Woman Szunejko, Halina Teresa (1936 - )

Polish Government Gold Cross of Merit, Order of Australia, and Member of the Order of Polonia Restituta

Community activist, Teacher and Writer
Alternative Names
  • Czekalowski, Halina Terese (Maiden)

Written by Deborah Towns, Swinburne University

Halina Teresa Szunejko was born in Poland in 1936 to Franciszek and Roberta Czekalowski. She attended a Polish school in East Africa. In 1949 her family came to Perth, Australia but her father was unable to join them until 1959 when he was released from a Russian prison. In the 1950s she was a student at Santa Maria College, a Catholic school, where she completed her secondary schooling. Szunejko began teacher training in 1955 at Claremont Teachers College. As a student teacher she taught at Narrogin Primary School and after qualifying in 1956 was employed at Ewington Primary School transferring to North Inglewood Primary School in 1959.While teaching she completed a typing course and completed a Diploma in Art at Perth Technical College and was then transferred to Applecross Senior High School.

She had to resign from the permanent service on marriage but kept on teaching as a temporary appointment on less salary at Kent Street Senior High School. When married women could apply for promotion in the late 1960s she was appointed for seven years as Senior Mistress of Art at Applecross. She gained her next promotion to Cannington Senior High School as a deputy principal (woman) which was a new promotion position. During this five year appointment she combined work with study, completing a Graduate Diploma of Business and Administration at the Institute of Technology, Perth. In 1990 she became principal at Kwinana Senior High School, followed by principal of Hampton Senior High School for six years.

Szunekjo retired from the Education Department in 2000. Throughout her life she was also an activist in the Polish community. She was president of the West Australian Association of Polish Women and organised welfare programs. She was teacher-in-charge of the Polish Ethnic School in the 1990s and a member of the Migrant Settlement Committee and the Ethnic Schools' Association, Western Australia. In 1979 she was awarded the Gold Cross of Merit from the Polish Government in exile for her services to the Polish community. In 1989 she received the Medal of the Order of Australian for her services to education and the Polish community. In 1993 the new democratic government of the Republic of Poland honoured her as a Member of the Order of Polonia Restituta. Halina Szunejko was inducted as one of the first 100 in the Western Australian Women's Hall of Fame in 2011.

Archival Resources

National Library of Australia Oral History Collection

  • Halina Szunejko interviewed by John Bannister in the Battye Library collection [sound recording], 18 October 2006 - 23 January 2007, ORAL TRC 5799; National Library of Australia Oral History Collection. Details

Published Resources


  • Szunejko, Halina, 55 Years of Polish School in Perth 1952 - 2007, Polish Ethnic School, Maylands, Western Australia, 2007. Details

Book Sections

  • Hardy, Jessie, 'Interview with Halina Teresa Szunejko', in Hunt, Lynn and Tortman, Janina (eds), Claremont Cameos, Women Teachers and the Building of Social Capital in Australia, Interview Transcript, Edith Cowan University, Perth, Western Australia, 2002, pp. 191 - 199. Details

Online Resources

See also