Letters from 2016 Diversity Award Winners and Finalists

on Saturday, 17 September 2016. Posted in Diversity Award, Giving Back, Recognition - Flagship Awards Program

Letters from 2016 Diversity Award Winners and Finalists

From WDV and Sam

Women with Disabilities Victoria is thrilled to have been recognised in the 2016 Australian Centre for Leadership for Women Diversity Awards in the Disability Category. ACLW’s commitment to developing the leadership of a diversity of women is an important strategy towards the equity and empowerment of all women.

Women with disabilities drive WDV, in governance, design, development and delivery. Whether programs are for women or professionals, all programs are designed by women with disabilities. This is what makes WDV unique.

For example, the ‘Gender and Disability Workforce Development Program’ was conceived by women with disabilities at WDV as an organisational change program to increase Gender Equity and safety for women in disability services.

Over 30 women with disabilities have been involved in managing, developing and redeveloping in every stage of this program. The program is now in its third phase after receiving additional funding from the Victorian Government.

Program co-facilitator and award co-recipient, Sam, says, “I am proud of the work I am doing with WDV. I’m proud for myself for facing the challenges I need to, in order to provide another voice for women with disabilities. I can see the change as it happens in my work and I feel more confident in my everyday life and can now advocate for myself and others. Even though it is difficult for me at times, it is worthwhile to raise awareness of violence against women with disabilities… the more that do know, we have a better chance of stopping violence in the future.”

ACLW’s Diversity Awards showcase a range of other programs working towards the same goals. We look forward to working together as part of a community that supports all women to have leadership development opportunities. 

From Women with Disabilities Victoria and Sam


From Ann Polis, Chair of WAM (Women and Mentoring)


WAM (Women and Mentoring) is thrilled to have its work recognised through the ACLW diversity awards and we are delighted to have reached the finals. We are very proud of our work and welcome the opportunity to spread the word about it. We strongly believe in one on one mentoring as a personal development tool for women and can demonstrate how this has worked for women charged with an offence in the criminal justice system. We can link this strongly to leadership development.These women are often very isolated and lack basic knowledge; they lack the support to navigate the system. The mentors can help them to grow and to avoid reoffending.

We are encouraged that 94%of our participants have not reoffended.These women are in great need of support, resolve and direction; they need self reliance and the skills to find and use resources which will enable them to take their place in the community.Through our mentoring program we can help them to develop and use positive life skills and to deal with such crucial matters as housing, education and health.

Our mentoring approach constitutes a very pure form of leadership which aims to bring out the best in those people working with us.The mentors are volunteers from the community who are recruited and trained and matched with program participants. They are dedicated and wise.At WAM we strive to lead through mentoring and by example to show that every person is valuable, every person has rights, every person deserves respect and support… We can show that this works.

I now hand over to Juli who has been mentored by Prue  in a truly remarkable development process. She has emerged a different person and deserves the last word.


From Juli Gansberg, WAM (Women and Mentoring)

It is very overwhelming to receive this award, and I want to live up to it. I’ve had a quite hard life. I was not brought up by a mum, and I ran away from my grandparents when I was 7. I have seen plenty of violence.

I was referred to the WAM program after being charged with criminal assault. I had already been in prison, for affray. I was filled with fear of everything, even going out in the street by myself. With the help of my WAM mentor, who has been with me for nearly five years now, I made it to my appointments with lawyers and attended my court hearing.  The outcome was a Community Corrections Order, not another sentence.  I complied with that order and I have not re-offended.  I was also involved with a Transport Accident Commission case arising from an acquired brain injury I received in a car accident when my ex-partner deliberately drove us into a pole. Because of that my three youngest children are in foster care. My mentor helped me through the claim process, as well as a hearing in the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal. She helped me get to the seventeen appointments arranged to work out the degree of my brain injury, and she often came with me. She also helped me to deal with matters relating to my older son’s homelessness. In that time WAM arranged for me to do a personal development course with the Salvation Army. I learned to feel OK in public again, and met Prue in different places for coffee. I have never had a female in my life before, someone who cared about what was happening to me. All my other workers put me in the too hard basket.

Now my scaredom has disappeared, and I can make decisions for myself. This was my main WAM goal. I have moved away from negative influences on my life in Melbourne, and have made a fresh start in regional Victoria. I am renting my own place, after living in public housing for many years. I’ve been able to support myself, living is so much better, I’m even growing broccoli. Some things are still hard, but I am much better at dealing with stress and unexpected situations. I’m not an angry ant like I used to be, and I feel less alone. I would do anything to support WAM, because of the way it has supported me.


