Joyce Newton has Motor Neurone Disease (MND) and now communicates by email and whiteboard. Via her daughter, Jennifer, Gay Liddington learnt about a woman whose unstoppable efforts helped shape Maleny.
by Gay Liddington
The eldest of three, Joyce Ann Eisnaugle was born in 1949 in Ohio, USA. Her childhood was one of piano lessons, Sunday school, choir and Girl Scouts.
Joyce’s school years were an educational adventure. During grades 4 – 6 she went to summer school for two years to learn Spanish. She recollects: “In junior high I wanted to be a doctor, entered a science fair project on genetics and won!”
A ’straight A’ student in high school, Joyce was accepted into Miami University, Ohio. In December ’71 she travelled to Athens, Greece to complete her student teaching as a high school science teacher at an American Community School.
“After touchdown at Milan airport, my two girlfriends and I met a tall, handsome Kiwi. His name was Gregory Philip Newton. He decided to see what Americans do overseas, came with us and stayed for two days.
“On the last night he proposed saying he was going to have a farm in Australia one day. He asked if I wanted to come and live with him on the farm. I said, yes!”
Greg and Joyce Newton immigrated to Australia in July 1974. A month later they found their way to Maleny.
“Colin Cork showed us some farms for sale. Our parents loaned us start-up money and the farmer let us pay off the rest. Greg milked 25 cows in the first milking but could not fill the two-gallon bucket.
“You could see through the floorboards to the ground in our farmhouse but it was cool in summer. In winter, I used the oven to warm my hands so I could type.
“They took bets in town as to how long we would last but didn’t count on the Education Department hiring me to teach at the Maleny State School.
“We lived on the other side of the Obi Obi Creek with a cement crossing. When it flooded I had to use a flying fox to get to the school bus. It terrified me. I used to turn up to school in gumboots and jeans with my clothes in a bag. Later, Greg built a swinging bridge which made it a bit easier.”
Four children completed the Newton family between 1978 and 1985. All were born in the old Maleny hospital – the youngest being the last before it closed signifying the end of hospital maternity in Maleny.
Joyce resigned from the Education Department in favour of family, then turned her attention to community matters.
“In the late 70s we started raising money for a community pool. A decision was made to put it in the school grounds since the Education Department offered the land in partnership. This was the first public/government partnership of its kind.
“Greg and I were on the committee. We raised money from talent shows, auctioning cows donated by farmers and things like ‘buy a sign on the diving blocks’. In 1983 we opened our school/community pool. The community raised $120,000.”
During the early 1980s Joyce ran the Maleny Blood Bank each month at the hospital, and with a young daughter in tow, little Jennifer handed out biscuits to those who had donated.
Relentless in her endeavours Joyce Newton was also instrumental in setting up a nursing mothers group in Maleny, followed by the establishment of a playgroup and kindergarten.
The 80s continued to be a whirlwind for Joyce.“While secretary and then vice president of Maleny Swimming Club, I worked on improving pool facilities. We built the first LTS (Learn to Swim) pool and swimming club house. I’m now an Honorary Life Member.
“I was also on the Maleny Soccer Club executive for over 10 years and awarded life membership in 1995.”
Life for the Newtons wasn’t all rose gardens and family celebrations. Their farm at Baroon Pocket was under threat with the prospect of a dam. Greg Newton formed the Baroon Pocket Landholder’s Group but to no avail.
“In 1986 Greg and I took the Water Board to the Land Court and won. We even got salvage rights. We sold our house, donated soil to the primary school to sell as a fundraiser and moved to Witta. Baroon Pocket filled with the first storm in December, 1987.”
Joyce’s tornado-like energy continued and from 1988-92 she was District Leader for Maleny Girl Guides. As president of the Maleny State School P&C she instigated ‘room mothers’ and ‘meet the teacher’s night’.
“The proudest achievement in my educational career was while teaching at Maleny High School. We implemented RTC (Responsible Thinking Classroom). Children were not told how to act but taught how to think about their actions. This was transformative for the culture of the high school and is still used today.
“In ’98 as president of Maleny High School P&C, I helped finish fundraising and drawing up of plans for the Maleny Indoor Activities Centre and saw it to completion.”
Due to a downturn in the dairy industry the Newtons bought a sheep/beef property in Tenterfield. Joyce didn’t want to leave Maleny and struck a bargain with her husband to return in five years.
After being honoured with Citizen of the Year Award by Caloundra City Council in 1999 Joyce Newton graduated from USQ the following year with a Masters in Educational Guidance Counselling.
Joyce thrived on committees and in 2005 was elected onto the Maleny Community Centre Management Committee which led to her input on the building sub-committee. She also contributed to the Council’s Cultural Precinct Study but left in favour of her interest in politics.
“In 1986, I founded the Maleny/Conondale women’s branch of the National Party.” Joyce became secretary of the Glasshouse State Electoral Council, then Chair from 2008 until May 2017.Greg and Joyce are Honorary Life Members of the LNP.
In various ways Joyce was a driving force behind the Maleny Community Precinct which planned to include an aquatic facility. In 2014, Maleny and District Indoor Aquatic and Fitness Centre steering committee was formed.
“I re-joined the Maleny Girl Guide’s Support Group early in 2016. Grants were obtained and money raised through raffles to remove asbestos and refurbish the hut. The group honoured my years of service with a ‘Golden Friend of Guiding’ award.”
In February 2017, Joyce was diagnosed with MND and lost the ability to speak. However, always one to meet a challenge she progresses with the support of her husband and family.
An adoring grandparent of six, Joyce is now an executive on the ‘grandchildren committee’. She can be found at swimming and soccer carnivals, theatre and class presentations and of course grandparent’s day at school.
Joyce Newton, a woman whose unrelenting drive made a difference. One whose grandmother was half Shawnee Indian, seems to be encapsulated in this native American Indian quote:
A strong woman knows she has strength for the journey, but a woman of strength knows it is in the journey where she will be strong.