Aunty Joan Hendriks, a descendant of the Ngugi people of Moreton Bay Queensland, was an inspiring community leader, an outstanding adult educator and a passionate advocate for reconciliation achieved through the understanding of cultural differences. She believed sharing cultures, spiritualities and ways of living with the land could be the stepping stones to a united Australia where justice and equity prevails. Aunty Joan hoped that this collection will inspire the next generation.
When she looked back on her life, Aunty Joan reflected on how easily she could have become part of Australia’s discarded people. The presence of this collection is testament to her passions in life and her own determination to make education central to her sense of self.
Aunty Joan remembered a childhood of exclusion and feeling that she had no place. She was the only Aboriginal child at Sts Peter and Paul’s School, Bulimba, later joined by her sister. Education seemed foreign. Learning at Lourdes Hill College during her secondary school years was difficult and her motivation to succeed was severely reduced by her feeling that she was very different from her peers. Her Irish father had been disowned by his family for having had the temerity to marry a non-Catholic and an Aboriginal woman. Constantly in her life, she encountered racism that contributed to her own lack of self-confidence. To counter this, Aunty Joan embraced a life of service and education.
In the 1980s, Aunty Joan worked in Aboriginal education in primary and secondary schools, local church and community organisations, in government and internationally at the United Nations Indigenous Peoples Forum. After 30 years of lecturing to Australian Catholic University students, primarily about intercultural understanding, Aunty Joan was awarded ACU’s highest honour, Doctor of the University, in 2012. She has also been an Elder in the Murri Court at Cleveland where her wisdom and experience has contributed to a greater cultural understanding. A consistent advocate for the rights of First Nations people, Aunty Joan was actively involved in the campaign which saw traditional owners win native title recognition over their lands on North Stradbroke Island.
When asked to nominate what she credits for her decision to continue to push herself, she quickly to attributed it to the support of the Sisters of the Good Samaritan. She saw in them a shining example of authentic care. Because of their support, Aunty Joan made the decision to be the best person she could be, to pursue education and to make a difference for others.
A central image in Aunty Joan’s understanding of life came from Asian American philosopher, Jung Young Lee. He calls it Marginal Theology. In the model for this approach, we see two circles of influence in their entirety rather than one swamping the other. The participant’s perspective, however, moves to the edge. For Aunty Joan, it is important to see the entirety of a subject, but to be prepared to move to the edge in order to consider other subjects.
A popular saying that has resonated for Aunty Joan is “If you’re not living on the edge, you’re taking up too much space!”
Aunty Joan Hendriks was a significant person within the Lourdes Hill College community. She and her daughters attended the school as pupils and Aunty Joan continued to be a much-loved contributor and counsel to the College until her passing in 2020. In addition, she was a nationally and internationally recognised speaker and advocate for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander community and was an active contributor to many church, community and government groups.
In 2018, Aunty Joan donated her personal library of books, writings and other influential texts to Lourdes Hill College to form the Aunty Joan Collection to be housed in association with the Lourdes Hill College Public Library.
The Collection comprises 17 boxes of writings, books, periodicals, personal papers and other material collected by Aunty Joan Hendriks and donated to Lourdes Hill College. The majority of the Collection spans the dates 1970-2018. The collection can be searched via the LHC Library catalogue.
“Warning: First Nations Australians are advised that this website may include images or names of people now deceased.”
One of Aunty Joan’s many duties had been to lead Acknowledgements of Country and Welcomes to Country. While there are many common elements, she has personalised these important ceremonial duties, hoping to use them to educate her audience in terms of reconciliation.
Aunty Joan always acknowledged and reflected on the special relationship herself and other First Nations people had to their country, the water, sands, animals and skies. She often reflected that this relationship was based on respect and responsibility to take care of country and the people who inhabit it.
The list of resources in the Aunty Joan Collection can be viewed HERE. Further research can be undertaken at the Lourdes Hill Public Library, 86 Hawthorne Rd, Hawthorne 4171.
To organise a visit and to request access to specific resources, please email below at least two days before the proposed visit.
There have been a number of authors who have been particularly influential on Aunty Joan’s thinking. You can explore those authors here: