By Cathy Jones, 2021
Marlene Anne Doran (1939-2021) died on 2 December 2021 at age 82 years. Marlene grew up over her mother’s shop in Rochester Street Homebush. Her mother, Mrs Stout, managed a women’s wear store called ‘Hi-Jinks’ from 1949[i]. Marlene attended school at Methodist Ladies College (MLC), Burwood[ii]. In 1958, Marlene married Graham Agar Doran, company director. The couple had three children: Grant, Hugh and Leanne.[iii] At the time of Graeme’s death in 2013, the couple had nine grandchildren[iv]. Marlene and Graeme lived at Westmead[v], but by 1971, they moved to Homebush briefly living above her mother’s shop at 13 Rochester Street before moving by 1972 to their permanent home at 37 Howard Street Strathfield[vi].
Having previously assisted in her mother’s shop, in 1971, Marlene opened her own shop ‘Marl-Anne’, a women’s wear and haberdashery shop, at 38 Burlington Road Homebush[vii]. She managed this business until 1988. Her interest in running a small business in Homebush lead to her long-term involvement as President of the Homebush Mainstreet Committee[viii]. In 1996, she chaired a committee to prepare a masterplan to upgrade the Homebush shopping centre[ix]
Marlene took an avid interest in local community matters, including in the local schools such as Homebush Public School, where she served as a Councillor. Marlene was a long-term member of the Strathfield District Historical Society. In 1988, Marlene campaigned unsuccessfully to save ‘Viwa’, a Victorian home, in Burlington Road from demolition, which was demolished without Council consent[x]. She also organised a petition to save ‘Camden Lodge’, a Federation heritage listed property in Burlington Road, from demolition due to damage by neglect and a fire[xi].
In 1987, Marlene was the inaugural President of the Friends of Strathfield Library (FOSL). The group worked hard to promote the library, raising funds for purchases with cake stalls and organizing guest speakers and excursions. The group finally disbanded in 2014. Likely due to their shared interests in libraries and history, Marlene stood at the number two position on a community independent ticket headed by former Strathfield Council Library Manager Elizabeth Gewandt in the 1991, 1995, 2000 and 2004 Council elections. Though Gewandt was elected at each election, Marlene was unsuccessful. She headed her own independent ticket in 2008 and was narrowly defeated by 30 votes[xii]. Her last candidacy was in 2012 in support of a community independent ticket led by Helen McLucas[xiii].
However, she was involved directly in many Council projects and initiatives for many years. She regularly attended Tuesday night Council meetings. Marlene and a group of volunteers from the Friends of Strathfield Library (FOSL) group worked under the guidance of professional archivists to sort and file decades of unorganised boxes of documents. In 1991, Marlene was appointed as the Honorary Archivist at Strathfield Council until 2001 and later from 2005. Marlene also assisted with organising weekly bus transport service of elderly residents to Strathfield Library. Marlene was a member of a number of Council committees including Access Committee, Heritage Advisory Committee and Flemington Police Consultative Committee[xiv]. She also undertook Safety Audits at the Homebush Shopping Centre with Council.
In 1995, Marlene worked on the World War II 50th Anniversary celebration ‘Australia Remembers’ and the exhibition held in Strathfield Town Hall. She organised loans of materials for the exhibition and in 1996 accepted the Strathfield Council community award on behalf of the ‘Australia Remembers’ committee. Marlene served as Vice-President of the Homebush-Strathfield RSL Sub-Branch Women’s Auxiliary and assisted the RSL welfare section in providing care for members. In 2015, a new War Memorial was dedicated in Davey Square featuring replicas of the 340 gold plaques for former service men and women which were once installed along the entry to the former Homebush RSL Club in The Crescent, Homebush. As a member of the Ladies Auxiliary, Marlene also organized the knitting of more than 600 poppies for the dedication of the plaques at Davey Square, unveiled on Remembrance Day 2015.[xv] She was also a volunteer for the local Documentation of Sculptures, Monuments and Cultural Material for the NSW Art Gallery.
