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A life spent giving

A life spent giving 

Many Probus members will be familiar with Joyce Goodman’s commitment to community and her recent OAM award is testament to her acts of service. But what you may not know is that Joyce’s community spirit started at a young age.

Joyce Goodman has done a lot for the Probus community.

She was the founder and inaugural President of the Canberra Lakes Ladies Probus Club, and has been actively involved with Probus for many years. But, her recent Medal of the Order of Australia has highlighted the true extent of her altruism, which goes beyond the extensive work that she has done for Probus.

Starting young

Joyce’s instinct to help the people around her started at a young age.

“My father did shift work and my mother was taking care of three children. You just automatically did things,” she recalls.

Her sense of responsibility was amplified when, during the fraught days of World War II, Joyce, her mother and brothers were sent away from their hometown in regional Queensland.

“My father was an engineer and part of the civilian militia,” she recalls. “He came home one day and said to my mother, ‘I’ve booked you and the children on a train in two weeks’ time. You’re going to your parents in Sydney’.”

Later, Joyce realised why her father was so concerned about them being in Queensland.

“I realised later that Darwin had been bombed” she recalls.

After the war ended the family returned to Queensland, but the family’s wartime experiences stayed with Joyce. She joined the Royal Australian Air Force when she turned 21.

Joyce and a friend signed up, and completed their training in Point Cook, Victoria. From there, she was appointed to RAAF Base Laverton in senior secretarial positions – including work with Boards of Enquiry.

Married life

Soon after she joined the RAAF she met her husband, Len. From the outset their marriage was characterised by a mutual desire to give back to their community.

“My husband was an electrician when I met him,” she explains, “and had been offered the opportunity to  become a partner in his firm. But he belonged to the YMCA. One day he heard there was a vacancy, and charged off into the executive's office and said I’d like to do this job.” 

“And, of course, he did this just after we were married and earned the amazing figure of 10 pounds per week to work at the YMCA. We were newly married and building a house!”

It was a set of circumstances that might inspire frustration in some people but Joyce has a fondness for the frugal start to their marriage.

“You learn to economise and do all these amazing things,” she says. “What fun.”

Throughout the course of her husband’s career Joyce was an invaluable support, balancing her own career in the Department of Immigration, Local Government and Ethnic Affairs as a Typist rising to be Department’s Keyboard Coordinator with more than 100 staff.

“I was always heavily involved in whatever he did, even though I was working full time,” she recalls.

“I was always an unpaid secretary. I did that for donkey’s years, I think 35 years. I helped in youth camping. When we had boys camping I always went on as a camp mum. Wherever we were, we had youth groups and I was always the mum in charge of the girls camping. It was all unpaid. It seems rather incredible today.”

In addition to their work at the YMCA, Len and Joyce were also heavily involved in a number of other community initiatives, including Diabetes Australia, Canberra Museum and Gallery, Burgmann College at the Australian National University, SnowyHydro South Care and, of course, Probus.

Despite spending her life giving back, Joyce remains humble about her accomplishments.

“It’s been a marvellous ride, and I’m so grateful to be 84 and still in reasonable health.

“We’re living in a retirement resort now, as of a year ago, and we’re just fortunate people.”