Recognising the outstanding women making a difference in your community
Blackmores is proud to announce the winners and runners-up of the Blackmores Mercie Whellan Women+Wellbeing Awards 2019, awarding $6000 in prize money and participation in a leadership mentoring program.
These awards celebrate women in the Greater Sydney region who have made an outstanding contribution to the local community by improving people’s health and wellbeing.
Winners were announced at an International Women’s Day Gala Dinner on 7 March featuring guest speaker Sam Bloom, the 2018 Women’s World Adaptive Surfing Champion whose inspirational story is told through the best-selling book Penguin Bloom.
“The Blackmores Mercie Whellan Women+Wellbeing Awards recognise women who make a positive difference through a health leadership, advocacy, or caregiving role in their community,” said Cecile Cooper, Blackmores Director of Corporate Affairs. “At Blackmores, we believe in empowering women on their personal wellbeing journey and supporting those building a healthier society for all.”
Blackmores, Australia’s leading natural health brand, runs these annual awards in partnership with CCNB
, trusted advisors in community health, aged care and disability.
Community organisations play an essential role in supporting holistic wellbeing – including physical, mental, social and emotional health – helping to ensure that everyone gets the most out of life.
“Sydney is full of amazing women who are making a positive long-term difference for others. The Blackmores Mercie Whellan Women+Wellbeing Awards are one way to recognise the many women driving and supporting key community initiatives,” said Marika Kontellis, CCNB Project Leader.
Five award categories
- Mercie Whellan WellBeing: This major winner was selected from nominees across the other four categories.
- StrongBeing: Everyday women who have shown courage and determination to overcome adversity in their personal lives and inspire others
- ChangeBeing: Women who through bold acts of leadership, advocacy and/or education have achieved positive health outcomes for the community.
- CommunityBeing: Caregivers who work tirelessly for others including carers, health and community care professionals.
- YoungBeing: Young women aged 16-22 who have achieved extraordinary social change for their community’s wellbeing through passion, commitment and vision.
And the 2019 winners are…
Mercie Whellan WellBeing - winner
Shireen Malamoo, Honorary Patron of Australian South Sea Islanders
Aunty Shireen’s story needs to be told, recognised and celebrated. For more than 40 years, she has been a driving force behind progressing Aboriginal and Indigenous health and overall wellbeing.
Shireen currently sits on the Justice Health Board, Aboriginal Health and Medical Research Council of NSW – Ethics Committee, and The Roberta Sykes Indigenous Education Foundation. She is also a founding board member and driving force behind Australian South Sea Islanders – Port Jackson. This work involves advocating to change the law in relation to recognising the 50,0000 South Sea Islanders brought to Australia as indentured labourers from 1863 to 1904 (known as ‘blackbirding’) to ensure their community receives full health, economic, social and educational rights.
In the 1970s, Shireen worked for the Department of Social Security and was involved with the Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care. She sat on the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission from 1991 to 1993 and the NSW Parole Board from 1994 to 2003. Shireen has managed many non-government services for the Aboriginal community, including the Aboriginal Medical Service in Redfern and Townsville, Aboriginal Legal Service and Aboriginal Media Association. Whilst sitting on the First Nations Advisory Panel to the City of Sydney from 2009 to 2012, she historically introduced the word ‘Invasion’ to the city’s preamble.
Drawing heavily on her life’s advocacy work for inspiration, Aunty Shireen is also a celebrated jazz musician and proclaimed artist and the subject of three Archibald prize nomination portraits.
Learn more about Shireen’s work here
StrongBeing - winner
Najah Zoabi, CEO of Lighthouse Community Support
In 2013 Najah started the blog ‘Warrior Women’ to share her personal experience of domestic violence. Her blog quickly became a source of support for women in similar situations, which led her to establish the not-for-profit charity Lighthouse Community Support to help survivors of domestic violence.
Najah supports women to start over again by providing food, clothing, shelter, counselling services, and employment and training assistance. A true leader, she runs resilience workshops for women and a domestic violence support group. A mother of three young children, she also runs youth workshops on healthy relationships aimed at early intervention and prevention.
Najah refused to be a victim and became a survivor and winner. The stories she writes, the experiences she shares and the support she provides has changed the lives of thousands. This inspiring woman shines a bright light for countless families in times of darkness.
Learn more about Najah’s work here
StrongBeing - runner-up
Jessie Williams, Executive Officer at The GroundSwell Project
After losing her first-born son in 2006, Jessie experienced post-traumatic growth thanks to her community and their collective sharing of death rituals. She is now executive officer of The Growth Project, a unique not-for-profit organisation that uses arts and health programs to create social and cultural change about death and dying.
Jessie is passionate about creating a more death-literate society, where people and communities have the practical know-how to plan well and respond to dying, death and grief. This means transforming end-of-life conversations into deep community engagement and social action.
