Respected Indigenous elder and former pupil of Brisbane’s Lourdes Hill College, Aunty Joan Hendriks, has been awarded the Australian Catholic University’s (ACU) highest honour, Doctor of the University.
A Ngugi woman of one of the three clan groups of the Quandamooka People of Moreton Bay, Aunty Joan received the award earlier this month (May 4) for her contribution as an Indigenous elder and educator in the field of Aboriginal education, reconciliation and justice for Indigenous Australian peoples.
Speaking to The Good Oil this week, Aunty Joan said she was “gob-smacked” when she discovered she was receiving the ACU award. “I was just blown out of my tree,” she said.
Aunty Joan attended school at Saints Peter and Pauls, Bulimba and Lourdes Hill College, Hawthorne, where 60 years later she is now the respected Elder in Residence.
She graduated with an Associate Diploma in Aboriginal and Islander Welfare Studies from TAFE in 1986. In 1998 she gained a Diploma of Adult Vocational Education from Griffith University, and in 2008 she graduated from ACU with a Master of Arts (Theology).
Aunty Joan has assisted with education programs in Indigenous adult vocational education for more than 23 years. As an Elder in the Murri Court at Cleveland she has greatly contributed to their understanding of issues and concerns within the Indigenous community.
Aunty Joan committed 10 years, from 1996 to 2005, to a key reconciliation program with Churches Together Aboriginal Partnership. In this role she influenced attitudes to create awareness of and preserve Indigenous culture, influence government policy, and work against discrimination to promote reconciliation and justice within the community.
Such significant contributions have not gone unnoticed. Aunty Joan has received numerous awards including ACU’s Honorary Fellowship award, the Indigenous Higher Education Consultative Council National Elder of the Year Award, and the Australian Government Centenary Medal.
Recently, Lourdes Hill College honoured Aunty Joan with its first International Women’s Day Woman of the Year award for her involvement in cultural awareness as Elder in Residence. She also received the Queensland Catholic Education Commission Inaugural Aunty Joan Hendriks Spirit of Catholic Education Reconciliation Award.
“Family is central to a life in search of holistic well-being of body, mind and spirit,” said Aunty Joan.
“My belief in heritage and a sense of belonging in the community has been the driving force in my search for meaning, and in more recent years, I have been committed to bridging the gap between Christian traditions and Aboriginal Creation spirituality.”
Aunty Joan received her honorary doctorate during ACU’s Brisbane graduation ceremony on May 4 at the Brisbane Exhibition and Convention Centre.