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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website contains names, images, and voices of deceased persons.

In addition, some articles contain terms or views that were acceptable within mainstream Australian culture in the period in which they were written, but may no longer be considered appropriate.

These articles do not necessarily reflect the views of The Australian National University.

Daisy Elizabeth Marchisotti (1904–1987)

by Ted Bacon

From an early age, Daisy was aware that her great-grandmother had been a Black slave on the island of Dominique in the West Indies, and she became aware of the evils of racism in Australian society.

Born in Carlton, Melbourne, she was the eldest daughter of English immigrants. At the age of three, her family moved to Macedon, Victoria, where they had a small orchard. When her father died in 1910, the family went to Essendon, Melbourne where Daisy went to business college and became an office worker.

During the Depression years, Daisy was the sole breadwinner for the family.

At 18 she became interested in socialist politics and in 1941 joined the Communist Party. In the late forties she worked in the motor industry, became involved in the union movement and a member of the Clerks' Union state executive.

In 1951, she and Val Howard prepared and presented in court the case for equal pay for women on behalf of the Clerks' Union.

She met Louis Marchisotti whom she married in Brisbane in 1949. When Lou died in 1960, she became the sole breadwinner of her family as an officeworker, including for the CPA for ten years.

Daisy adored literature, especially poetry and song.

For many years she was active around Aboriginal issues. At the age of 78, she was among those arrested demonstrating against Australian racism during the Brisbane Commonwealth Games in 1982. She regarded this incident as a highlight of her life and she received the love and respect of many Aboriginal people.

Daisy played a significant role in the early days of the Federal Council for the Advancement of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders (FCAATSI), which consisted largely of white people who championed the needs of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders. Its importance only lessened when Black people formed their own organisations and developed their own spokespeople.

During FCAATSI's existence in Brisbane between 1966 and 1976, Daisy wrote, typed, reproduced and distributed its monthly newsletter with clocklike regularity. She also provided practical help to Aboriginal people and encouraged them to speak for themselves.

When eventually she managed to buy a little car, she clocked up 100,000 miles, almost exclusively in ferrying Aboriginal people, be it to Canberra or Sydney or Townsville, until the car fell to pieces.

As if earning a living and her involvement in the Aboriginal and trade union movements were not enough, Daisy had enough energy and enthusiasm to be an active member of the Communist Party. Tribune was particularly close to her heart. She was a regular contributor mainly on Aboriginal issues, but also a sharp and discerning book reviewer.

She also shared the mundane and onerous task of selling Tribune, and there wasn't a public meeting or demonstration without Daisy there selling.

In January 1983, she suffered a slight stroke from which she was convalescing when a second, massive stroke occurred in March.

In her last years, her friend Alan Leary to whom she had been attached since 1967, exhibited model care and affection.

Despite considerable health problems of his own at times, Alan visited her daily in hospital. As the custodian of Daisy's records, and diary, he has done a great job in putting them in the Fryer library. He made a tape of her life story, so that history won't bypass the outstanding work this woman had accomplished.

Farewell Daisy. Your life and work inspired us when you were with us in strength. They will continue to inspire all who remember or hear about them, now that you are gone.

Original publication

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Citation details

Ted Bacon, 'Marchisotti, Daisy Elizabeth (1904–1987)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, https://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/marchisotti-daisy-elizabeth-34492/text43320, accessed 13 July 2024.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2024

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Irving, Daisy Elizabeth
Birth

28 September, 1904
Carlton, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Death

10 February, 1987 (aged 82)
Sandgate, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

Cause of Death

dementia

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

Occupation
Key Organisations
Political Activism