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Edna Mavis Jackson (1913–2000)

by James Kilpatrick

from Sydney Morning Herald

She was widely honoured and loved for her community work, spanning six decades, in the service of some of Melbourne's key institutions. Mavis Jackson, who has died at the age of 87, dedicated the larger part of those years to Melbourne institutions and the people within them.

She was born in Masulapatam, India. Her father, Lieutenant (later Commander) Walter Swan, and mother, Alice, spent a 30-year career with the Royal Navy in British India.

Young Mavis and her brother were sent to boarding school in Melbourne, in her case to Methodist Ladies' College, Kew.

In 1931 she enrolled in science at the University of Melbourne. Here she made lifelong friends and expanded her networks, beginning a 60-year involvement with the university.

During this time she also joined the Lyceum Club (Melbourne) and began a 60-year contribution to it.

Her interest was always in the workings of institutions, particularly finding out who fitted in where, and then motivating the right people to get things done.

Jackson graduated in 1935 and began a career in microbiology. With the outbreak of war in 1939 she joined a Volunteer Aid Detachment, working as a microbiologist.

During this time she met and, in 1942, married Alan Vaughan Jackson, at that time an army pathologist and later chairman of pathology services at the Alfred Hospital.

Although she officially left the workforce after marrying, she had already established a reputation for getting involved.

In 1950 she was invited to join the planning committee for International House, which was to become a college for both Australian and international students at Melbourne University.

Lyndal Pascoe, who was involved in fundraising, was "happily sucked along in the slipstream of her enthusiasm'' for International House, and remembers "someone who loved people and who drew them into her causes through the force of her personality and her genuine enthusiasm. She had a talent for organising and always gave 110 per cent''. She won a reputation as a catalyst, particularly for fundraising.

In the 1960s, at a time of life when some people might have thought of slowing down, she became busier. In 1962 she returned to her scientific background by establishing the cytology unit at the Alfred Hospital. She continued as head of this unit until 1977.

She served as a member of the board of management of the Yooralla Children's Hospital School, 1954-60, of the National Council of Women, 1957-60, and of the executive of the Anti-Cancer Council of Victoria, 1967-84. In 1966 she was president of the Victorian Society of Cytology.

She was twice a member of the general committee of the Lyceum Club and in 1973-75 was its president. During the 1980s, honorary life membership of the Lyceum Club was conferred on her and she was honoured during 1999 as one of the club's "living treasures''.

From 1973 to 1979, Jackson chaired the council of International House. In 1977 she was awarded the Queen's Jubilee Medal, also for community service.

Throughout all of this she juggled the duties of a dedicated wife and mother and, in later years, a confessed "biased grandmother''.

Tribal in her loyalties, she always spoke of "the Family'', "the University'', "the Club'', and "the House''. She always asserted her place within the group, and this usually developed into a leadership role.

Her husband, Alan, died three months ago. Her children, Ian, Prue and Trevor, survive her.

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Citation details

James Kilpatrick, 'Jackson, Edna Mavis (1913–2000)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 26 June 2024.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2024

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Swan, Edna Mavis

21 July, 1913
Machilipatnam, Andhra Pradesh, India


6 August, 2000 (aged 87)
Richmond, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Cause of Death

heart disease

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