“Joy is a wonderful example of the contribution of Aboriginal women to the community and her efforts have ensured that the younger generations have a solid foundation on which to succeed.” — Hon Kyam Maher MLC, South Australia's Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation.
“I just love it, going out there,” she says. “There’s a railway line we cross, just out of Ceduna and we cheer every time we cross it. We love getting out of town to visit these communities.”
A proud Kokatha/Barngala woman, Aunty Joy is a hugely respected Aboriginal Elder who has worked for over 45 years to support Aboriginal children and their families.
This October, her commitment and passion were rewarded with the Children’s Week Award at Government House in South Australia.
“I wasn’t expecting anything! One of my colleagues just said ‘hey, you’ve won this award and you need to go to Government House in Adelaide to get it.’ and I said ‘WHAT?!’ I was very honoured. I just enjoy what I’m doing, you know? I never put my hand for anything like this. I just enjoy the work. If I didn’t enjoy it, I’d have retired years ago! But I just love doing what I’m doing.”
Aunty Joy helped establish Save the Children’s Early Childhood Care and Development Program on the far west coast of South Australia in 2010, and she has been central to Save the Children’s Play2Learn program in Ceduna, Koonibba and Yalata ever since.
She provides an outlet for families to enjoy time with their children, while also acting as a mentor to younger staff. Last year alone, she provided early learning opportunities for over 100 children who otherwise would have had little access to early education due to their remote location.
“It’s very important for them to start learning and seeing new things as they’re growing up – learning right from wrong and establishing a routine before they start kindy and then school.”
Throughout her career, Aunty Joy has been involved in the early education of generations of children and has worked tirelessly to ensure that early education is more inclusive of Aboriginal families. Prior to joining Save the Children, she helped establish the first kindergarten for Aboriginal children in Ceduna with another local Aboriginal woman, Margo Walker.
Save the Children works in remote communities throughout Australia, helping make sure young children are given every chance to enjoy a strong start to school. With people like Aunty Joy leading the charge, country kids are far better placed to gain access to the opportunities a quality education will bring.
“We’ve got a great team. We’re really supportive and we help one another. Such a good crew to work with. No fights or arguments. It’s a really excellent team here.”