Gone Home: In memory of Joan Elliston AM

17 March 2022

It’s with great sadness that Girl Guides NSW, ACT & NT acknowledge the passing of Mrs Joan Elliston AM. Joan’s decades-long service to the Guiding community was immensely valuable and impactful, and she leaves behind a series of accomplishments and contributions that to this day, have benefitted the Guiding movement and more broadly, the plight for women’s rights and social justice, in huge and lasting ways. 

Joan’s Guiding journey began in Tasmania in 1941, where she was a Guide before becoming a Cadet, Ranger and then Guide Leader. Throughout her career, Joan exalted a tenacity which benefited Guiding at State and National levels, far and wide.
While being an active and energetic contributor to Guiding, Joan became a research assistant in the Geology Department of the University of Tasmania. Later, she married a Geologist and moved from Hobart to Tennant Creek, Northern Territory, where her and her family resided for about 12 years. While at Tennant Creek, Joan was a Brownie Leader from 1960 to 1968. 

After moving to Sydney, Joan became District Commissioner at Northbridge and in 1974, was appointed Brownie Adviser for NSW, a role which complimented her work as Assistant Brownie Leader. 

In 1981, Joan along with four others, represented Australia at the World Association of Girl Guides and Girls Scouts’ (WAGGGS) 24th World Conference in France. Joan’s involvement in advancing women’s rights and freedoms in Australian society was marked too by her term as President of the National Council of Women NSW, where she also previously served as Delegate for Girl Guides NSW, ACT & NT on the NCW NSW Executive Committee. Joan was a passionate activist and changemaker, lobbying for better representation of women in Federal and NSW Parliaments, and spreading awareness of the NCWA’s work in fighting for women’s welfare and social justice in our country, and abroad. 
From 1983 to 1988, Joan served as the NSW State Commissioner. Joan’s precision and analytical mind proved enormously valuable for Guiding, particularly in the areas of program evaluation, finance and constitutions, to name a few. Joan was also author of the publication, Why Guiding, which is still living in our Archives today. 

Joan’s service to Guiding was recognised by one of the highest, most prestigious awards in the Guiding program, the Red Kangaroo, presented by Lady Angela Carrick AO, an esteemed Australian, selfless volunteer, and previous Chief Commissioner of Girl Guides Australia in 1988. Joan also received the Wattle and Emu prior to and during, her term as State Commissioner. 

From 1997-2003, Joan served as National Adviser, Human Rights for the NCWA and is commended for her significant contribution to the Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women (SRVAW) – the first independent human rights mechanism on the elimination of violence against women. Joan wrote the 10 Year Review of Progress made in Australia, “Violence Against Women – Its causes and consequences” for reporting to the 59th Session on the UN Commission on Human Rights. The Rapporteur was a monumental step toward ensuring violence against women was integrated into the United Nations human rights framework and its mechanisms. 

In her later years at NCWA, Joan served as a Board Member and later in 2006, as National Adviser for Music. Among her many achievements in the Guiding world and more broadly in the plight for women’s rights and equal opportunity, Joan loved to play golf and bridge, and was very interested in music. 

Joan Elliston’s funeral will take place on Friday 25 March at St James Church, King Street, Sydney. The service will begin at 10am. 

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