Out of 11 handpicked finalists, HESTA selected Youth Projects, Housing All Australians, actress Julia Hales, and Gold Coast Hospital and Health Service’s Melissa Browning as its first ever recipients of the HESTA Impact awards.
Launched last year, the Awards were inspired by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a global blueprint for making measurable progress to tackle world challenges, including ending hunger, inequality and reducing climate change, by 2030.
Youth Projects Ltd., the team behind “The Living Room” initiative took out the gong for the “Team Innovation” award.
The Living Room is a free primary health service for people at risk of or experiencing homelessness. They provide judgment-free access to critical health services and social supports such as hygiene education, access to emergency accommodation, laundry facilities, food and phone charging.
Youth Projects CEO Ben Vasiliou said the win was an opportunity to generate awareness and “bring light to the significant challenge of managing health concerns and homelessness.”
“People experiencing homelessness are often voiceless and forgotten. To be able to lifts their spirits by providing access to the most basic of human rights is truly amazing to see each day. The most incredible journeys ultimately end in no longer needing our services,” Vasiliou said.
Meanwhile, Housing All Australians was crowned “Outstanding Organisation” for their work to transform vacant buildings into short-term affordable housing through their initiative called “Pop Up Shelters”.
Partnering with property owners, housing providers, social services, local government and caring private sector organisations, HAA is transforming vacant buildings into temporary accommodation for people experiencing or who are at risk of being homeless.
HAA founder and executive director Robert Pradolin said winning the award was a humbling yet significant opportunity for HAA to share how they are partnering with corporate Australia to address homelessness.
“The provision of shelter is a fundamental human need – not human right – and without it, we have unintended human consequences that, if left unaddressed, will have long term economic implications for Australian society,” Mr Pradolin said.
The Individual Distinction award was presented jointly to actress Julia Hales and Gold Coast Hospital and Health Service’s Melissa Browning.
Hales, whose performance career spans 21 years has spent her life educating the community about the potential and possibilities of people with Down Syndrome. Her drive to write and act saw her collaborate with an established playwright and Western Australia’s Black Swan State Theatre Company to create the critically acclaimed work You Know We Belong Together, in which she also performed the lead role.
“It will help my work, my community and other people with disability. It makes me feel amazing and proud of all the things I’ve achieved in my work and confirms that I need to continue.”
Meanwhile, Melissa Browning is recognised for her leadership in developing and implementing an innovative approach to improve racial and health equity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, building understanding and inclusion in Gold Coast Hospital and Health Service (GCHHS).
Browning led the contextualisation and delivery of the Courageous Conversations About Race (CCAR) program at GCHHS, partnering with the Courageous Conversation South Pacific Institute.
A proud Bundjalung and Kullilli woman, Ms Browning said it was a “special honour” to be recognised as an Award winner.
“I feel so incredibly lucky that I get to see and share in the transformational journeys of our staff and community members who participate in this ‘heart work’. This program calls for us to sit in our humanity and grow our compassion so that we can create a better world for my mob, for everyone and for our future generations,” she said.
Ms Browning said the prize money will be used to study Indigenous research and support the program’s facilitators to attend the USA Summit for Courageous Conversations, which brings together racial equity leaders from across the globe.
“Our team is committed to racial and health equity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and we know that through the transformation we see within our staff and community members that continual delivery, expansion and research of this heart work is crucial, she said.
HESTA CEO Debby Blakey congratulated the HESTA Impact Awards winners, who she said have gone above and beyond to have a lasting impact on the world.
“I am humbled by these extraordinary professionals and the work they are doing to make a real difference to health and social outcomes in Australia,” Ms Blakey said.
“Issues such as poor health, climate change and inequality can affect our shared future, particularly as they also pose a financial risk for Australians’ investments for retirement. It’s important we all keep working to address these issues and recognise those who are creating positive change,” she said.
HESTA Impact Awards sponsors AIA Australia, Link and CMS Australasia donated the prize money, which the winners will use to continue their work. Each standalone winner took home $10,000, with the joint recipients for the Individual Distinction award sharing the winnings.