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Tributes flow for Aboriginal elder and woman of service Aunty Joan Hendriks

True leader: Aunty Joan Hendriks in Sts Peter and Paul Church, Bulimba, where she attended as a child. Photo: Alan Edgecomb

RESPECTED Aboriginal elder and educator Aunty Joan Hendriks is being remembered for a deep commitment to her culture, promoting reconciliation, and as a guiding light in understanding Aboriginal Creation spirituality and Christian faith.

The revered Ngugi woman, one of the three clan groups of the Quandamooka people of south-east Queensland’s Moreton Bay, died peacefully on Australia Day.

“A heartfelt farewell to Aunty Joan Hendriks at the end of her long and beautiful life,” Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge said in tribute to her.

“Aunty Joan showed forth the depth and the richness of the Indigenous culture which gave her life and in ways both generous and gracious shared all of that with the rest of us. 

“She was a friend, a teacher and an unforgettable companion on the way. Thanks for everything, Aunty Joan. May you rest in peace and rise in the glory of God’s Dreamtime.”

Aunty Joan was born in 1936, the eldest daughter of four children raised in the Brisbane suburb of Bulimba. 

She attended Sts Peter and Paul’s Catholic Primary School and Lourdes Hill College.

Aunty Joan was considered one of the college’s most treasured alumnae.

She was the college’s elder in residence, patron of Hendriks House, and her three daughters also attended Lourdes Hill.

“Please keep Aunty Joan, her family and her friends in your prayers,” Lourdes Hill College said. 

Tributes are flowing for Aunty Joan who dedicated a life of service to education, reconciliation and justice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. 

Her legacy includes deepening Indigenous people’s knowledge and pride of their own cultural traditions, and educating non-Indigenous Australians on reconciliation and Indigenous cultures.

“I will forever be grateful for the time I spent with Aunty Joan on pilgrimage to Cherbourg and Minjerribah in 2016,” Jess Torrisi posted on the Lourdes Hill College Facebook page.

“I knew then how special it was to have the opportunity to listen and learn from her and it was such a rewarding experience.”

“Outstanding intellect, wisdom and discernment, Aunty Joan could meld spirituality, politics, economics and relationships,” Mark Clarke posted. “She was truly Benedictine in her love of an integrated community and her Christianity was unwavering.”

Aunty Joan brought Indigenous Australian issues to the world stage at the United Nations and at International Interfaith Forums. 

Her deep commitment to the dialogue between Aboriginal Creation spirituality and Christian faith was embodied by her work at the Australian Catholic University (ACU).

From the 1990s, Aunty Joan delivered lectures in Indigenous Spirituality and Culture Studies for the Diploma in Indigenous Education, Bachelor of Education Primary (Indigenous Studies) and Associate Degree in Business (Indigenous Studies). 

She also taught the compulsory subject on Indigenous cultures for mainstream students enrolled in the Bachelor of Education – Primary.

In May 2012, Aunty Joan was awarded ACU’s highest honour, Doctor of the University, for her contribution in the field of Aboriginal education, reconciliation and justice for Indigenous Australian peoples.

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