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Biographical entry Refshauge, Joan Janet Brown (1906 - 1979)

3 December 1906
Armadale, Victoria, Australia
25 July 1979
Auchenflower, Queensland, Australia
Medical administrator and Medical practitioner


Joan Refshauge was a medical practitioner and leader in the field of public health. After an early career in teaching, she qualified in medicine and worked as a Resident Medical Officer. On joining the Department of Public Health in Papua New Guinea she was required to restrict herself to maternal and child health. Refshauge was responsible for establishing programs that became the Queen Elizabeth II infant, child and maternal health service. She liaised with the missions, initiated the training of indigenous nurses and started school health services. Over 17 years Refshauge had established over 550 central and village clinics. By the time she resigned in 1967, the incidence to polio, tuberculosis, diphtheria and whooping cough had significantly diminished or been eliminated. Refshauge returned to Queensland, becoming Deputy Director of the Maternal and Child Health Service. In 1964 she was the first women, and only the sixth person in 30 years, to be awarded the Cilento Medal for outstanding work in tropical hygiene and native welfare.



Education - DipEd, University of Melbourne Teacher Training College
1931 - 1936
Career position - Demonstrator in Chemistry, University of Melbourne
Career position - Lecturer in mathematics, Melbourne Technical College
Education - MB BS, University of Melbourne
1943 - 1946
Career position - Served with Royal Australian Army Medical Corps
1947 - 1963
Career position - Medical practitioner, Department of Public Health, Papua New Guinea
Education - Diploma of Public Health, University of Sydney
Award - Cilento Medal, Australian Institute of Anatomy
Award - Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for services in Papua New Guinea
1964 - 1968
Career position - Medical practitioner, Maternal and Child Health Service, Queensland
1968 - 1978
Career position - Deputy Director, Maternal and Child Health Service, Queensland
Life event - Retired

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Published resources

Book Sections

  • Denoon, Donald, 'Refshauge, Joan Janet Brown (1906-1979), Medical Practitioner and Medical Administrator' in Australian Dictionary of Biography, John Ritchie and Diane Langmore, eds, vol. 16 (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 2002), p. 68. Details

Journal Articles

  • Gunther, John, 'Joan Janet Refshauge', Medical Journal of Australia, 1980 (1) (1980), 40. Details


Helen Cohn