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PROTRACK » GENERAL » ASIO spied on WA sprint star Shirley de la Hunty

ASIO spied on WA sprint star Shirley de la Hunty

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https://thewest.com.au/news/wa/asio-spied-on-wa-sprint-star-shirley-de-la-hunty-ng-b88983796z

ASIO spied on WA sprint star Shirley de la Hunty

By Steve Butler
The West Australian
Saturday, 13 October 2018


Fresh revelations of a witch-hunt into the suspected communist activities of WA Olympic legend Shirley de la Hunty will underpin a new movie being made in Perth about her remarkable life.

The family of Mrs de la Hunty, who died aged 78 in 2004, has acquired National Archives documents that detail the secret monitoring of the sprinting superstar by Australia’s security agency ASIO.

Among other items secured by the family in a global search is rarely seen vision from Russian archives of Mrs de la Hunty, then Strickland, running in Warsaw during a 1955 visit behind the Iron Curtain to Poland.

The then 30-year-old mother wore WA’s black swan logo in the 80m race at the same meeting where she broke the 100m world record.

The ASIO files reveal that the Australian Women’s Amateur Athletic Union had barred her from wearing national colours at the event and she was not to be recognised as an Australian representative.


An ASIO report on Shirley de la Hunty.

Mrs de la Hunty’s daughter Barb said the suspicions stemmed from her mother’s volunteering role when coaching in Perth’s Eureka Youth League before she went to the 1948 London Olympics.

She described the 130-page ASIO files, which tracked her mother from 1948 to 1972, as “frustrating, fascinating and enlightening”.

“They were tracking her to see if she had communist influences in Australia, to see if she was secretly working to promote that ideology,” Barb said of her mother, a committed and sometimes polarising conservationist.

“She knew there were people out there accusing her of being a communist but she didn’t know ASIO was tracking her.

“They knew that here was this gorgeous, feisty, intelligent, rebellious woman who wasn’t putting up with being told what to do and what to think and they knew the Communist Party wanted to try and use her as a pin-up girl for them.

“It’s fascinating and it’s all anchored in the political paranoia of the era.”

Barb said ASIO eventually wrote a report stating there was no evidence of her mother, whose father Dave won the 1900 Stawell Gift, being a communist.

Mrs de la Hunty’s son Matthew, frontman of rock band Tall Tales and True, said the movie would detail his mother’s dogged determination to succeed, often through great adversity.

“She was obviously a pretty famous Australian, never mind a pretty famous West Australian,” he said.

“But there is nothing out there that gives you a sense of what she really had to go through to achieve what she did.

“I thought her running in Poland despite Athletics Australia not wanting her to go and the whole political intrigue behind it summed up her determination in the way I know her.

“Her story is a vehicle for the times ... it was an interesting time for women and an interesting time politically and she kept finding herself at the centre of trouble.

“Whether people were just envious or didn’t like her chutzpah or whatever it was, it’s hard to believe she had so many enemies.”



Dave Warner with Matthew de la Hunty.Picture: Simon Santi

The movie script is being written by prominent WA music identity Dave Warner and it will be directed by Matt Norman, the nephew of another late Australian athletics legend, Peter Norman.

It will be produced by Revelation Film Festival general manager Suzy Worner and the executive producer is The Backlot Perth managing director Ian Hale.

Warner said he was humbled to write the backstory of an iconic West Australian he had idolised in his youth.

“To me, she was a champion, but that’s all I knew,” he said.

“The dimensions on Shirley’s story, going right back to her parents while growing up in Dalwallinu, are just fantastic.

“There’s also a terribly tragic story of a younger brother dying on the farm while she’s at high school in Northam.

“As a screenwriter, when you see this story you know it’s genuinely exciting and absolutely a story we should have.”

To help fund the movie, visit australianculturalfund.org.au/projects/shirley-strickland-feature-film

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