Josephine Matthews: Fashionista, surf lifesaver and entrepreneur

WOMEN'S HISTORY MONTH

Karlie Brady

Junior Reporter

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Josephine Matthews is a women who has accomplished many things in life, from successful businesswomen to first female lifesaver. Image: Karlie Brady.
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As we continue to highlight the remarkable women of the Far North for Women’s History Month, we now take a look at the outstanding life of Port Douglas local, Josephine Matthews.

Ms Matthews has a passion for swimwear, art, music, and sport and throughout her life has been a teacher, owned multiple businesses, and was one of the very first female surf lifesavers in Queensland.

Born in the Netherlands, Ms Matthews migrated to Melbourne in 1954, where she was a physical education teacher, before buying a hotel in Benalla and running a fish farm in the Philippines.

After moving back to Australia from the Philippines she settled in Noosa in 1979 and, unable to find a job, said she had to create her own.

“There were no jobs in Noosa at the time so in 1980 I brought myself a job,” she said.

With no hairdressing experience she opened the salon ‘Josephine’s’, and while she may have been no expert in hairdressing, she did know how to run a successful business.

The salon expanded; adding beauty therapies and a fashion section which soon outshined the rest and the salon which in turn was replaced by a specialised swimwear store.

“I was known for my swimwear,” said Ms Matthews.

“First of all my passion was swimwear and my second passion was selling swimwear to women and making them look fabulous and feel better about themselves.

“Being able to help a lady and have her walk out with a very happy heart and a smile was always very satisfying.

“I've always loved beautiful swimwear and when I'm buying my swimwear and fabrics I always have nature in mind because nature never gets its colours wrong,” she said.

In 2000, Josephine made the move to Port Douglas and added another ‘Josephine’s’ to her portfolio of retail outlets and for the last eighteen years, the Macrossan street store has been a prominent feature of the town.

While her life may sound glamourous, Josephine will tell you it’s far from easy.

“I used to work from 6.00am until midnight, seven days a week and that taught me in life everything is possible and you can do everything if you put your mind to it.”

It was this mindset that led Josephine to pioneer the way for females to join the ranks of Surf Life Saving Australia.

In Noosa in 1980, she was among the first women to enter the male dominated world of surf lifesaving.

“Up until then, only men were lifesavers, Australia wide,” she said.

“I was very good at sport but when I came to Noosa there was no sporting facility or anything so I went up to the guys and asked if I could join in and just swim with them because I felt that I was strong enough to do what they were doing.”

Not only did she train with the boys but she and three other girls obtained their bronze medallions and became the first female lifesaving team in Queensland.

Ms Matthews attributes her strong work ethic to her parents, particularly her father who was an Olympian, Concert Pianist, and a Barrister.

“He was a very high achiever so we were always taught to achieve high and I think that he instilled in me that nothing was impossible.”

After 39 years in retail, including 18 in Port Douglas, Josephine has now retired due to health issues.

These days she can often be found at the Douglas Arts Base (DAB) in Mossman creating beautiful art pieces.

“I’m loving it because it gives me time pain-free during my disease because when you're using that section of your brain everything else switches off and it is the most wonderful feeling.

“My new venture from this year is to really work hard on my health, love my art, and just enjoy the fresh air.”


 

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