10 October 2023

Former crocodile hunter celebrates 100th birthday

| Sarah Martin
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Joan Newton turned 100 on Saturday 6 October and celebrated with her extended family at Sunbird Cottage.

CAPE York’s newest centenarian, former crocodile hunter Joan Newton, said a little brandy and a healthy lifestyle had helped her reach the milestone birthday.

Surrounded by flowers and her extended family of children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, Joan celebrated her 100th birthday at Sunbird Cottage in Cooktown on Saturday.

Quietly spoken, but with a twinkle in her eye, a ready laugh and lots of memories to share, Joan didn’t think her birthday was anything worth writing about.

“I don’t need to say anything in the paper surely,” she asked.

Joan has called Cooktown and the Far North home for more than 70 years, travelling across the Top End working as a crocodile hunter, on research boats, at Green Island, and as a station cook.

“Mum is hard working and very independent, and eats very well. I think that’s why she has lived so long,” proud daughter Michelle said.

But Joan swears by an egg yolk and brandy, something she claims set her up for life at only six months old.

“I hadn’t thrived, then they gave me an egg yolk with a teaspoon of brandy and I started to sit up and eat; I started to live,” she said.

“But I can’t get brandy in here because everybody else wants to drink it,” she joked.

Joan Newton was a crocodile hunter in her younger years.

For many on their 100th birthday, a highlight is a letter from the monarch, but not so for Joan, who was a staunch fan of the Queen but not of King Charles.

They even had a brush with royalty in 1970.

Daughter Michelle said: “We came to see the Queen when she came to Cooktown and I got to drive the car, even though I was only 10.

Joan added: “I said if you want to do something, you’ll drive the car yourself, once your feet reach the pedals you can drive.”

Strong, independent women run in the family, and one of Joan’s proudest achievements is her granddaughter Bethany, a qualified doctor.

Many Cooktown residents and visitors know Joan as “the orange juice lady”, from her popular freshly-squeezed juice stall at the local markets, and in more recent years zipping around town on a motorised scooter with her dog Bree.

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