Elvira ‘Ella’ Doran was born in Petersham, Sydney in 1907, the hearing daughter of deaf parents, John Doran and Rosa Minna von Bertouch. Ella first began interpreting at the age of 14 at the Annual General Meeting of the Deaf Society, when the deaf people sitting in the gallery of the hall couldn’t see the official interpreter and so Ella’s father asked her to sign for those nearby. This was the beginning of what was to become a long career in interpreting and work for the Deaf Community.
Ella was employed by the Dunlop Rubber Company in Sydney from 1928 to 1930. She then began paid work at the Deaf Society. She started as an interpreter for Sunday church services and later worked as a teacher, welfare officer, committee member and even as a cook for the Deaf Society.
In 1937, Ella left the Deaf Society as a result of disagreements with its superintendent Alfred Lonsdale and his methods of management. She went on to have a career in the NSW Child Welfare Department and whilst employed as a child welfare officer her interest in deaf children brought her back into contact with the Deaf Community. In 1956, she became the establishing superintendent of Winlaton, a Girls Home in Melbourne for wards of the state. Ella later moved to Canberra to work in the Royal Canberra Hospital, and she lived there for the next 30 years.
In 1993 Ella attended the launch of an organisation called CODA Australia. Ella was delighted to finally identify her experience as being that of a CODA, a ‘Child of Deaf Adults’. Ella was one of many CODAs who, because they were hearing and grew up in the Deaf Community, were called on to offer their services to deaf people either through paid work or more often as volunteers. In 1998 Ella wrote and published the book Hand in hand with time and change: The life of Ella Doran and her work with the deaf in Australia.
Ella Doran died in Canberra in 2001 at the age of 93.
The Sunday Sun and Guardian 7 January 1934
Book ‘Hand in Hand with Time and Change’, Ella Doran, 1998
Canberra Times 8 June 2001
Image – Ella Doran