Aunty Joyce Donovan

Honorary Doctor of Letters

Citation delivered by Professor Patricia M. Davidson, Vice-Chancellor and President at the University of Wollongong on the occasion of the admission of Joyce Evelyn Donovan as a Doctor of Letters (honoris causa) on 1 November 2023.

Deputy Chancellor, I present Aunty Joyce Donovan.

For over 55 years, Aunty Joyce has worked tirelessly to advance healthcare, education, human rights and social justice for First Nations peoples, and to foster reconciliation and inclusivity.

A proud Wodi and Dharawal Elder, Aunty Joyce is a respected cultural knowledge-holder, cultural mentor and a strong advocate of empowerment through voice.

Born on the Aboriginal mission in La Perouse, Sydney, she didn’t attend high school but later actively sought educational opportunities, completing a Diploma in Aboriginal Studies and Health Science at Cumberland College to become an Enrolled Nurse in 1992.

Aunty Joyce spent over three decades as an Indigenous Nurse and Aboriginal Health Education Advocate throughout the Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District. She has contributed greatly to advancing Aboriginal healthcare, including developing the innovative Narinya Grief and Trauma Healing Program to transform approaches to grief and intergenerational trauma.

Driven to break the silence around child sexual abuse and aid victims and communities to heal, she led a movement that united thousands of Indigenous and non-Indigenous people to raise their voices and seek change. She remains a central figure for communities as they seek support, healing, and safe spaces.

Aunty Joyce has been widely recognised for her exceptional dedication and impact. She was named NSW Local Hero in the 2008 Australian of the Year Awards, was a finalist for Aboriginal Woman of the Year in 2017, and received a University of Technology Sydney Reconciliation Human Rights Award in 2007.

A survivor of abuse, Aunty Joyce is a passionate believer in the power of education to break the cycle of poverty and plays a pivotal role in strengthening the University’s relationship with our First Nations communities. She has worked to with hundreds of local high school students teaching them cultural knowledge, lead workshops, and welcomed staff, students and visitors to Country. She also provides cultural support in academia, is a member of UOW’s Community Engagement Reference Group, and is prominent community champion for Woolyungah, UOW’s Indigenous Strategy, and for UOW as a safe place to work and study.

Deputy Chancellor, Aunty Joyce Donovan continues to demonstrate a lifelong commitment to empowering First Nations Australians and the wider community to create a better, more equitable future for all.

It is a privilege to present Aunty Joyce Donovan for a Doctor of Letters, honoris causa.