BrainLink’s Women Achievement Award is presented annually to outstanding women in Victoria who create a positive effect in society. To qualify, finalists must be innovative, fulfil a mentoring role and contribute to the community.
CEO for BrainLink Sharon Strugnell says “I’m glad I don’t have to pick the winner every year, I leave that unenviable decision to the panel because all of these women shine a positive light in our community; it’s our pleasure to be a part of shining the spotlight back on them. Often these ladies are oblivious that they are extraordinary; this is our way to honour them.”
This year there are six finalists, including creator of Lighthouse Foundation Susan Barton. Barton decided to devote her life to protecting children after working in an orphanage in Sri Lanka where she nursed a malnourished baby for several hours in an infectious disease hospital in Sri Lanka before it died later that night.
Since that moment, 35 years ago, Barton has dedicated her life to helping children. She has fostered children in her home in Australia, adding to her own family of six children that included two adopted from Sri Lanka and Haiti.
In 1991, Susan formed Lighthouse Foundation to work towards her vision of reducing youth homelessness. Lighthouse Foundation provides long-term accommodation, care and intensive support to traumatised young people, using a caring family environment. Lighthouse Foundation supports ten homes with four adolescents per home, and has an outreach program for over 600 young people. The organisation has recently expanded its program to include teenage mothers of infants.
Barton’s dedicated team comprises of hundreds of volunteers, staff and carers, including psychologists, social workers and grandparents.
Lighthouse’s raises $3.2 million each year by building relationships with corporations, entrepreneurs and others in the community. Lighthouse’s model was validated by the Victorian State Budget for 2010/2011, which recognised that additional funding toward therapeutic care for vulnerable children in the State was best practice.
Barton’s mission is to change the way Australia responds to the homeless and out-of-home care, spreading the Lighthouse model throughout the state and eventually the country.
“Protecting children is everyone’s business and to have a child come up and eventually hug you, trust you and even become one of our carers is what brings a smile to my face and makes this all worthwhile,” Barton says.
Third Sector congratulates Barton on her achievements and wishes all finalists for BrainLink’s Women Achievement Award the best of luck.
Third Sector acknowledges the traditional custodians of the lands where we live, learn and work. We pay our respects to Elders past, present and emerging.