Joy Cummings’ trailblazing spirit captured in bronze

14 Dec 2019

The late Joy Cummings AM established herself as a woman of many firsts. She was the first female Lord Mayor in Australia, the first to fly the Aboriginal flag over a city hall and first woman to be declared a Freeman of the City of Newcastle. 

Now 45 years after her election as Lord Mayor of Newcastle, her trailblazing spirit has been celebrated with the inspirational leader the first Newcastle public figure to be immortalised in bronze.  

Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said she was delighted an impressive and beautifully crafted bronze statue now presides over the Museum Place Forecourt opposite Civic Theatre paying homage to Joy Cummings’ great legacy.  

“It’s a truly fitting honour that the late Joy Cummings is the first woman in Newcastle to be bestowed the honour of being immortalised in bronze,” the Lord Mayor said. 

“Joy Cummings has many enduring and significant achievements that have transformed our city.  

“She demonstrated great vision for Newcastle, was determined in her representation of her community and showed courage and a bold commitment on environmental issues. 

“I think it’s perfect this statue sits in the heart of the City and overlooks its continuing change and revitalisation, particularly looking back over to the Civic Theatre, which she helped save for live performances.” 

A large crowd gathered in Museum Place for the official unveiling of the civic statue which was revealed by daughters, Helen Cummings, Kathryn Connell and Margaret Badger, and daughter-in-law Julie Cummings alongside Cr Nelmes. 

Sculptor Margot Stephens described her involvement in the project as an incredible privilege and conveyed at the civic reception her admiration for Joy Cummings’ fearless leadership and inspirational determination. 

Joy Cummings AM served as Lord Mayor between 1974 and 1984 and was a pioneer in local government, changing the operation of council to an inclusive and consensus model. She was passionate about the arts and the preservation of built heritage and was a strong supporter of the Aboriginal community’s fight for recognition. 

Many of Newcastle’s iconic and prized civic attractions like Blackbutt Reserve, City Hall, Civic Theatre, Newcastle Museum, Fort Scratchley and Newcastle Foreshore have been developed and preserved for generations of Novocastrians because of her visionary efforts.  

Joy Cummings was aged 79 when she died in July 2003 and according to her family, the City’s bronze statue captures her smile and the determined line between her brows. Her outward reaching hand is symbolic of all that she was; an outward looking, proud and caring person.