GLASGOW girl Joan Hillman has become leader of the Western Australia Jewish community.
The 68-year-old was elected Jewish Community Council of Western Australia Council president on Sunday, having previously been Maccabi WA president. She is only the second female president of the council.
Joan (nee Regan) emigrated to Perth from Glasgow with her husband, David, and their two children in 1981.
The couple divorced in 1989 when the children were 13 and 11 and she found herself looking for a challenge.
“In those days, they had interstate Maccabi Games and people came from all over Australia,” Joan said.
“I went to see a friend playing hockey and thought the whole event was marvellous. Afterwards, I contacted the Maccabi president and asked if I could become involved.
“I was elected onto the executive as PR and that was the start.
“I’ve been with Maccabi, with a five-year break, until now. I was an executive director for 11 years and part of three Games, taking teams to Melbourne and Sydney.
“I sat on the Maccabi Australia Board for almost 30 years in a variety of senior roles, mostly on the sports front.
“Australia is such a sports-orientated country and the Jewish community is no different.”
Joan stepped away from Maccabi for five years around 2009, becoming JCCWA secretary.
She kept her Maccabi link by going to the Games as a manager. She returned to Maccabi as president three years ago, before being approached by two JCCWA past presidents to head up the organisation.
Communal work came naturally to Joan.
“It all started when I was 13,” she said. “My late father, Len, said that I should get involved in helping others.
“I was a member of JLGB, JNF and Aviv WIZO. I do a lot of other community work in Perth, too.
“When I came here, there were probably around 4,500 members of the community. Now the figure has doubled and there are a lot of South Africans and some Glaswegians, too.
“We’ve got WIZO, UJIA, JNF, Jewish Care, a home, a Jewish school for children from kindergarten right through high school and five shuls.
“There’s a Jewish centre, the National Council of Jewish Women, chevra kadisha and the Maccabean Newspaper.”
Joan’s daughter, Caroline, is an ABC journalist in Adelaide and her son, Martin, is a software engineer in Perth. She has a partner of 22 years, Australian-born Ian, who is also very involved in the community.
Talking about her new role, Joan said: “My first couple of months will include ANZAC Day, Yom Hashoah, Yom Hazikaron and Yom Ha’atzmaut, so they are going to be huge.
“I will also be on the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, which comes together once a year in Melbourne or Sydney.
“It will be a big challenge, but I’m really looking forward to it. I’m sure it will be very different, but rewarding.”