January 25, 2024

Vale Joan Coxsedge

“The worst thing, the very worst thing that can happen to a society is silence. A killer of democracy.”

– Joan Coxsedge

Joan Coxsedge_Third from left_Image by Shuttermain_Women Art & Politics 2014

Joan Coxsedge – third from left, Image by Shuttermain “Women Art & Politics” 2014

Footscray Community Arts celebrates the life of Joan Coxsedge, Life Member and previous Chair of Footscray Community Arts. Joan died on 14 January 2024, at the age of 93 and is survived by her three children and their families. 

She was magnificent.

Joan loved the west and was involved with community groups and projects. She served as a Board Member of the Footscray Community Arts (1980-98) and Chair of Board (1990-93); Board Member of West Theatre (1989-90) and Chair of End Child Prostitution in Asian Tourism (1993-98).

Following her almost two-decade service as a Board member, Joan maintained a relationship with Footscray Community Arts, including mentoring younger women as part of the Women, Art and Politics program across 2014 and 2015.

Joan became a professional artist in the 1960s and held four exhibitions of pen and wash drawings of historic buildings, including Footscray Community Arts. She was commissioned by the Builders’ Labourers’ Federation to draw Green Bans buildings around Australia in 1975.

Famous as a member of the Save Our Sons Movement which opposed Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War, she went to jail in 1971 for her anti-conscription activities. She campaigned against the Croatian terrorist movement Ustashi in the early 1970s, opposed secret service organisations and was founding Chairman of the Committee for the Abolition of Political Police in 1973.

A member of the Australian Labor Party from 1967, she stood unsuccessfully for the Legislative Assembly seat of Balwyn in 1973 and stood for pre-selection in Richmond in 1976 against the Leader of the Opposition, Clyde Holding. She eventually became the first Labor woman to be elected to the Victorian Legislative Council as the Member for Melbourne West Province in July 1979 and served until 1992. While in office she wrote and produced the newsletter Hard Facts for Hard Times from her Footscray office, in which she offered a left view of current local, national and international events.

Joan was born in Ballarat, daughter of Roy Rochester, a Clerk and Marjorie Gordon. She was educated at Ormond State School, Gardenvale Central School and MacRobertson Girls’ High School.

Her family said of her: “Joan was a rebel, a fighter for many causes, a woman who endeavoured to create a more equitable and just world. Joan lived a rich life of political activism, art, travel and writing.”

We will miss her.