Today we heard the sad news about the passing of Joan Kirner AM, Victoria’s first and only woman premier. We have been sharing stories in the office and would like to repeat some here in memorial of Joan.
‘I worked in the Women’s Policy Coordination Unit in Premier’s Department in the early 1990s when Joan Kirner was Premier and I remember attending a Reclaim the Night march. Joan walked around talking to each of the women who worked in government-funded women’s agencies; she knew everyone’s names and where they worked and treated them so personally. About fifteen years later I saw Joan at a forum and figured I’d re-introduce myself but she saw me and said, “Robyn Gregory! I hear you’re at Women’s Health West and you’ve just written a PhD on abortion? You need to get that published, let’s talk about who you need to talk to…”
What always struck me about Joan was her drive to improve the lot of all women. She truly embodied the phrase “the personal is political”. Her great skill was to remember women, to support them to lead work and collaborate to change the conditions for all, and then to go about the task of linking them together. It was never about Joan; never about ego; it was always about equity and justice for women. She inspired us at Women’s Health West – as a passionate “westy” and a great leader.’
– Robyn Gregory, CEO WHW
‘The WHW crisis accommodation refuge property is named after Joan – called ‘Joan’s Place’. This is still its official name in all our dealings with Department of Health Human Services (DHHS). We have a wonderful photo of the opening of Joan’s Place taken with her and the original board (in the early 80s) on the wall at the property.’
– Sophie Campbell, WHW Crisis Accommodation Services Coordinator
In 2010 we were delighted when Joan agreed to launch Preventing Violence Together, the western region action plan to prevent violence against women. She’s pictured at the launch with members of the Western Region Preventing Violence Against Women Working Group
‘I was lucky enough to hear speeches from this amazing woman. A number of years ago she was at the launch of Preventing Violence Together. She was not able to get onto the stage at that time due to illness but she held the room from where she stood with a speech inspiring all. When most would have looked at taking it easy and retiring, the lists of what she was involved in at the time was daunting. I also remember when she was in state politics many years ago and the flak she received from the media and the boys club that was politics at the time. She rose above all and did not receive the credit she deserved. She is one of the many women who have inspired me to advocate for women and children.’
– Evelyn, WHW Family Violence Worker
Robyn Gregory and Joan Kirner with the history book
We were proud to have Joan introduce WHW’s 21 year history book, REtroSPECT. Joan ended her introduction to the book with congratulations to Women’s Health West’s on 21 years, and a ‘birthday wish’. It seems appropriate to use her own words to conclude this memorial, as surely this was also her wish, and captures the zeal that stands as her legacy. Vale Joan Kirner AM.
‘And now for a twenty-first birthday wish. Let’s mark this occasion by making new commitments to achieving even greater advances in gender equity, diversity, social inclusion and the elimination of poverty for women over the next twenty-one years.
We know we can do it’.
– Joan Kirner, AM
AGM and REtroSPECT launch, November 2009