More information about the Chile-born community in Australia can be found at the DIMIA website.
Her father, a self-employed sharecropper and community leader, imbued her and her six siblings with a strong sense of social justice.
Elba Cruz was born in 1945 in Chepica, Chile, daughter of Leopoldo Cruz-Soto and Maria Magdalina Zavalla-Jimenes. Her father, a self-employed sharecropper and community leader, imbued her and her six siblings with a strong sense of social justice and socialist and communist values. Dyslexia impeded Elba's education and she left school at about 14 to help her mother in the home. At 18 she went to Santiago where she worked in a men's clothing factory, participated in union activities, and in 1969 married Leonardo Valenzuela Ramirez, a carpenter.
Elba and her husband worked to promote community development centres in suburbs and country towns under the Allende government, and two of her brothers became Allende's unofficial bodyguards. One of her brothers was at the Presidential Palace (Moneda) in November 1973 when Allende was assassinated. The other brother was at the Intedensia (the Santiago administration office). This brother was arrested and executed three days after the coup. The other brother who was at the Moneda in the morning of the coup was imprisoned, tortured, and released after four months.
Elba's husband was granted refuge in Argentina and she followed him with her three small children in November 1974. They lived there for three years under UN protection and another child was born, before the family was accepted as refugees by Australia in 1977. They settled initially in Adelaide, then came to Canberra, where her husband worked as a carpenter and she studied English. In the early 1980s Elba worked as cook, a cleaner in a hotel and hospital, and as a casual worker at the Health Services Supply Services laundry at Mitchell.
In 1987 she initiated a successful three-week strike over employment conditions at the laundry, and subsequently became the union representative there. After six years she developed RSI and was forced to seek less physically demanding work. In 1991 she joined the staff of the Beryl Women's Refuge, where she is still employed. She has assisted many Chilean refugees settle in Canberra and has been involved in a number of community organisations such as the Chilean Solidarity Committee, a support organisation for Argentinean refugees, the Chilean broadcasting program on 2XX and ANESBWA (Association of Non-English-Speaking Background Women of Australia).
Source of Image: Greg Power, National Library of Australia, nl39483-gp6.
National Library of Australia Oral History Collection, interview with Elba Cruz by Ann-Mari Jordens, 29 July 2005 TRC 5389/1. There are other interviews with women of Latin American descent in the National Library's Oral History Collection.
'The Great ACT Laundry Strike of 1987 and how the women won', interview with Elba Cruz on CD produced by Tanya McConnell, Community Radio 2XX. for the National Council for the Centenary of Federation.
The papers of Philip Herington, held in the University of Melbourne Archives, contain material that relates to Chile and the Women's Movement.
The Journal of Sylvia Stanfeld, held at Mortlock Library (State Library of South Australia), refers to her life growing up in Chile, and then moving to Australia. It was written for the Multicultural Women's Journal Group.
There is reference to the Committee in Solidarity with Central America in the papers of Meredith Stokes, held in the National Library Manuscript Section.
Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, And - Giving our lives to this country: a summary report of Spanish-speaking women in the workforce (Y- dandole nuestras vidas a este pais: informe resumido acerca de las mujeres hispanohablantes en la fuerza laboral), Canberra : Government Publication Service, 1987.
Special Issue of Humanities Research (issue 1, 2003) on Latin America: http://www.anu.edu.au/hrc/publications/hr/issue1_2003/
Select List of Community Support Groups
Latin American Cultural Association Inc (LACA)
PO Box 823 Hillarys WA 6025
ph: (08) 9447 3828
Illawarra Spanish and Latin American Community Organisation (SALCO)
Tel: (02) 42233181
NSW Spanish and Latin American Association for Social Assistance Inc PO Box 1003, Fairfield NSW 2165 Ph: 02-9724-2220 Fax: 02-9724-2292
Salvadorean Association in Australia Inc PO Box 675, Cabramatta NSW 2166 Ph: 02-9724-7895 Fax 02-9754-1831
Centro Espaņol Latino Americano de Asistencia Social, Inc.
(Spanish Latin American Welfare Centre, Inc.) 209 Nicholson St. Footscray 3011, Phone 03 9687 0181 Fax: 03 9687 3613, email: email@example.com
Federation of Ethnic Communities' Councils of Australia
PO Box 344 Curtin, ACT 2605
Phone:02 6282 5755
Fax: 02 6282 5734