Vale Aunty Joan Hendriks

ACU pays tribute to Aunty Joan Hendriks who passed away in January.

ACU previously awarded Aunty Joan a Doctor of the University (honoris causa) in 2012, for her contributions as an Indigenous Elder and advocate in the fields of education, reconciliation and justice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Aunty Joan was a Ngugi woman of one of the three clan groups of the Quandamooka people of Moreton Bay. She described family as ‘central to a life in search of holistic wellbeing of body, mind and spirit’. Her belief in heritage and a sense of belonging in the community was a driving force in her search for meaning and in her work to bridge the gap between Christian traditions and Aboriginal Creation spirituality.

A love for learning and community

Aunty Joan obtained an Associate Diploma in Aboriginal and Islander Welfare Studies from TAFE in 1986. With a passion for ongoing learning, she gained a Diploma of Adult Vocational Education from Griffith University in 1998 and graduated from ACU with a Master of Theology in 2008.

With a desire to make a difference, Aunty Joan assisted with education programs in Indigenous adult vocational education for more than two decades. She also worked with young adults and children and as an Elder in the Murri Court at Cleveland, greatly contributing to their understanding of issues and concerns within the Indigenous community.

Aunty Joan contributed to and wrote a number of articles and book chapters on Aboriginal spirituality and education including Dreaming a New Earth Raimon Panikkar and Indigenous Spiritualities which she co-edited with Fr Gerald Hall SM.

A passionate advocate

She was a constant advocate for the rights and education of Indigenous peoples. From 1996 - 2005 Aunty Joan generously contributed to a key reconciliation program - the Churches Together Aboriginal Partnership.  She influenced attitudes to create awareness of and maintain Indigenous cultures, influence government policy, and work against discrimination to promote reconciliation and justice within the community.

On an international level, Aunty Joan earned respect for her knowledge on the sacred nature of Aboriginal Spirituality. She addressed the United Nations Indigenous People´s forum in New York and presented a workshop on Aboriginal Creation Spirituality. In 2014 she was a guest speaker to the Costa Vivo International Conference in Washington, D.C. and was invited to represent Australian Aboriginal people and spiritual traditions at symposiums convened in Italy and Spain.

In her lifetime she presented many workshops in schools, government departments, local churches and community organisations. She was honoured by the Queensland Catholic Education Commission through the Inaugural Aunty Joan Hendriks Spirit of Catholic Education Reconciliation Award. She also received the Lourdes Hill College first-ever International Women’s Day Woman of the Year award.

Aunty Joan’s work was recognised with numerous awards including an ACU Honorary Fellowship, the Indigenous Higher Education Consultative Council National Elder of the Year Award, Queensland Peace Women and the Australian Government Centenary Medal.

Aunty Joan shared her wisdom with many, and her legacy will continue.

Service arrangements

All staff and friends of the university are invited to a memorial service to be held on Brisbane campus in the Chapel of the Holy Spirit on Thursday 19th March at 12:00 noon.


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