- Honour Roll
Aunty Joan's exceptional work and innovation in Aboriginal health, justice and alcohol and drug rehabilitation has significantly improved outcomes for Aboriginal people and helped to build a greater awareness and understanding of the issues Aboriginal communities face in Victoria and beyond. Aunty Joan has been influential in the development of government policy on Aboriginal health and has helped shape the planning and delivery of services.
In 1975, Aunty Joan helped establish what is today known as the Ngwala Willumbong Co-operative – meaning ‘Dry Place'. Ngwala Willumbong now operates in four locations across Victoria, delivering rehabilitation and outreach services to Aboriginal people impacted by substance abuse. In this same year, Aunty Joan also joined the Victorian Department of Health as one of the first Aboriginal Health Aides.
In 1982, as the first Aboriginal Liaison Officer at St Vincent's Hospital, Aunty Joan instigated a monthly support group for diabetic patients and developed a program of special camps to raise awareness and understanding of diabetes within Aboriginal families.
Her dedication to Aboriginal health led her to establish a dedicated Koori Diabetes Service in Victoria, which paved the way for similar services being initiated across Australia.
Aunty Joan's life-long commitment to helping others has been recognised through the many accolades she has received. Impressively, in 2005 when Aunty Joan completed her Master of Public Health at the Institute of Koorie Education at Deakin University, she was also made an Officer of the Order of Australia. In 2011, Aunty Joan was inducted to the inaugural Victorian Aboriginal Honour Roll.
Although Aunty Joan's primary focus has been on improving Aboriginal health, she has also significantly influenced government policy, improved the planning and delivery of front line services and fostered the development of Aboriginal community controlled providers to deliver health and other services across the state.
Aunty Joan remains active in advocating for the Aboriginal community through her roles as an Elder in the Broadmeadows Magistrate Court and the Melbourne County Court, Chairperson of the board at the Institute of Koorie Education at Deakin University, and her involvement in a range of government and non-government advisory committees.