Aunty Joan Tranter, a Murri woman from Wakka Wakka country in Queensland, has been a valued member of the UTS community since 1996 and was the inaugural UTS Elder in Residence. 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. As UTS’s longest serving Indigenous staff member, Aunty Joan Tranter was instrumental in developing Indigenous education, employment, and reconciliation policies at UTS.

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.

In this portrait by the artist Jane Nicol, Aunty Joan wears the possum skin cloak made for her by Professor Michael McDaniel, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Indigenous Leadership and Engagement). The making and wearing of badhang wilay, made from brushtail possum pelts, is a traditional practice with strong emotional and spiritual resonance for Aboriginal people from south-eastern Australia. The cured skins are embellished with pokerwork designs that speak of the status, place, and identity of the wearer. Upon her retirement, Aunty Joan donated the cloak to UTS to be displayed alongside her portrait.

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

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.