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Queen's Birthday Honours for Sr. Joan Healy

June 09, 2014

In receiving this reward, Joan hopes that others who have worked side-by-side with her will know that it was for them that she allowed her name to go forward. ‘This is for all of us’, she said,  ‘I am trying to tell journalists that what I have been trying to live is a spirit shared by many others and I show them the history of the ninety nine Sisters who were here before me in Footscray’.

In almost 50 years since her profession Joan has been involved in teaching, social apostolate, and supporting those who live in the Josephite spirit in partnerships for justice, for development and for education in Australia and overseas.

Joan was heartened by the words Sr Kerrie Cusack, Regional Leader who wrote: 'Congratulations, Joan, and all the Sisters you represent from all those years of caring for children and families, advocating for essential change, being a friend of refugees, our Indigenous brothers and sisters, new arrivals, local schools and, not to omit, those years in leadership’.

During the past 92 years Josephites have taught in St. John's school across the road from the West Footscray Convent. Now Joan is involved there in a project to honour the role of parents as educators of their children. Named 'Family School Partnerships' , this project  builds community between the teachers, the parents and the community surrounding St John's School. There is an opportunity to be creative in exploring every means to achieve this. The development of each child is the central concern. This is both is both satisfying and challenging in a school that brings together many cultures: Indigenous Australians, Australians who have been in this country for many generations and newly arrived migrants from every region of the world. Joan says, ‘The newly arrived are by far the majority’.

Joan spent a lot of time in the past  working with refugees in the camps in Cambodia.  Three years ago she was travelling in Cambodia with a young man who was born during her time in Site 2 Refugee Camp. 'Tell me about the camp', Raksmey said. He was 21 years old at the time and like other Cambodians whose parents’ lives are shadowed with tragedy,  he desperately needed to know ‘everything’. Joan has used spare moments, early mornings and late nights, to gather what she wrote during a quarter century friendship with his family.

The saga of Raksmey’s family was intertwined with stories of other families who remain Joan’s friends. From journals and letters she wove the stories into a manuscript and last January she brought this back to the families; it is theirs. They were glad of it and would like to see it published. Thim said, ‘If these things hadn’t happened I wouldn’t be me.’

Joan says, 'The book is pretty much finished and after careful reflection I am looking for the right publisher for it. It is not my story; it is the story of individual people whose lives continue to be lived courageously in very difficult times'.