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Joy Miriam Cairns OAM

Tasmanian Honour Roll of Women logo
Joy Cairns

Awarded for service to the Community

Born: 1945

Entered on roll: 2005

Joy Cairns attended Moonah Primary School and moved to Hobart High School as a 10 year old. Three years later, she became the youngest person to ever pass the Public Service entrance examination and started work in the Commonwealth Taxation Office.

Joining Women's Royal Australian Army Corps (CMF), Joy specialised as a training instructor and rose to the rank of Lieutenant. Married in 1964, she had three children, two born with severe intellectual disabilities, epilepsy and lymphoedema.

Distressed by the constant ostracism from community and lack of support services for people with disabilities, Joy led a delegation to Government seeking an agreement to provide basic activities and was offered funding on the condition that she coordinate the activities. In 1977, Joy started establishing programs including vacation care for children and adults, after school care, youth groups, evening social opportunities and respite for parents.

Determined to raise the status of sport and recreation for people with more severe disabilities, Joy personally established much-needed state and regional committees to support and encourage development and coordination around Tasmania.

As architect and founder of many organisations, Joy has averaged a 70-hour working week, harnessing hundreds of volunteers and supporters to provide essential services. She was the first Tasmanian elected to the National Executive of ACROD and appointed to the Disability Advisory Council of Tasmania and has held numerous positions with other disability organisations.

In 1980, Joy founded COSMOS Inc., the first recreation service in Australia specifically designed to support people with disabilities. By 1987, the service employed eight full-time and 26 part-time staff and more than 80 volunteers, providing for in excess of 650 clients. As Managing Director, Joy played an important role instigating integrated netball, basketball, extension scouts, cubs and guides, and organised training for Special Olympics in Southern Tasmania that encouraged statewide expansion.

In 1988, Joy founded AURORA Disability Services to provide vocational training opportunities. The Old Chapel tearooms and cottage craft outlet opened in 1993, enabling trainees, supported by volunteer staff, to operate a business enterprise.

Today Joy is the full-time volunteer Managing Director of AURORA, which has 263 clients, who are supported by 90 volunteers, and quietly provides a community service by supporting ageing carers.

In 1993, Joy received the Tasmanian Award for Humanitarian Activities "for her insight, initiative, dedication, commitment and advocacy for the benefit of people with disabilities".

For more than 35 years, Joy has pursued the unrelenting, selfless goal of providing for people in need and, through great adversity, she has built many organisations and created entities unsurpassed and unique within Australia. Joy’s work is the foundation for many disability service providers and she is acknowledged as an unprecedented pioneer.

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