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Joan Gladys Rawson BEM

Tasmanian Honour Roll of Women logo
Joan Gladys Rawson BEM

Awarded for service to the Community

Born: 5 August 1903

Died: 17 September 2000

Entered on roll: 2008


Joan Gladys Rawson, known to most people as Gladys, was born in Hamburg, Germany, the daughter of a prominent suffragette and a musician. When her family moved to England she retained her mother's maiden name of Rawson.

Gladys had a great interest in horticulture and studied at the Studley Agricultural College, in Warwickshire England, before eventually going on to establish a successful landscape design business. Gladys came to Tasmania from England in 1948 and obtained a position with the Tasmanian Farmers Federation. Her work took her to farms in rural areas around Tasmania. In both the city and the country, Gladys noticed the plight of dogs being left to roam the streets or being continually chained up and in poor conditions. To her dismay, Gladys discovered that there was no organisation to take care of stray or unwanted dogs, and she was not satisfied with the standard of council pounds at the time.

Despite having no money, Gladys was determined to set up an organisation dedicated to the welfare of dogs. She formed the Tasmanian Canine Defence League (TCDL) which she modelled on the National Canine Defence League of England. This allowed the TCDL to obtain literature and leaflets free of charge from the British organisation.   On 19 December 1950, the Constitution of the Tasmanian Canine Defence League was adopted.

Gladys found few supporters early on, but managed to secure a site in South Hobart. However, the Hobart City Council closed this site after only a short period. It was not until 1955 that Gladys and her supporters were able to obtain more stable lodgings for their canine charges, leasing a block of council-owned land at Derwent Park. The property was furnished with an onsite manager's house and a few kennels. During the next 36 years, the Dogs' Home site was fully developed, with kennels reaching to the property perimeter and four local councils using the facility as their official pound. Gladys and her fellow members promoted the TCDL and raised funds through a variety of activities and campaigns, many aimed at involving children with their pets. Gladys believed that it was vitally important to educate children from a young age on the responsibilities and rewards of dog ownership. She encouraged schools to visit the dogs' homes and also visited schools herself to speak to students. Over the years, the TCDL set up dogs' homes in Launceston and Devonport and finally in Burnie in 1981.

Gladys resigned as secretary and member of the TCDL Council in 1984, after giving more than 30 years of service to the organisation. 

Gladys was awarded a British Empire Medal in 1983 for service to animal welfare.

In 1991, a new Hobart Dogs' Home and Dog Pound was built at Risdon Vale. Gladys visited the new home, arriving at a special morning tea in the sidecar of a Harley Davidson, a treat arranged for a lady who had once been an avid motor cyclist. On her tour of the new facility, she was heard repeating: "I can't believe it."

Gladys passed away in 2000. The TCDL celebrated its 50th year in the same year, and installed a commemorative wishing well at the Hobart Dogs' Home in honour of its founder, Miss Joan Gladys Rawson.

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