Australian Women's Register

An initiative of The National Foundation for Australian Women (NFAW) in conjunction with The University of Melbourne

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    Miss Joan Bucknell and Miss Joan Richardson, 06 December 1945, courtesy of Australian War Memorial.

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Dowson, Dorothy (Joan) (1918 - 2006)


4 June 1918
Cottesloe, Western Australia, Australia
11 October 2006
Servicewoman and Community worker
Alternative Names
  • Richardson, Joan (maiden name)


Originally a ballerina in Perth, Western Australia, Joan Dowson served throughout World War II as a nurse. She continued her association with the Australian Red Cross throughout her life.


Born Dorothy Richardson, but always known as Joan, this one-time ballerina joined the Australian Cross in 1937. As well as entertaining servicemen with concert parties, she completed a course in home nursing during her first year.

In 1941, Joan enlisted as a nursing VAD in the army and on 17 March 1943 joined the Australian Army Medical Women's Service. She served in Egypt, Syria, Rehoveth and Gaza with the 9th Division and later in New Guinea. In 1945 she transferred to serve on the aircraft carrier HMS Formidable. She was discharged on 19 March 1945.

After the war Joan Dowson continued working with the Australian Red Cross and Girl Guides. She joined the Western Australian Branch of the RSL and was a member of the State Executive for 20 years - she was the third woman to be elected to the executive. Joan Dowson also became a member of the Friends of Battye Library.

On 14 June 1980, Joan Dowson was appointed The Order of the British Empire - Member (Civil) (MBE) for services to the Red Cross and Ex-servicemen and women. In 1991 she received the RSL meritorious medal and was awarded life membership of the Red Cross in 1992.

Joan Dowson was awarded the Medal of Australia (OAM) on 11 June 1996, for service to the community, particularly the RSL and ex-servicewomen, Red Cross, Girl Guides and as a member of the cancer crusade of Western Australia for 30 years.

Sources used to compile this entry: Adam-Smith, Patsy, Australian women at war, Nelson, Melbourne, 1984, 386 pp. p. 198.; - accessed 24/01/2003.

Related entries

Related Organisations

Archival resources

Australian War Memorial Research Centre

  • Miss Joan Bucknell and Miss Joan Richardson, Red Cross Representatives, 123928; Australian War Memorial Research Centre. Details

National Library of Australia

  • Interview with Dorothy Dowson (sound recording), interviewer: Victoria Hobbs, 16 August 1982, ORAL TRC 2404 Int. No. 6207; National Library of Australia. Details

Digital resources

Miss Joan Bucknell and Miss Joan Richardson
06 December 1945
Australian War Memorial


Anne Heywood

Site-wide information and acknowledgements

National Foundation for Australian Women The University of Melbourne, eScholarship Research Centre

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