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Gwendoline Varley

Gwendoline Varley

More information about Gwendoline Varley can be found in the AWAP register.

Both in broadcasting and in organizational ability, Gwendoline Varley was a leader in what her contemporaries saw as 'the golden age of women's sport'. Born on 8 November 1896 in Kew, an eastern suburb of Melbourne, Victoria, she completed her education at Melbourne Church of England Girls' Grammar School where she also distinguished herself as an athlete. She spent two years as sports mistress at Geelong Church of England Girls' Grammar School (the Hermitage) before taking up welfare work. Moving to Sydney in the early 1920s, she became organizing secretary of the City Girls' Amateur Sports Association in 1925 and inaugurated Girls' Week to raise funds. Her advanced administrative skills efforts brought her to the attention of Sydney radio executives and by 1928 she was broadcasting with radio-station 2BL.

As founding secretary (from 1928) of the 2BL Women's Amateur Sports Association (later the Australian Broadcasting Co. Women's Association) Varley used radio to co-ordinate women's sporting and social activities on behalf of the association. By 1930 the association had five hundred members. In May 1933, ten months after the Australian Broadcasting Commission was established, she began the women's sporting session on Sydney radio 2FC. Hundreds of clubs in the city and country sent her news and results. She interviewed prominent sportswomen, and also directed the station's health session.

Varley led a very active sporting and social life outside work. She captained an A-grade tennis team and served on the women's executive of the New South Wales Lawn Tennis Association. She was a committee-member of the New South Wales Women's Hockey Association, secretary and president of the New South Wales Women's Basketball Association and a member of the committee of the New South Wales Women's Cricket Association. She also swam, rowed, ran, fenced and skated, played golf, hockey and croquet, and drove her own car.

Returning to Melbourne in l935, Varley joined radio 3AW and, in the following year, began its Women's Association to run sporting and social activities. Membership began at 750 and grew to seven thousand by August 1937. Her sister Joyce had joined her at 3AW in 1936 and taken charge of a similar project for 'the Younger Set'. Flying to Sydney, Gwen helped to set up the Australian Women's League, attached to 2CH. She arranged competitions between the association and the league in golf, tennis, bridge and dancing. In October 1937 she organized celebrations to mark the association's second birthday: a garden party, attended by Dame Enid Lyons, highlighted a 'gala Carnival Week' of social functions and sporting events.

On 21 June 1938 she married Hector Maximus Greig, a widower with two sons. Although she remained engaged in community sport and welfare associations, from then on her family was her first prioroty. She died in North Balwyn, Melbourne, in 1975, survived by her husband and stepsons.

Nikki Henningham