Joyce Clague a woman of her people
A PUBLIC exhibition celebrating the story of prominent Yaegl elder and long-time activist Joyce Clague MBE will be held at the Woolitji Centre (the former Uniting Church) in Ulmarra today and tomorrow as part of NAIDOC Week.
The exhibition is a response to the 2018 NAIDOC theme Because of Her We Can and has a particular cogency as it is also Joyce's 80th birthday this month.
Born on Ulgundahi Island in 1938, the daughter of Glen and Hilda Mercy (Randall), Joyce left the Clarence in the mid- 1950s intent on pursuing a nursing career at St Margaret's Hospital in Sydney.
Family responsibilities diverted Joyce from this goal but triggered other opportunities for her to exercise the "fire in the belly" to seek social justice for her people through land rights, education, housing and employment opportunity.
Joyce was also a strong campaigner for the 1967 referendum to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and served the world community as a Commissioner of the World Council of Churches Program 'Combat Racism' and the Australian community as an executive member of FCAATSI.
She took her political and social activism to the Northern Territory community, becoming its first Aboriginal woman candidate for public office by initiating a wide-ranging voter education and enrolment program. She did this as a member of the committee chaired by the late Yami Lester that established the Institute for Aboriginal Development.
Joyce also served the NSW community as the inaugural Welfare Officer employed at the Foundation for Aboriginal Affairs, as a member of Neville Wran's inaugural NSW Women's Advisory Council.
She was an adviser to the Minister for Co-operatives and assistant to the NSW Ombudsman during the inquiry into the Operation Sue police raids in Redfern.
Joyce was the first Aboriginal member of the Australian Museum Trust, serving as deputy chair of the NSW Ministerial Task Force on Aboriginal Culture and Heritage.
She was a foundation member of the NSW Aboriginal Land Council and an advocate to the ACTU Lend Lease Foundation promoting group training housing developments in NSW Aboriginal communities as well as chair of the NSW ALP Aboriginal Affairs Policy Committee.
Here in her home nations on the Northern Rivers, Joyce served her peoples as the formation secretary/manager of Nungera Co-operative and as a member of the Council of the Northern Rivers College of Advanced Education where she was formation chairperson of the Institute for Aboriginal Community Education.
She was also integral in the formation of the Yaegl Local Aboriginal Land Council and as co-claimant with her esteemed cousin the late Della Walker for Yaegl Native Title Claim No 1.
The exhibition recounting Joyce Clague's exceptional life will feature audio visual and documentary material as well as memorabilia tracking her life and experiences from her childhood on Ulgundahi Island through to her retirement to a quiet life on her beloved Yaegl country.
Joyce's contributions to the rights of Indigenous people was acknowledged on Saturday at a function when she was joined by around 100 guests including family, friends and her former associates from the 1950/60s who travelled to be there.
Uncle Ron Heron welcomed guests while Wiradjuri elder Ray Peckham travelled from Dubbo to recount his memories from the 1950s and the early years of campaigning for Aboriginal rights with the Aborigines Progressive Association, Aboriginal Australian Fellowship and Foundation for Aboriginal Affairs where he first met Joyce.
The exhibition Because of her: Joyce's story will be open to the public at the Woolitji
Centre (Cnr. River St and Pacific Highway, Ulmarra) today 2pm to 6pm and Wednesday, 12 noon to 4pm.