Joan Kirner: Mentor, friend and role model

Lisa Carey (Red dress), Senator Penny Wong, Joan Kirner ACI first met Joan in late 1995 or in 1996 when she was meeting with ALP women to talk about an organisation she was starting – EMILY’s List Australia. We met at a unit in Malvern and I was so excited to be in the same room as someone whom I had greatly admired from afar.

After working at the Synod office and then in government, I was elected to the position of Assistant State Secretary of the ALP Victorian Branch. It was here that Joan began her mentoring of me by stealth! I would get a call “Good afternoon Assistant State Secretary Lisa, Joan here…” to which I would always respond “Good afternoon former Premier Joan!”. She was a woman who supported others authentically. She knew the hard time I was having in what was quite the “boys club” and took it upon herself to regularly check in with me.

In April 2011 I was enjoying a bit of a sabbatical when a position came up to work for EMILY’s List. I jumped at the chance to work here, first as Deputy and since October 2011 as National Coordinator. Here my friendship with Joan grew as I took the role of getting more women into our parliaments.

Much has been said about Joan’s contribution to politics and the education sector and all she gave her time to. But my personal relationship with Joan was much more than that. Bishop Philip Huggins will be taking her funeral service, and in talking to him about how to describe her faith, he summed it up perfectly. She lived her life as though following the Sermon on the Mount… Some selected verses are:

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Joan and I would ramble on, talking about all sorts of things about EMILY’s List and changing the world. Sometimes our conversations would turn to our derision at hypocrisy. How can he (Tony Abbott) claim to be Christian, when he doesn’t “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”… Oh we would talk for ages!

This was a side of Joan that I didn’t know much about. She was a woman of faith – and although she did not attend church regularly in her later years (and after Bishop Huggins left the local congregation) – her faith was shown in her actions.

Joan loved young people and would always take time to talk with them (not to them). Reminding me of the way Jesus said let the children come to me. She too had great respect for younger generations.

I will greatly miss her friendship, and humour, her inspiring and true support of people, especially women.

Ron, David, Michael, Kate and their families are in my prayers.

Vale dearest Joan

Lisa Carey
National Coordinator, EMILY’s List Australia
Member, Glen Iris Road Uniting Church
UCA member National Council of Churches Executive

Image caption: Lisa Carey (Red dress), Senator Penny Wong, Joan Kirner AC.

Image courtesy of

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3 Responses to “Joan Kirner: Mentor, friend and role model”

  1. Greg Adkins

    A beautiful Eulogy! We will all cherish our memories of working with and knowing Joan and celebrate how much positive change in our society began with her vision.

  2. Lisa Stewart

    Lovely to catch a glimpse of the woman behind the public persona. A wonderful legacy of friendship alongside her considerable contribution to public life. Thoughts and prayers with you and the Emily’s List women as you farewell your founder and mentor.