Community Sector Scoops Awards
Friday, 18th November 2016 at 12:37 pm
The community sector’s top organisations and professionals have been recognised for “improving the lives of others”.
The top honours, at the 2016 HESTA Community Sector Awards, went to an outreach program for homeless youth, a not-for-profit art studio for artists with intellectual disabilities and an organisation helping achieve greater equality for women with disabilities.
HESTA CEO, Debby Blakey, said this year’s winners, chosen from 12 finalists across the country, demonstrated the vital work those in the sector do to build stronger and more inclusive communities, enhancing the wellbeing of individuals experiencing disadvantage.
“This year’s winners are delivering innovative programs and services that have a tremendous impact in shaping society and improving the lives of others,” Blakey said.
“Their work breaks down the barriers of disadvantage, helping people who are often socially excluded or facing hardship, improve their lives.
“We are proud to acknowledge the contribution they make and to give them the recognition they deserve.”
The awards, held in Sydney on Thursday in conjunction with the ACOSS National Conference, acknowledged outstanding contributions to social justice in Australia, through the provision of high-quality services, programs and initiatives across the categories of Unsung Hero, Outstanding Organisation and Social Impact.
Each of the winners received $10,000 towards professional development, or to further implement their program.
Keran Howe, the executive director of Women with Disabilities Victoria (WDV), which took home the Social Impact Award, told Pro Bono Australia News the award helped highlight the seriousness of the issue.
“It is an important recognition of the serious issues that violence against women with disabilities presents as it does for women in general,” Howe said.
“It is often not understood that women with disabilities experience twice as much violence as other women so this gives us an opportunity to highlight the issue and to promote the need for an effective response at both national and state level.”
WDV was recognised for their contribution to government policies aimed at achieving greater social justice and change for women with disabilities in Victoria.
The organisation’s 11 employees and 300 plus members work to ensure the voices and stories of women with disabilities are heard and considered when public policy and government recommendations and decisions are made.
The were influential in the recommendations handed down in the Royal Commission into Family Violence.
Howe said the Royal Commission was critical in raising awareness in the community about women with disabilities experiencing family violence.
“The Royal Commission was a really important opportunity for us to raise awareness that women with disabilities are twice as likely to experience family violence than other women and to get government take up these issues and provide a policy response,” she said.
Howe attributed the success of WDV to the fact the organisation draws on the lived-experience of women with disability.
“So our policies, our advocacy is conducted by women with disabilities and draws on the experiences of other women with disabilities so it is really very deeply informed by both research and representation of women with disabilities,” she said.
Howe said the organisation would use the prize money to update their website.
“We will be thrilled to have the opportunity to upgrade our website, to invest further resources in providing information on the website and making the website even more functionally accessible for a range of different impairment needs,” she said.
Meanwhile, Anne Mitchell who won the Unsung Hero Award for her work leading the Steps Outreach Service, a program of Concern Australia, providing support and advocacy to young homeless people, said she wanted to use the prize money to further develop the program.
“Over 18 years we’ve kept Steps going with blood, sweat and tears, working on weekends and struggling for funding as a lot of not-for-profits do, so this prize money will make a big difference for us,” Mitchell said.
Since 1985, Steps has helped over 8,000 young people get off the streets and find appropriate accommodation and shelter.
Mitchell’s team provides practical support to young people on the steps of Flinders St Station in Melbourne, providing clothing, food, shelter and transport. The paid workers and volunteers also help give these young people hope and self-worth by providing someone trusted to talk to and the tools to create a more positive future.
“We have seen we can make a difference in people’s lives and we do it one person at a time,” Mitchell said.
“We support young people as long as they need it, which is a key difference of the Steps program. For instance, we’re working with the children of past clients to keep them connected to education, as it’s one of the main pathways out of generational poverty.”
The Outstanding Organisation Award went to Arts Project Australia for supporting artists with an intellectual disability, providing them sustained and individualised pathways into the professional visual arts.
Established in 1974, Arts Project Australia was the first full-time not-for-profit art studio in Australia for artists with intellectual disabilities. More than 120 artists attend the Northcote studio each week, where they’re encouraged to find their own voice, artistic style and expression in a safe, supportive environment.
Alongside the studio, the gallery’s annual program of rotating exhibitions features artists’ work alongside the work of the broader contemporary art community.
Arts Project Australia executive director, Sue Roff, said the program has seen artists exhibit their works in leading galleries across Australia and around the world.
“Our artists are treated as professional artists and provided with high-quality material, guidance and mentoring from professional staff artists, vocational pathways and an opportunity to earn income from the sale of their artwork,” Roff said.
“But it’s not about the money – when our artists see their work framed, hanging on a wall in a gallery, it gives them an amazing sense of self-worth and confidence.”