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Joan Winch (Heath) was born in Perth, Western Australia, on the 9th June 1935, and grew up in the Fremantle area. Her mother was taken from Martu country in 1906 and her father's family was from Menang country; she had two brothers.
The innovative and internationally acclaimed education programs that she has established focus on preventative and holistic medicine and community participation, integrating Indigenous practices and values. Joan began her nursing career at 17 years and eventually became a triple certificated nurse. She graduated from Curtin University with a Bachelor of Applied Science in 1989, and after studied ophthalmology under Professor Fred Hollows at the University of New South Wales. Joan went on to achieve a Masters in Public Health and Tropical Medicine at James Cook University.
Currently, Joan has a Curtin/State Government Award to write up the history of Marr Mooditj College as a PhD. Along the way Professor Winch achieved a range of state, national, and internationals awards including the Sasakawa Health Prize for Primary Health Care from World Health Organization (1987); the Australian Medal (1989); the Ghandi, King, Ikeda Peace Award from Morehouse College in the USA (2004); Soka University (Japan) Medal (2005); and more recently the John Curtin Medal (2008) for her contribution to society with community field work. Joan has published many papers and has been a keynote speaker at conferences in Australia and overseas.