A community memorial celebration was held in tribute to Greater Dandenong Living Treasure Merle Mitchell AM on Sunday 13 November at the Springvale Town Hall.
Merle passed away in September 2021. In recognition of her immense contribution to the community, Council and Merle’s family worked in collaboration to publicly honour her legacy.
She was duly recognised for her passionate community activism and her many achievements as a member of the Spirit of Enterprise.
Mayor, Cr Eden Foster who was honoured to speak at the memorial said Council supported Merle’s family to duly celebrate her life.
“What an honour it was to celebrate the incredible life of our friend and dedicated community activist, Merle.
“Merle was known as the beating heart of Springvale by many, this place meant so much to her, a place where she did so much of her incredible community advocacy.
“I grew up both here in Springvale and Noble Park, and Merle was known to us all - she was a true icon in our community.
“As an inspiring force, Merle was always striving to improve the lives of the most vulnerable, advocating for those that may not have had a voice.
“Merle was a change champion. She was someone that got things done for the better. Merle was an expert at negotiation and diplomacy.
“She was able to superbly influence the hearts and minds of policy advisors and politicians at local, state and national levels, with the utmost confidence and care.
“Merle was a very good friend to our city and Council was particularly proud to acknowledge her through the Living Treasures program.
“The strength and the quality of Merle’s character, reinforced by her wisdom and belief that there was always a better and more inclusive future for Greater Dandenong, promoted diversity, equality, acceptance and opportunity for all residents.
“She has left a legacy that will endure for generations to come. What an honour it was to have known Merle. What a trailblazer she was.
“We all proudly and respectfully celebrated the life of Merle Mitchell AM and recognised her immense contributions to our diverse community,” said Cr Foster.
The Mayor also officially announced that the Exhibition Hall inside the Springvale Community Hub is now to be known as the Mitchell Hall.
The Mitchell Hall rightfully honours Merle and her selfless and passionate community activism for social welfare, the rights of older people in aged care, and her work as a member of the Spirit of Enterprise.
Merle was instrumental in the Spirit of Enterprise history project which is internationally acclaimed.
She worked tirelessly with others to ensure the story of the local migrant settlement in Greater Dandenong is known, honoured and continually celebrated.
In addition to the unveiling of the Mitchell Hall at the Springvale Community Hub, Council has also installed an interpretative sign as part of the Spirit Enterprise Trail project which also recognises Merle’s immense community contribution.
Merle was a genuine people’s hero, and the community can learn more about her incredible story through these public activations in the heart of Springvale at the Community Hub.
“Merle was a sharp, determined, tenacious and compassionate advocate who touched the lives of millions during her life from 1934 – 2021.
“She adored her husband Eric Mitchell and her two children, Rick and Sally.
“Merle was steadfast, hardworking and wise. After Merle died on 20 September 2021, there was a massive outpouring of grief from the many people whose lives she touched.
“She indeed was a true inspiration to us all. Her legacy of community service will live on,” said Cr Foster.
Merle’s family asked Grissel Walmaggia, Council Officer and close friend of Merle’s to be MC for the memorial celebration.
Josh from the Bunurong Land Council delivered the Welcome to Country.
Friends of Merle’s who spoke at the memorial celebration included:
- Member for the South Eastern Metropolitan Region, Lee Tarlamis OAM MP
- former social worker at Springvale Community Aide and Advice Bureau, Eileen Sims
- former resident of the Enterprise Migrant Hostel, Geraldina Alvarez
- former Mayor of Springvale, local resident and long-term friend of both Merle and Eric, Jan Trezise OAM.
Former resident of the Enterprise Migrant Hostel and former social welfare worker for the Timor-Leste Community in Australia, now Advisor to President Ramos Horta of Timor-Leste, Joao Goncalves sent a video message.
Federal Member for Hotham, Clare O’Neil MP could not attend and sent a message to be read out in honour of her dear mentor and friend Merle. As did Greater Dandenong City Council CEO, John Bennie.
The Maya Dancers performed live who were much loved by Merle and were founded from a group meeting at the Springvale Neighbourhood House.
A special tribute video was also played at the memorial in honour of Merle, further highlighting her many achievements. The video brought Merle to life again in the Springvale Town Hall.
The community is encouraged to visit the interpretive sign and Enterprise Trail at the Springvale Community Hub to learn more about Merle’s incredible story.
Community members can also contribute to Merle’s online memorial board below,