Joan’s Lo­giewin­ning ca­reer

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JOAN Disher was the most pop­u­lar tele­vi­sion pre­sen­ter in the early years of Ade­laide tele­vi­sion. Later, and re­mar­ried, she would be­come an aca­demic an­thro­pol­o­gist and ed­u­ca­tor in the US.

Joan was born to John and Ida Matthew. Her brother died of gas­troen­teri­tis when she was just a year old, and when she was nine her fa­ther died, aged 36, of the ef­fects of hav­ing been gassed in World War I. Her older sis­ter died of menin­gi­tis the fol­low­ing year, 1936.

Joan said de­spite her early ac­quain­tance with death, she nat­u­rally loved life.

She was at Un­ley High when war broke out, and be­gan univer­sity in 1942 study­ing arts. In 1943 she met den­tal stu­dent Ian Disher at a Univer­sity Ball held at the Ade­laide Rail­way Sta­tion. They mar­ried the fol­low­ing year.

Ian served in Bougainvil­le, and af­ter he was de­mobbed, he prac­tised as a ru­ral den­tist. Just a month af­ter the birth of their third child, Jamie, in 1957, he was killed in a car crash.

Joan be­gan work at My­ers be­fore be­ing in­ducted into the tele­vi­sion in­dus­try, as com­pere of a shop­ping show on Chan­nel 9, shortly af­ter it be­gan broad­cast­ing. By 1961 she was com­pere and an­nouncer, and be­came the first woman to win a Lo­gie in SA as the most pop­u­lar fe­male per­son­al­ity.

In 1965 she moved over to Chan­nel 2, where she was an ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer and pre­sen­ter of SAM, a weekly cur­rent af­fairs pro­gram sim­i­lar to This Day Tonight.

She met many lead­ing per­son­al­i­ties of the era, and most trea­sured her in­ter­view with Sir John Giel­gud.

In 1966 she be­came a re­search of­fi­cer for the ABC’s na­tional Four Cor­ners pro­gram.

In the mean­time her SAM in­ter­view with the US an­thro­pol­o­gist Pro­fes­sor John Green­way, of Colorado Univer­sity, had led to her be­ing courted by him. They mar­ried in Sydney in 1966 with two taxi driv­ers as wit­nesses.

In Colorado, with her youngest daugh­ter Jamie, Joan was able to re­sume her aca­demic stud­ies. She took a BA and then a Mas­ters in An­thro­pol­ogy at the Univer­sity of Colorado, com­plet­ing her doc­tor­ate in 1970. Her sub­ject was So­cial As­pects of Cul­ture Change, and her field work was con­ducted at Groote Eylandt, off the north coast of Aus­tralia.

She even­tu­ally spoke English, French, Pit­jan­t­jat­jara and the Wanindilya­ugwa lan­guage of Groote Eylandt.

In that time she had also acted as a con­sul­tant to the Fed­eral Min­is­ter of Abo­rig­i­nal Af­fairs, Bill Went­worth.

She was marked as an ex­tra­or­di­nary woman on Groote Eylandt af­ter sleep­ing soundly on a re­mote is­land beach and wak­ing in the morn­ing to find her 23 Abo­rig­i­nal com­pan­ions, who had wisely cho­sen to sleep fur­ther in­land, look­ing on in awe. In the night, a 5m saltwa- ter croc­o­dile had walked up to her and rested part of its body next to her head be­fore head­ing back into the wa­ter.

Years later in Cal­i­for­nia, she per­formed the pow­er­ful fer­til­ity song and dance of the Groote Eylandt women for a stu­dent who had not been able to be­come preg­nant.

Four other women in the fac­ulty also be­came preg­nant, none of them planned.

“Ap­par­ently I hadn’t fo­cused my per­for­mance quite enough,” she said.

In 1971 she was ap­pointed an as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor at the Cal­i­for­nia Polytech­nic State Univer­sity, and held many other aca­demic po­si­tions, be­com­ing a full pro­fes­sor in 1981 and a pro­fes­sor emer­i­tus in 1988.

In 1975 she was named Out­stand­ing Ed­u­ca­tor of Amer­ica.

John Green­way died in 1991 and Joan mar­ried Eliot Full in 1998. Full was a re­tired tele­vi­sion sta­tion owner who had de­vel­oped ca­ble tele­vi­sion in Iowa, so she was com­plet­ing a cir­cle of sorts. Joan died of heart fail­ure just a few days short of her 90th birth­day.

De­spite her early ac­quain­tance with death, she nat­u­rally loved life

TV TIMES: Joan Green­way, inset, with Kevin Crease dur­ing a pro­mo­tion on Ade­laide Tonight in the early 1960s.

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