Aunty Joan Tranter, a Murri woman from Wakka Wakka country in Queensland, has been a valued member of the UTS community since 1996. In 2012 she was appointed as the Inaugural Elder in Residence for Jumbunna Institute for Indigenous Education and Research at UTS. In this important role, Aunty Joan liaised with Elders across the Sydney Basin region and provided training in cultural diversity and raising awareness of legislative requirements that relate to staff and Indigenous student retention and success.

“Education has been the doorway for me. I came to it after raising my family and I believed it was the way forward for my children… I see my role as working within education systems to make changes and create space for my people. I’m people oriented and I often take the emotional perspective – looking at what it’s like to be in their shoes because I’ve been there.”

As a young woman, Aunty Joan lived under Queensland’s assimilationist and protection policies on Cherbourg Mission. These policies determined where she was permitted to live, whom she could marry and when she could leave the Mission. Despite these restrictions, Aunty Joan made her way to Sydney where she married, raised her family, and went on to complete a teaching degree and diploma in computing. Her life experience and passion for education, particularly for indigenous knowledge and reconciliation, has been an inspiration for UTS students and staff alike.

In this portrait by the artist Jane Nicol, Aunty Joan wears a possum skin cloak made by Professor Michael McDaniel, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Indigenous Leadership and Engagement). Michael has been instrumental in the resurgence of traditional cloak-making in NSW, connecting Wiradjuri ancestral practices to the present day.

As UTS’s longest serving Indigenous staff member, Aunty Joan retired from full-time employment at UTS in 2018. During her distinguished career in Indigenous education and employment, she has been awarded UTS Human Rights Reconciliation Awards and a UTS Distinguished Service Award. Aunty Joan is patron and previous co-chair of the NSW Reconciliation Council, Chair of the Aboriginal Advisory Group to Canterbury Municipal Council and recipient of the Canterbury Municipal Council’s 2011 Citizen of the Year Award.

Jane Nicol