Australian Biography: Joan Winch


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2004, 26 Minutes

Nurse, midwife, academic, educator...Joan Winch has overcome numerous professional and personal hurdles to make an extraordinary contribution to Aboriginal health.

The internationally acclaimed education programs that she has established focus on preventative and holistic medicine and community participation, integrating Indigenous practices and values. In this interview, she talks about her work and philosophies, the discrimination experienced by her family and her people, and her own journey from isolation and loss to a sense of purpose and a spiritual awakening.

Joan describes growing up in Western Australia at a time when people often disguised their Aboriginality, and explains how fear and oppression affected her family. She reveals the grief she felt when her mother died, and how their connection was rekindled with the birth of her own daughter, Lillian. She recalls painful years: running away from her strict father at age 16, drinking too much, having to leave her husband - also a drinker - when Lillian was just six weeks old.

Joan had many jobs - from assisting in a psychiatric hospital to taking care of kids at an Aboriginal children’s home - before taking night classes and enrolling in nursing. This interest would shape the rest of her life and give her a mission: to help the Aboriginal community. Study tours to India and China inspired her. She started an innovative health education program at the Aboriginal medical service in Perth. In 1987, she won a prestigious World Health Organization prize, which she used to create Marr Mooditj, a health-worker training college.

Widely respected, Joan has received many other awards during her career. After officially retiring at 60, she served as Head of the Centre for Aboriginal Studies at Curtin University from 1999 to 2001. She continues to work tirelessly to change the way society approaches health and well-being.

A Film Australia National Interest Program. © 2011 National Film and Sound Archive of Australia.

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NB The Australian Biography series (1-11) are only available for sale within the territories of Australia and New Zealand.


Producer/Director: Rod Freedman

Writer/Interviewer: Robin Hughes

Year: 2004

Running Time: 26 Minutes

Classification: Exempt from classification

Curriculum Links: Community and Family Studies; Indigenous Health; Public Health Education; Health Services Management; Nursing; Population Health; Women’s Studies; PDHPE; SOSE/HSIE.


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SKU 200200706
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