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Joan Tuxen (1917 – 2010)

Joan Tuxen circa 1940s

Joan ascribes her early interest in social work to the influence of her father and her paternal grandmother, both of whom were interested and active in addressing social welfare concerns. Her father was an engineer and town planner interested in slum reclamation in inner Melbourne; Joan used to help him map these areas. He was also an original member of the executive of the newly formed Brotherhood of St Laurence, and it was at meetings at the Brotherhood that her father met Jocelyn Hyslop, the new Head of the School of Social Work at the University of Melbourne, and learned about this new profession. Very interested, Joan applied and completed the two-year course in 1938, followed by successful completion of the Certificate of the Institute of Almoners at the end of 1939.

Joan states that her professional interest always lay in the field of rehabilitation. Her first job, which began on January 1, 1940, was with the Victorian Society for Crippled Children. After 18 months, the Executive Director of VSCC, Marian Urquhart, moved to the Australian Red Cross to establish its Rehabilitation Service, and Joan became Executive Director at VSCC. After a further 18 months she was invited to join Red Cross to be trained to take over as Director of the Victorian Division. She stayed with Red Cross until 1947, when she resigned to travel overseas to England and Scotland, seeking locum positions where she could get more casework experience to complement her early administrative responsibilities back in Australia.

In 1950 Joan was invited to return to the Victorian Society for Crippled Children and Adults as its Director; she accepted this invitation, and remained Director of VSCCA, renamed Yooralla Society in 1977, until she retired in 1980.

In 1953 she won a scholarship to travel to the USA to look at the role of consultants in social work practice. She became a Student at Large at the University of Chicago, spending three days a week with the Medical Social Work Consultant in the Illinois Crippled Children’s Division of their Health Department. After nine months in Chicago, Joan spent a further nine months visiting different states, making contact with the Medical Social Work Consultants and learning the different ways in which voluntary and government agencies were working together for the wellbeing of crippled children. On her return to Melbourne Joan became active in both national and international organizations that focused on rehabilitation. She was influential in the development of sheltered workshops in Victoria, and constantly sought to change conditions to allow greater independence to people with disabilities.

After her retirement in 1980, Joan was a member of a number of committees such as the Victorian Post Secondary Education Commission. At the time of the interview in August 1996 she was working as a volunteer with the Victorian Court Information and Referral Network.

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