Joan Heywood Murray was born on the 18th March 1930 in Elsterwick. The eldest of four girls, Joan attended Ormond State School, Tintern Church of England Girls Grammar School and Melbourne University receiving a Bachelor of Arts and Diploma of Education. In later life, she returned to study at the University of Ballarat, where she obtained a Graduate Diploma of Computing.
Joan met and married Major John Alexander Chambers, a soldier-turned farmer in 1953. Her first teaching post was in Kyabram, where she taught French and mathematics. she went on to also teach at Hampton, Mortlake and Ballarat. After the births of their five children, Joan returned to teaching during the drought of 1968. In 1978, the family left its farm at Darlington for a new life in Ballarat. She and John adopted and raised an orphaned baby grand-daughter. Since that time, Joan was, among many other things, the elected Liberal MLA for Ballarat South. One of only three women in the 81-member Victorian Legislative Assembly, she was the first female chairman of the then Children’s Home Board of Management and a member of the School of Mines Board of Management.
Joan was also actively involved in drug and alcohol rehabilitation. She was instrumental in convincing the then Minster for Health that drug dealers’ assets should be confiscated and held unless owners could prove they were legitimately earned. This principle eventually became law.
Joan was also a very passionate advocate for the retention of Ballarat’s Uniting churches in congregation ownership. Mrs Chambers will always be remembered for her determined opposition to the Uniting Church Synod’s planned fire sale of historic properties in order to address a $36 million debt it had incurred through the collapse of its school Acacia College. The proposed sale of St Andrew’s in Sturt Street and the Pleasant Street Uniting Church caused enormous concern for their respective congregations. She threatened to approach the then attorney-general Robert Clark and premier Denis Napthine to assess if the sales would be legal. The Uniting Church backed down on the sales.
Joan passed away on the 29th August 2016 at the age of 86.
Joan was cremated at the Ballarat New Cemetery and her ashes can be found in Wall D Row 2 Niche 35.