From Sonia McDonald

I would like to thank everyone involved with the ACLW’s Diversity Awards. I am honoured and blessed to have been recognised as a Diversity Champion by winning second place in the Diversity Award Category. I am committed to building leadership capability and confidence in women, which is one of the reasons I established my company, LeadershipHQ. Every day I am able to work towards encouraging and skilling women to gain a seat at the leadership table. I believe that by empowering women to support and celebrate each other, we will forge ahead. Women have a natural gift for nurturing others and a talent for collective and collaborative leadership. I want to educate women so they recognise that these are important skills in the way we lead, and ensure they acknowledge their unique female leadership talents. That is the motivation behind my coaching and mentoring work, and the development of my Platinum Executive Coaching, EmpowHER and Women in Leadership programs.I have been very lucky to coach and mentor a number of women over the years and watch them go on to take up and shine in leadership roles around the country. 

As an advocate for diversity, I’ve been thrilled at the response to the diversity events I’ve organised around Australia, bring the diversity conversation to the forefront of business consciousness. The experienced business professionals who have shared their time and advice has been inspirational. I would love to acknowledge Shelley-Anne Brace, who is my award partner “Woman Benefiting.”She is a remarkable emerging leader and her work in the workplace relations has made such a difference to the industry.  I feel so blessed being part of her journey in becoming a great leader. 

Once again, thank you for acknowledging my work in the diversity field. I will continue to drive conversational and build awareness of the real issues in diversity, and to open the way ahead for our emerging female leaders. 

Sonia McDonald CEO & Founder LeadershipHQ


From Natalie Scanlon

'Thank you to the Australian Centre for Leadership for Women for organising and hosting this important event, which recognises the highest caliber of female leaders in the country.

Change starts here.

I began volunteering at local community centres with the intentions of helping individuals to break down communication barriers when they applied for various employment opportunities. With only one job opportunity advertised per three people within the City of Casey, I realised I had to help those who are actively applying for jobs, but have been unsuccessful because they can’t put their thoughts into words. I don’t want the inability to communicate effectively, through words, to limit an individual’s opportunity for future employment. It isn’t fair. It was here I realised that there was an issue beyond employment, and beyond communication.

Week-after-week, women over 40 presented themselves. Disappointed that they can’t re-enter the workforce after raising their family. They walked through the door with a look of self-loathe and felt that their own life stories were uneventful and meaningless.I’m talking about women who have overcome mental health related illnesses, and workplace bullying, to only be significantly disadvantaged because of circumstances beyond their control.These amazing women are not only struggling to find work, they are struggling to find self-worth.

This night, and award ceremony, is the beginning of change at grass-roots level. I say grass-roots because without change at the bottom, you won’t see change at the top. This award puts important issues into the spotlight, and allows me to connect with others to strive for more for these women. It allows me to initiate change at the bottom, so that it can be followed through by the big-guns up top.

Change starts now. You’re witnessing it. You’re encouraging it. You’re igniting it.' 

Thank you again. When you are free, I'd love to know how to become further involved with the Centre. Enjoy a well-deserved break. 


Natalie Scanlon


From Cynthia Balogh

Thank you for the honour of receiving this award. I have been honoured with the opportunity that very few people realise. That is to use my wealth of experience both as an international entrepreneur and as a public servant to develop a program to support Australian businesswomen in reaching their international business dreams. I want to acknowledge the giants of women who came before me who realised the importance of such a program and who made it happen despite many obstacles. Women in Global Business, a joint Australian, State and Territory government initiative, supported by Austrade, was a huge success for over five years, to the extent that it became world’s best practice and is being emulated now across a number of countries. I want to thank the wonderful members, mentors, mentees, stakeholders, collaborators and partners and others with whom I worked over those 5 ½ years.

There were some absolutely exceptional women that I had the pleasure to work with, such as Catherine Cervasio of Aromababy.  Catherine is a great role model for women interested in building an international business. I have now moved on to work with a UN Agency working with women-led businesses across the developing world, supporting them to access global markets.

As you can see I can’t let go of my passion. Finally thank you to the Australian Centre for Leadership for Women, the organisers of this award and to Catherine Cervasio, for sponsoring my nomination.


From Kay Schubach

I am honoured to be a finalist in the category of Empowering Women Experiencing Disadvantage in Australia,  and to have received runner up to WAM and the courageous Juli Ginsberg and her very heartening personal journey - congratulations.  I’d like to thank Diann Rodgers-Healey and the ACLW for an awards night celebrating and acknowledging women helping other women. There are too few moments where we acknowledge the relentless work we to do in social justice.  

Of course has a survivor of DV and a woman who has experienced disadvantage, I don't feel like that at all. Of the women we help now with legal and financial strategies to leave abusive relationships through my partnership with lawyer Susannah Quinn - all I ever see is bravery and resilience albeit hidden under a terrible erosion of their self esteem and a scramble to do the best for their children. 

I'd like to thank Minister Goward for supporting me when I first started speaking out about being a DV survivor and realising I had a story to tell, and importantly work to do - and for her brave and inspired leadership of women And Tracy Howard now of NCOSS who was actually the angel who really held out a hand professionally as I got on my feet. And now the CEO of DVNSW, Moo Baulch, this peak NSW body for the rights of women , who through clear guidance, and clear policy have helped create UNITY and advocacy for a sometimes fragmented sector.  

