Margaret Davey

Margaret Lurline Davey was president of the National Council of Women of Australia 1976–1979 and was responsible for gaining government-funded accommodation in Canberra for NCWA headquarters. Her long-standing service and commitment to community work and especially to women’s organisations, was first recognised in 1963 when she was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) for work for the Young Women’s Christian Association. Almost 20 years later, in 1981, her efforts were again recognised when she was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE), for work in women’s affairs.

Margaret Davey was born in 1915, a 4th-generation South Australian with ancestral and cultural links to England and Ireland. Her father was Lawrence Llewellin Davey and her mother Doris (née Peacock). Margaret Davey’s father was a general practitioner before specialising in gynaecology and her mother was a well-known singer. Margaret was educated at Girton School and the University of Adelaide. She majored in zoology and taught biology for 21 years. In 2005, she was made a life member of the Adelaide University alumni.

Margaret Davey’s major early community activity centred on the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA). Her fund-raising activities led to her becoming president of the YWCA in Adelaide from 1956 to 1961. She was involved in the establishment of the YWCA in New Guinea and also investigated the possibility of setting up YWCA hostels in America and Canada. She was the World Council member of the YWCA in Australia 1961–1969 and a member of the YWCA national executive from 1970 to 1974.

It was through her work with the YWCA that Davey first became involved with the National Council of Women. Her grandmother was also a member of NCW committees. Davey was elected president of the NCW SA from 1972 to 1975. During her term of office, she established a special committee involving police and members of the community to deal with pornography. She served as president of NCWA from1976 to 1979. Possibly her most significant achievement as president was the establishment of NCWA headquarters in Canberra, greatly facilitating contact with federal politicians and bureaucrats.

During Davey’s term as president of the NCWA she led Australian delegations overseas to meetings of the ICW in Kenya, Vienna and London. She was made an ICW executive life member in 1976. She also convened the International Relations and Peace Standing Committee of NCWA 1979–1982 and was acting convenor for ageing. As national president, she met with the prime minister, members of cabinet and heads of other women’s organisations to discuss the appointment of an adviser to the government on women’s affairs.

In the early 1990s, Margaret Davey worked to establish a fund that would assist Australian women to participate in the activities of the NCWA, and of the International Council of Women. ‘The Margaret Davey Fund’ was set up with an original donation of $5000 from Davey and continues to be augmented by the donations of others. It assists members in attending major conferences, seminars and international symposiums, thus lifting the profile of NCWA as an organisation representative of mainstream Australian women.

During her life Davey gave generously of her time to women’s organisations like YWCA and NCWA, as well as to the Methodist Church, the Good Neighbour Council and the Julia Farr Centre (philanthropy). She was president of the Methodist Women of SA from 1961 to 1966 and president of the Women’s United Churches Association in1960. She was also a member of the board for the Home for Incurables SA in 1973, and a member of a special committee for the Year of the Disabled 1981.

Davey has held a number of positions in the Liberal Party of Australia (SA), including membership of the State Council 1971–1980, the Women’s Council and the Women’s Policy Committee.

Davey’s service to women’s organisations and her community work were recognised in 1963 when she was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) for services to the YWCA, awarded the Queens’ Silver Jubilee Medal in 1977, and appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1981 for services to women. She was also the Adelaide Rotary Award winner in 1973 for community services, only the fourth woman to achieve this, and one of the women who received the NCWA Centenary Award in 2001.

Margaret Davey died on 8 March 2010.

Explore further resources about Margaret Davey in the Australian Women's Register.