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Aboriginal Australian activist and poet, Joy Janaka Wiradjuri Williams (1942-2006), was in children’s homes during her childhood.

A Wiradjuri woman, Joy Williams was born Eileen Williams to Doretta Williams. She was removed from her Aboriginal family at the Erambie Mission at Cowra in New South Wales when she was a tiny baby and taken to Bomaderry Home near Nowra, around 335 km south-east of Cowra.

At the age of six, Joy was transferred to Lutanda Children’s Home in Wentworth Falls, 228 km north of Nowra. After the founder of Lutanda—Florence Dalwood—died in 1949, Lutanda (and Joy Williams) was relocated to a newly built orphanage on suburban Boundary Road at Pennant Hills,

Until the move to Lutanda, Joy’s mother was allowed to visit. Thereafter, the Aboriginal Welfare Board decided it was preferable for Joy to have no “further Aboriginal influences”.

Joy remembered being ashamed when she discovered her Aboriginality. She also suffered numerous beatings at the hands of Lutanda staff, on one occasion fracturing her wrist and collar bone (Brian).

Whereas many other Aboriginal girls were sent to Cootamundra Aboriginal Girls’ Home to train as domestic servants, Joy—because of her light skin—was able to go to the local high school and was sent to train as a nurses’ aid at age sixteen.

During the 1970s Joy Williams enrolled at Wollongong University to do a Bachelor of Arts where she became interested in Black Literature. She also become involved in the Royal Commission into Black Deaths in Custody and in other Aboriginal community groups.

Joy Williams was the first member of the Stolen Generations to try her case in court. She alleged negligence on the part of the Aboriginal Welfare Board of NSW for being removed from her mother and because of the abuse she suffered in the children’s homes.

By the time her case reached trial in the Supreme Court in April this year, Williams was one of the most widely known stolen generations activists in NSW. Coral Edward and Peter Read devoted a chapter of their 1989 book, The Lost Children, to her story. In interviews, Williams identified herself as a victim of genocide, saying she had been taken from her mother “purely on the grounds of race” only hours after her birth. She described the Lutanda Children’s Home as a dehumanising horror in which missionaries beat her, sedated her with morphine, subjected her to sexual abuse and only ever referred to her as “Girl 4” (Guilliatt).

After eleven years in court, Joy Williams lost her case in August 1999, and lost an appeal in 2001.

Joy Williams’ poetry appears in over sixty-five publications.


Brian, Bernie. “Joy fights for all the stolen children.” Green Left Weekly, September 29, 1993.

“Bomaderry Aboriginal Children’s Home (1908 – 1980).” Find & Connect, 2011.

“Joy Williams Biography.” Austlit Database.

White, Annie. “Joy Williams loses her stolen Generations case.” The World Today, ABC Radio, 26 August 1999.

“Lutanda Children’s Home (1930 – 1984).” Find & Connect, 2021.

Guilliatt, Richard. “Their day in court.” The Sydney Morning Herald, November 20, 1999.

Image available here.