Whalley succeeded Rhoda Felgate, MBE, in the position. Prior to being appointed to Twelfth Night Theatre, Whalley lectured in acting at NIDA in Sydney, New South Wales. She taught well-known Australian actors, such as Judith McGrath and Sigrid Thornton. Whalley was also an accomplished actor and teacher. She was responsible for the building of Twelfth Night Theatre complex at Bowen Hills. Prior to the opening of the theatre, she directed a successful production of Undermilkwood by Dylan Thomas in a tent where the theatre now stands. Whalley was also a foundation member of the Queensland Theatre Company's board and a contributor to the theatrical community in Brisbane. For many years Whalley directed the Lord Mayor of Brisbane's Christmas in Storyland Pantomime at the Brisbane City Hall. On 10 June 2002, Whalley was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia. The citation read: "For service to the performing arts as an actor, teacher, director, artistic director and administrator." Among other current commitments, she is Director of the Eastern Region of the Queensland Arts Council. Joan Whalley was married to the late Stuart Benson.
- Felgate, Rhoda (1971). Scrapbook and photograph albums concerning the Twelfth Night Theatre 1936 – 1971. Brisbane: Fryer Library, University of Queensland.
- http://www.itsanhonour.gov.au/honours/honour_roll/search.cfm?aus_award_id=1040610&search_type=simple&showInd=true - Order of Australia website
- http://www.qac.org.au/htm/EasternRegion.asp - Queensland Arts Council, Eastern Region - website