Woman Damousi, Joy (1961 - )

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Written by Rosemary Francis, The University of Melbourne

Joy Damousi was born in Melbourne in 1961, the second child in what was to become a family of three girls. Her sisters were Mary and Kathy. Her parents migrated to Australia from Greece in 1956 and 1957. Her father worked in boot manufacturing and her mother as a dressmaker. The family lived in Fitzroy where Joy attended the local primary school. By 1973 they had moved to Balwyn and Joy completed her secondary education at Balwyn High School. She gained her tertiary qualifications at La Trobe University, BA (Hons) and the Australian National University, PhD in History in 1987.

In 1996 Joy accepted a tenured position at the University of Melbourne after contract positions at Monash University(1988-1990), LaTrobe (1991) and Melbourne (1992-1995). Her appointment was initially in Women's Studies. In 1992 the History Department of the University of Melbourne employed six women out of a total of 26 academic staff. Although there were few women, Joy did not feel marginalised or excluded, which was due largely to the people who headed the Department, especially Professor Patricia Grimshaw. The scholars she encountered were supportive of her as an early career researcher and she regarded them as mentors. This informal mentoring had been evident in her honours and PhD years. From her perspective as a female in academia, she felt she arrived at a time when conditions for women were improving, but sees evidence of a wind back as there are now fewer senior women academics. She rose swiftly through the academic ranks to become professor by 2004.

Joy has shown academic leadership in the range of her research and her output. Her research interests have covered Australian cultural history; feminist and women's history; history of emotions; the self and psychoanalysis; football and popular culture; histories of democracy, speech, oratory and elocution; history of sound. She is a fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities and the Social Sciences Academy in Australia.

Damousi assumed administrative roles within the Department and the Arts faculty. She was Associate Dean Research, Pro Vice Chancellor Research and Head of School. As Associate Dean Research she was responsible for overseeing the development of a research culture in the Arts faculty. Joy loved her work but felt that there was always the need to ensure that it did not dominate her life. As the paperwork and bureaucracy increased, she felt that this impinged upon her productive research time. The work life balance was an aspiration rather than a reality.

In 2000 Damousi undertook a year long course in Women in leadership. As a result she developed the confidence to assert herself, take advice and delegate when necessary. She has occupied leadership positions by choice and saw the formation of the School of Historical Studies at the University of Melbourne in 2007 as a major achievement. She considers that when women hold leadership positions, they must address the question of how they exert power.

Archival Resources

National Library of Australia Oral History Collection

  • Joy Damousi interviewed by Rosemary Francis in the Women and leadership in a century of Australian democracy oral history project, 18 December 2012, ORAL TRC 6290/36; National Library of Australia Oral History Collection. Details

Published Resources

Edited Books

Online Resources

See also