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Impact 25 winners revealed

12 March 2019 at 8:49 am
Wendy Williams
What do the world's first supermodel with Down Syndrome, two human rights lawyers, the director of a breast cancer support charity and a leader transforming how the world sees waste, all have in common? They have been crowned winners in Pro Bono Australia’s Impact 25.

Wendy Williams | 12 March 2019 at 8:49 am


Impact 25 winners revealed
12 March 2019 at 8:49 am

What do the world’s first supermodel with Down Syndrome, two human rights lawyers, the director of a breast cancer support charity and a leader transforming how the world sees waste, all have in common? They have been crowned winners in Pro Bono Australia’s Impact 25.

The awards, run in partnership with Community Sector Banking, are an established accolade recognising the most influential people in the sector as nominated and voted for by their peers.  

From an impressive field of 337 individuals, 25 inspiring sector leaders have been chosen for their impact.

For the first time this year a judging panel – featuring Pro Bono Australia CEO and founder Karen Mahlab AM, Community Sector Banking CEO Andrew Cairns, Lisa Cotton, Narelle Hooper, Jon Bisset, Lindley Edwards and Peter Hunt AM – gave Judges’ Choice awards to four of the Impact 25 winners.

Former president of the Australian Human Rights Commission and Justice Connect chair Emeritus Professor Gillian Triggs was recognised as a “Catalyser”.

Kon Karapanagiotidis OAM, the founder of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, was selected by the judges as the winner of the “Influencer” category.

Tracy Bevan, McGrath Foundation director, was recognised as a “Collaborator”.

OzHarvest CEO and founder Ronni Kahn AO was recognised in the “Innovator” category.

The judges also made a “special mention” of Madeline Stuart as an emerging leader.

Stuart is the first supermodel with Down Syndrome in the world, and has travelled globally modelling and advocating for people with disabilities. The judges felt she deserved a special mention as they believed her work has the potential to catalyse significant change.

Mahlab said the quality of this year’s field of nominees reflected the quality and breadth of work being done across the Australian community.

“While the 32,000 votes were spread out, there were a few, very distinct front runners who have each had spectacular impact in their areas of focus. A number of these had strengths across each of the judge’s awards categories – innovation, influencer, catalyser, collaborator – and we had to choose their strongest relative strength,” Mahlab said.

She said the power of the Impact 25 Awards lay in the idea that we each have the personal capability to make a difference in the world.

“That we as individuals can have a vision for what we believe needs to be, and, as the slogan goes ‘just do it’,” she said.

“The Impact 25 Awards is here to promote that fact, and to shine a light on the distinct voices of those people who are helping others. Our times call for collective action towards a common good.”

Bevan told Pro Bono News it “meant the world” to her to be recognised, particularly as a collaborator.

“Collaboration is at the heart of everything that we do. The McGrath Foundation does not exist without collaboration,” she said.

“I honestly don’t ever see myself as a singular person, I’m part of a team and that team achieves incredible things.

She said Jane McGrath would be “enormously proud” that the Australian community had enabled the foundation to support 70,000 families who were “doing it tough”.

“I know personally she would be looking at me and going ‘Wooo! Look at you Trace!’” she said.

“This means the world to me as well on a personal level because I’m trying to raise two strong independent, caring, kind women in this world, my daughters Olivia and Amelia, and I hope that this recognition for me gives them motivation to find their passion and to live their passion and hopefully they will be able to help others.”

Kahn said she was thrilled the judges had recognised the impact OzHarvest has achieved in the innovation category.

“This award is true recognition for the amazing work of OzHarvest and everyone who supports it,” she said.

“I knew that stopping good food from going to waste and getting it to people in need was the right thing to do, and 15 years on I’m still constantly thinking of new innovative ways we can create a bigger impact.”

Triggs told Pro Bono News she had not seen herself as a catalyser until she took up the role at the Human Rights Commission and then moved into the position of chair of Justice Connect.

“I started to realise the importance of not only understanding and advising on the law but that you can actually be a catalyst for change in that law, where the law has failed to achieve social justice,” she said.

She said it was important to recognise women, of all ages, for their impact.

“I never ever imagined that my age I would still be able to make a contribution. And, more recently I’ve been doing a lot of work for International Women’s Day and I’m just so inspired and enlivened by the number of women at my age saying ‘we’re healthy, we’re well, our children are all gone and now we’re getting back into it’,” she said.

Karapanagiotidis said he hoped his award would start new conversations.

“Why this award matters to me is that it is recognition that the plight of people seeking asylum is of national importance and urgency and that their stories, struggles and plight matters now more than ever,” he said.

“I hope it starts new conversations and inspires more people to help people seeking asylum to get the fair go they deserve in our country.”

Judging panel co-chair Cotton, said the winners all exemplified Australian ideals of empathy and fair-go.

“Which hopefully will inspire others to follow their lead,” she said.

“Bold ambition and a deep sense of justice is what sparks transformative change in society. There are so many extraordinary individuals who embody these traits, but we don’t often hear about them. Impact 25! is changing this by shining a light on 25 change makers.”

Cairns said the awards provided an opportunity to not only celebrate the great work individuals and organisations were doing in the sector, but also provided an opportunity to share new innovations, insights and discuss current issues.

“The winners of this year’s awards were all of a high calibre with each clearly demonstrating the positive impact they are making in their communities and their passion for the sector,” he said.

To see a full list of the winners visit the Impact 25 website.

Wendy Williams  |  Editor  |  @WendyAnWilliams

Wendy Williams is a journalist specialising in the not-for-profit sector and broader social economy. She has been the editor of Pro Bono News since 2018.

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