on religious, moral and sociological grounds'. Four years later she joined the Hawthorn branch of the Australian Labor Party in gratitude to Dr Jim Cairns for assisting her philanthropic causes. In 1952 the Dynons had established the Malvern branch of the United Nations Australia Association, Victorian division. Working with Sir Charles Lowe, (Sir) Edward Dunlop and Sir Albert Coates on the executive of the Australian-Asian Association, in 1960 Moira initiated and ran an appeal to provide secondary education for Japanese children of returned Australian servicemen. She involved international and Japanese welfare agencies; although the appeal met political opposition, an estimated $150,000 was raised by 1969.

Through her chairmanship (1964-67) of Aid for India, Dynon organized the shipment of 2600 tins of powdered milk in 1964. As president (1967-72) of its successor, Aid India, she saw twenty-five million pints of milk dispatched by 1970. In addition, she assisted famine-relief campaigns in Bengal, Bangladesh and Pakistan. Concurrently, she was president (1961-67) of the Italo-Australian Welfare Association, women's division, which had been founded to raise funds for unemployed Italian immigrants. In 1968 she was appointed to the order of Stella della Solidàrieta Italiano.

A committed Christian and an ecumenist, Dynon saw herself as an ordinary citizen of the world whose duty was to work for humanitarian ends. She read extensively in international affairs. Honest in her beliefs and courageous in stating her views, she was able to identify specific areas where practical help could be given, and she acted as a catalyst for international assistance. She died of cancer on 23 October 1976 at Malvern and was buried in Melbourne general cemetery; her husband, two daughters and three sons survived her.

Select Bibliography

  • J. Thomson, The WAAAF in Wartime Australia (Melb, 1991)
  • Parliamentary Debates (Commonwealth), 29 Sept 1961, 21 Oct 1964
  • Argus (Melbourne), 5 Mar 1945
  • Sun News-Pictorial (Melbourne), 15 July 1947, 16 Nov, 26 Dec 1959, 18 Dec 1964, 17 Apr 1965
  • Advocate (Melbourne), 2 Nov 1967, 1 Feb 1968, 28 Oct 1971, 23 Sept 1972, 4 Nov 1976
  • Age (Melbourne), 11 Oct 1967
  • family papers.

Citation details

M. R. Humphris, 'Dynon, Moira Lenore (1920–1976)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1996, accessed online 27 October 2016.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (MUP), 1996

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