2019 HESTA Community Sector Awards

Photo by Photox - Canberra Photography Services


A SA woman who advocates for the rights of single mothers, a VIC organisation that supports people overcoming addiction and a NSW organisation who supports community re-investment initiatives to help reduce the number of Aboriginal people in prisons, received top honours at the 2019 HESTA Community Sector Awards held in Canberra.

HESTA CEO, Debby Blakey said this year’s winners have all shown outstanding leadership in supporting people in their communities overcome disadvantage and inequality.

“This year’s winners have developed services and programs that rise to the challenge of addressing some of the nation’s most pressing social justice issues. Through their dedication and professional excellence, they’ve supported so many people across the country, helping them to pave a pathway to a better future,” said Blakey.

“The work of our winners is truly inspiring. We’re immensely proud to be able to help shine a light on their achievements through the 2019 HESTA Community Sector Awards.”

The winners were selected from 11 national finalists, and recognise exceptional service provision, advocacy, and leadership in social justice and community services across the three Award categories of Unsung Hero, Outstanding Organisation and Social Impact.

The winner of each category won a share in the $30,000 prize pool, courtesy of proud Awards sponsor ME – the bank for you.

ME CEO Jamie McPhee, said the winners in this year’s HESTA Community Sector Awards underline the incredible commitment those in the community services sector have for improving the wellbeing of everyday Australians.

“These winners have demonstrated amazing leadership in their respective fields and a dedication that goes well above and beyond the call of duty. ME is very proud to be the sponsor of these awards,” said McPhee.

The 2019 winners for Unsung Hero Award is Terese Edwards National Council of Single Mothers and their Children Inc Hilton, SA. She was awarded for her work advocating for single mothers, connecting them to vital services and a support network of women using social media to help them overcome isolation, hardship, and violence.

Terese said the most rewarding aspect of her work was helping women around Australia who are isolated or in need by linking them to support services and organisations.

“It’s so much more than a job, we run on love and determination. My day revolves around women who head up a sole parent family whilst contending with enormous challenges such as financial hardship,” said Terese.

“Social media allows me to reach women from across Australia 24/7. Our Facebook page provides single mothers with an important connection, especially those who are isolated geographically, socially, or financially, as well as those who may be affected by domestic violence.”

Terese also advocates on issues impacting single mothers to ensure that they are represented fairly in Government policy review and development.

“For women across Australia, our advocacy is a statement to say we’re hearing you and we’re trying our best. It’s such a privilege to help women who are often in really terrible situations and have them come back and ask how they can pay it forward,” said Terese.

Terese said she will use the prize money to continue her advocacy work and to attend conferences and inquiries addressing these issues with other single mothers so that their voices and views are heard.

Meanwhile, the winner for Outstanding Organisation Award is Self Help Addiction Resource Centre (SHARC) Carnegie, VIC. They were awarded for delivering self-help, peer-led approaches to assist people, including families, to recover from addiction.

SHARC’s Chief Executive Officer, Heather Pickard said its programs were developed by combining the lived experience of people who had successfully recovered from addiction alongside other successful self-help treatment approaches to ensure its addiction interventions not only empowered people but were effective.

“Overcoming addiction can be a difficult and long journey for people, maintaining their recovery and rebuilding their lives is a long-term challenge that requires ongoing support. Our treatment approaches are different because they focus on harnessing the community to support the community.”

“We work closely with individuals, families and the community, by taking this multipronged approach we’ve seen first-hand how significant change across the continuum can be brought about in an area that’s often viewed as an area with limited success,” said Heather.

Established in 1995, SHARC works with over 8,500 individuals and families across Victoria annually, some of SHARC’s programs include Family Drug help, Peer Projects, and Residential Peer Programs.

“Seeing a real change in people’s lives is one of the most rewarding things that we do,” said Heather.

“It’s fantastic to be recognised with this Award, we’d like to use the prize money to further develop our online and digital platforms enabling us to better reach people in rural and regional areas.”

Social Impact Award was given to Just Reinvest NSW Sydney, NSWfor advocating to reduce the number of young Aboriginal people in prisons by supporting community-led justice reinvestment initiatives and calling for systemic change to the criminal justice system.

“Everything we do at Just Reinvest NSW is about having a social impact. Our work aims to redirect resources away from prisons and towards early intervention, crime prevention and diversion in communities,” said Just Reinvest NSW Chair Sarah Hopkins.

Over the last five years, Just Reinvest NSW has worked alongside Aboriginal leaders in Bourke as part of the community-led initiative known as Maranguka – which means caring for others in the Ngemba language.

“Just Reinvest NSW look at ways to use data in community-led collaboration to create better outcomes for Aboriginal children, young people and their families to keep them away from the justice system.”

“We also address this issue from a policy perspective, by identifying legislative and policy changes at the state-wide level that can put downward pressure on the Aboriginal prison population,” said Sarah.

Sarah said Just Reinvest NSW is in the early stages of working with other NSW Aboriginal communities interested in utilising a justice reinvestment framework and is going to use the $10,000 prize for staff professional development and capacity building.