Joan Elizabeth Kirner was born on June 20, 1938, in Essendon, Victoria, Australia. She was a daughter of John K. and Beryl E. Hood.
"Dad was a great advocate for social justice and a very quiet advocate of the essential Labor values," Kirner once told an interviewer.
"Mum was an absolutely determined woman. She was determined I would have a good education, and they went without all sorts of things to ensure it."