In 1997, Marlene was awarded the Women of Achievement Award presented by the Zonta Club.
One of the long term projects which interested Marlene was to improve the Library service. In 1998, Marlene and Elizabeth Gewandt founded the Libraries and Museum Foundation, a trust dedicated to raising funds for a new library building. A large fundraising Gala was held in May 1998, followed by smaller events over the years.
In 1999, Marlene was awarded Citizen of the Year on Australia Day[xvi]. Marlene was actively involved with the committee to celebrate the Centenary of Australian Federation in 2001.
Following the closure of the last big bank branch, the Homebush shopping centre was left without a banking service. Marlene was President of the Homebush Mainstreet Committee from 1999 and she campaigned to establish a community bank in Homebush, collecting pledges from locals. Marlene was the inaugural Chair of the Homebush Community Bank, which opened in May 2002 on The Crescent Homebush[xvii] (later relocated to Rochester Street). It was the first community branch of the Bendigo Bank.[xviii]
She was awarded a Centenary Medal in 2003 for her work in establishing the Homebush Community Bank[xix]. In February 2006, Marlene was honored with the Medal of the Order of Australia. She received the award for supporting community banking, civic services, crime prevention and local history organisations at Homebush and Strathfield[xx].
Marlene has been involved with the various campaigns to oppose amalgamation of Strathfield Council. From 2003 to 2005 Marlene was a member of ‘Strathfield United’, a residents’ group which successfully opposed to the proposal by the then Auburn Council to takeover the whole area of Strathfield Council [xxi] [xxii]. Marlene was also active in the community campaign against the State Government proposal to amalgamate Strathfield with Burwood and Canada Bay Councils in 2016[xxiii], which resulted in Strathfield remaining independent.
In her later years, Marlene was dedicated to the activities of the Homebush West Senior Citizens Group, where she was a foundation member. In 2020 Marlene retired as long term President of the Strathfield West Seniors Group.[xxiv]
Her funeral was held at St Anne’s Anglican Church Strathfield.
Written by Cathy Jones with assistance from Jenny Macritchie, Strathfield Council Local Studies Advisor Dec 2021
[i] ‘Bankable Battler’ (2003 May 7),
[v] Australian Electoral Commission (1963), Electorate of Werriwa, Sub-division of Westmead
[vi] Australian Electoral Commission, (1972, 1980), Electoral Rolls, Electorate of Lowe
[viii] Elizabeth Gewandt & Marlene Doran Election Flyer 1995
[ix] Shaw (2002 July 17), ‘Village salutes smarter image’, Glebe and Inner City News
[x] Bailey (1988), ‘Too Late to Save the Doctor’s House’, Sydney Morning Herald
[xi] Habib, R (2010), ‘Council tries to wreck its mayor’s demolition plan’, Inner West Courier
[xii] “So close the recount’s on’ (2004 April 8), Inner West Council
[xiii] ‘Growing LGA’s brace for ballot battle’ (2021 September 2012), Inner West Courier
[xiv] Elizabeth Gewandt & Marlene Doran Election Flyer 1995
[xv] Parliament of New South Wales. Legislative Assembly Hansard, 17 November 2015. https://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/Hansard/Pages/HansardResult.aspx#/docid/HANSARD-1323879322-73743/link/37
[xvi] Parliament of New South Wales legislative Assembly Hansard 17 November 2020 https://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/Hansard/Pages/HansardResult.aspx#/docid/HANSARD-1323879322-114521
[xvii] Shaw (2002) ‘Healthy Interest in new bank’, Glebe and Inner City News
[xix] Munro (2003 April 22), Recognition for Local Heroes, Sydney Morning Herald
[xx] “Award Winners’ (2006 February 2), Inner West Weekly
[xxii] Jones, Cathy ‘Strathfield Council – History of Council amalgamations’ https://strathfieldheritage.com/local-government/council/strathfield-council-amalgamation-history/
[xxiii] Parliament of New South Wales legislative Assembly Hansard 17 November 2020 https://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/Hansard/Pages/HansardResult.aspx#/docid/HANSARD-1323879322-114521