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Dr Joan Merle Woodberry AM

Tasmanian Honour Roll of Women logo
Joan Woodberry

Awarded for service to Literature and Education

Born: 10 February 1921 Died: 31 January 2010

Entered on roll: 2005

Joan Woodberry was a major influence on the lives of young Australians through her writing, her teaching and the education of teachers. She made an important contribution to Tasmania through her advocacy of women’s rights, support for emerging writers, and involvement in a variety of community initiatives.

Joan was born at Narrabri, in New South Wales. She travelled widely and lived in the Middle East, Greece and London. Joan graduated with an Honours degree in History from the University of Sydney in 1943, and completed a degree in education from the University of Melbourne in 1960. In 1959, she was appointed as a lecturer in English and Australian history at the Launceston Teacher’s College. In 1963, she was appointed Warden at the Hobart Teacher’s College and established its academic courses.

Joan became concerned about the plight of young women students who were living away from their home. There were few reputable hostels and many students were poorly housed and ill-fed. She formed a network to help university and nursing students in need of aid (Damsels in Distress). Contributions were sought from women graduates all over Tasmania and fundraising dances were held.

In the 1960s, Joan lobbied the Legislative Council for equal pay for women and, due to the combined efforts of many women, Tasmania became the second state to have equal pay for teachers. For many years, she was a counsellor at Jane Franklin Hall and on retirement was made an Honorary Life Fellow.

Joan was noted particularly for her numerous books and plays, many of which have been broadcast on the BBC. Joan published ten children’s books, annotated five historic sketchbooks, written six children’s plays for ABC radio, and published five textbooks on English for Australian schools. She also presented many papers at conferences and assisted other writers by editing their works.

She was closely involved with the Fellowship of Australian Writers, the Australian Book Council, the Copyright Board, the Libraries Promotion Council and the Tasmanian Arts Advisory Board. In 1981, Joan was named a Member of the Order of Australia in recognition of her services to education and literature.

Joan was admitted to the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters by the University of Tasmania, in 2000 and was appointed as a Governor of the University of Tasmania in 2002. Joan Woodberry died on 31 January 2010.

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