Sesca Ross Zelling


18 April 1918
Wayville, South Australia, Australia
21 November 2001

Sesca Zelling was awarded the Order of the British Empire in 1960 in recognition of her service to women and the community of South Australia.

Daughter of: Donald Robert Ross and Sesca Lewin (née Somerville) Anderson.

The eldest of six children, Sesca Zelling attended Methodist Ladies College (now Annesley College) for six years. During her time at the college she was awarded the Old Scholars' Prize for qualities of leadership and contribution to the life of the school; topped the State in Leaving Botany 1934; appointed Prefect 1935; captain of B tennis team 1935; Co-dux 1935; Head Prefect 1936; captain of A netball team 1936 and member of A tennis team in 1936.

In 1941 she obtained her LLB from University of Adelaide and Trevor Griffin MLC in his obituary (Adelaide Advertiser 29 Dec. 2001) writes "After her admission to legal practice in 1941, she retained her interest in university affairs, particularly those that related to young women - she was president of the Australian Federation of University Women, a member of the Council of St Ann's College and was the third woman to be appointed to the Council of the University of Adelaide. She was also involved in an official capacity with the Marriage Guidance Council and the YWCA."

From 1942 until 1947 she was a prosecuting officer for the Deputy Commonwealth Crown Solicitor and was appointed a justice of the peace in 1945. At the time of her death she was the longest-serving woman member of the Royal Association of Justices.

In 1950 she married fellow lawyer Howard Edgar Zelling and they shared the same offices until 1969 when her husband became a judge of the SA Supreme Court.

A member of the National Council of Women of SA (NCW), Sesca Zelling was president from 1957 until 1960. She had previously (1954-1957) been vice-president of the NCW of Australia and was a trustee of the NCW War Memorial Fund 1954-1976. In 1970 she was appointed honorary life president of the SA division in recognition for her work with the National Council of Women.

At the time of her death she was Chair (1995-2001) of The Pioneer Women's Memorial Garden, having been a trustee since 1962.

(Source: National Council of Women SA)

Sources used to compile this entry: Alexander, Joseph A (ed.), Who's Who in Australia 1962, 17 edn, Colorgravure Publications, Melbourne, 1962, 960 pp; Faith, Hope and Charity Australian Women and Imperial Honours: 1901-1989, Australian Women's Archives Project, March 2003,; Griffin, Trevor, 'Law and society before self', Adelaide Advertiser, 29 Dec; Lofthouse, Andrea (ed.), Who's Who of Australian Women, Methuen Australia, North Ryde (NSW), 1982, 504 pp; National Council of Women of South Australia, Greater than their knowing: a glimpse of South Australian women 1836-1986, Wakefield Press, Netley, SA, 1986, 310 pp.

Prepared by Anne Heywood