Of course the message is that we are all in this together and a united force is a powerful force for the many silent individuals who need our collective voice 

Kay Schubach 


From Dr Nayana Parange

Dear Diann,
Lisa informed me wonderful news about winning this award. I am so thrilled that Lisa was recognised as a Diversity Champion.
I will be catching up with her tomorrow to hear about more details of the occasion but from the online photos etc which I have just seen, it seems to have been an amazing night..such a shame I wasn't able to attend..but duty comes first!
I wanted to thank you and the judging panel and feel really honoured and privileged to have my work for regional, remote and rural communities recognised..it serves to bring the health of pregnant mums in regional, rural and remote areas back to focus again and raise awareness for which I am truly grateful. I will use the money towards my next volunteer outreach training program, which is in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea in October where I will be training a group of doctors and midwives who are serving in remote provinces of PNG, as I am self funding my trip.
I hope our paths cross someday and we get to meet in person,
Best wishes,

From Kerry Fullarton

On behalf of Energy Skills Queensland we would like to take this opportunity to thank you for the 2016 ACLW Diversity Award.  It was an honour and unforgettable experience coming together and sharing in this gala event at Parliament House in Sydney.  Special mention must go to the generous sponsors for supporting this wonderful event and the diversity awards. 

Please find below an acknowledgement statement.

Thank you to Australian Centre for Leadership for Women and Diann Rodgers-Healey, Energy Skills Queensland were surprised and delighted to be awarded 3rd Place Prize Diversity Award Category – Empowers Rural, Remote and Regional Women in a Community or Organisation in Australia.  Diversity Champion, Kerry Fullarton and Koorine and Malvena Walker as women benefiting would like to express their sincere thanks for the invitation to attend such an inspiring awards evening.  

Others would be deserving of this ACLW's honour for their services to empower rural, remote and regional women in a community and of course, no one person can accomplish anything alone and we are thankful for the support of the dedicated team at Energy Skills Queensland, our stakeholders and regional community project partners.

Being recognised by ACLW is a true honour.  Energy Skills Queensland team has been facilitating training and employment programs to participants under the Queensland Workforce Skilling Strategy for over five years.  Initiatives such as this provide a framework for industry and communities to work together to maximise the potential for unemployed people to gain employment.  The focus has always been on entry level jobs that lead to long-term career opportunities.

Kerry Fullarton has been working on this strategy for over four years and has had the opportunity to meet wonderful women like Koorine and Malvena Walker.  Both ladies have demonstrated enthusiasm to change their employment and life prospects from day one.  They are real role modes for their communities and ambassadors for women entering the industry.  This award validates the role of rural women.

The Queensland Workforce Skilling Strategy has given the careers of the Walker sisters the kick start needed to commence a Traineeship with Wesfarmers Curragh. Successful outcomes like these have been achieved as a result of working on the ground to develop working relationships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities including Traditional Owner groups, regional community partners, registered training organisations, government agencies and employers to ensure that participants are well supported to gain and retain employment.

Kind regards

Kerry Fullarton, Project Coordinator, Queensland Workforce Skilling Strategy, Energy Skills Queensland


From Merredith Hillebrand

Dear Diann

Thank you to you, the sponsors and judges - It was an honour to be nominated and to then receive equal second place in the category ‘Empowering Women Experiencing Disadvantage’ at the ACLW awards ceremony in Sydney last week.

For the last 6 years I have worked with an incredible organisation called Fitted for Work where we strive to help women experiencing disadvantage break through barriers to get work, develop their confidence and achieve economic security. We know that when women have hope, confidence and economic security through work, the flow on effect is transformational. For some women experiencing disadvantage may have been part of their whole life journey while for others it may only be for a short snap of time.

Providing opportunities to help women overcome those barriers, to get work and become financially independent is what the Transition to Work Program is all about. I have managed this program at Fitted for Work since its inception 6 years ago and it has been a privilege and pleasure to have been a part of the lives of over 500 courageous women who put their trust in our organisation and the individuals within to help them. Peggy is one of those women and she, like all the others is an amazing woman and this award recognizes their individual courage, resilience and determination.

My thanks also go to the many people who are a part of the process that supports and cares for these women and includes program facilitators, mentors, work experience hosts, volunteers and colleagues. Every part that is played helps to provide a piece of the webbing that wraps around each woman to support her in what she needs in her journey towards financial independence and demonstrates the transformational power of women supporting women.

Merredith Hillebrand


From Peggy Maxwell

Dear Diann

I have been privileged to work closely with Merredith, and I am delighted and see firsthand how lives can be changed – and I am one of them.  Thank you Merredith, you truly are an inspirational woman.   

Women supporting other women is a powerful and enriching experience and I see this daily at Fitted for Work. 

Peggy Maxwell