Shirley Hilyard pursued an active interest and fierce advocacy for the protection of heritage and historic buildings and urban environment of Sydney’s Inner West.
Having graduated with a degree in Architecture from the University of Sydney in 1950, Shirley focused on family life with four children. However, her time was also spent in community service and this is what she came to focus on in her later life. Shirley worked tirelessly as a volunteer for the Historic Houses Trust, The Royal Botanical Gardens in Sydney, Marrickville Heritage Society, Ashfield Heritage Society, amongst others.
She is remembered for her advocacy on behalf of buildings and sites against the march of unchecked development, her generosity of spirit, her beautiful copperplate handwriting and her keen eye as proof-reader for numerous newsletters.
For her services to her community, Shirley was awarded a Bicentennial medallion in 1988 and the Centenary Medal in 2003.
In 2021, Shirley collaborated with her daughter, Virginia Hilyard in the artwork Remembering Yellow, displayed at the Trans-southeast Asia Triennial, Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts Museum. The artwork, which is a collection of clay and plasticine models are a collection of exchanges, or conversations, between the two during Shirley's cognitive decline with vascular dementia. The artwork will be featured in the 2023 Womanifesto Way project at 4a galleries in Sydney.