Through Jessie's tireless advocacy, the Groundswell Project is attracting international attention for its innovative approach through grassroots initiatives and evidence-based projects like the Death Literacy Index. An extraordinary and inspiring individual, Jessie regularly speaks about her experience with corporate leaders and HR managers, supporting more compassionate responses to grieving staff returning to work.
Learn more about Jessie’s work here
ChangeBeing - winner
Donna Ciccia, Director of Endometriosis Australia
Donna is the Co-founder and a Board Director of Endometriosis Australia, a national not-for-profit organisation aimed at raising awareness and finding a successful treatment and cure for the 1 in 10 women who live with this condition. A personal diagnosis of endometriosis at the age of 31 motivated her to co-establish the charity in 2012, with the goal of paying it for forward for the next generation of women.
A qualified holistic nutritionist specialising in women’s health and children with special needs, Donna is a Member of the Federal Steering Committee for the Implementation of the National Action Plan for Endometriosis and she was instrumental in developing the Endometriosis Australia Research Grants Program which came to fruition in 2017. She is a tireless advocate of her cause, spearheading countless national education campaigns and fundraising initiatives.
Donna is also a Director of the Australian Traditional Medicine Society and an Australia Day Ambassador. She is widely recognised as making a significant contribution towards ending the silence on endometriosis.
Learn more about Donna’s work here
ChangeBeing - runner-up
Dr Ses Salmond, Leichhardt Womens’ Community Health Centre, Liverpool Womens’ Health Centre
Dr Ses Salmond is an extraordinary naturopath, herbalist and homeopath who has dedicated much of her career to working in the not-for-profit community sector to improve women’s health and bring positive change to disadvantaged communities.
For the past 23 years she has worked at Leichhardt Women’s Community Health Centre and Liverpool Women’s Health Centre, providing grassroots primary and preventative healthcare to socially-economically disadvantaged women. Taking an integrative approach, her work includes setting up programs to support a positive future for both her patients and her families.
More recently, Ses helped establish naturopathic clinics within Aboriginal Medical Centres and has lectured naturopathic students at two private colleges in Sydney for 17 years. She is a humble, yet inspiring leader who has quietly touched the lives of many people through her clinical work, research and education initiatives and lectures.
CommunityBeing – winner
Anne Epstein, Delta Society Australia
Anne and her loyal sidekick Lizzie the golden retriever are two very special volunteers who have been bringing hope and cheer to sick kids at Sydney Children’s Hospital every second weekend for the past five years, which also gives much needed respite to the families.
Anne, a full-time nurse during the week, firmly believes that the love of a dog can make most things a little better. She and Lizzie are trained to deliver pet play therapy to children through the charity Delta Society Australia, which also reaches people in nursing homes, courts, workplaces, universities and schools to leave a lasting paw print on their hearts.
Anne works tirelessly to give back to others, especially the sick and their families. Always putting others before herself with a smile, she is unfailingly caring leader in the community and inspiration to all.
Learn more about Anne’s work here
CommunityBeing - runner-up
Carol Franshaw, Wattle Grove Lions (Lions International)
Carol is true gem who has been helping care for her community for decades. A registered nurse who worked in hospitals for many years, Carol served on several charity boards and started the Wattle Grove Lions Club in 2014 where she generously gives of her time on various projects helping to create a better life for those less fortunate.
Currently Carol is leading the 'The Roof Over Their Heads' project to establish a shelter for vulnerable or homeless women and their children. The project has already secured land through Camden Council and a house donated by Masterton Homes. With demand increasing in the area due to a rise in domestic violence and homelessness it will bring hope to many.
This is just one of the countless projects that has benefitted from Carol’s passion, commitment and shared community vision to change lives and provide opportunities.
YoungBeing - winner
Cassidy Strickland, Founder of Hawkesbury’s Helping Hands
After witnessing a man rummage through her household rubbish bin in 2011 at the age of eight, Cassidy has worked tirelessly to help the homeless and marginalised people within her community. A few years ago she founded Hawkesbury's Helping Hands, which provides food relief to more than 650 people weekly; toiletries, swags, tents, blankets and clothes to the homeless; and regular meals for children in three local schools who would normally go hungry.
Barely a day has gone by in the past seven and a half years that Cassidy is not helping another person. She wakes up at dawn to prepare breakfasts and lunches for fellow students at Windsor High School and works throughout her birthday, the Christmas and New Year’s Eve period, and all public holidays in the spirit of true giving.
Cassidy’s other achievements include setting up a formal wear program for students who can’t afford to purchase their own outfits, and running a backpack and school supply drive. Proud of her Aboriginal heritage, Cassidy is also heavily involved in cultural events such as NAIDOC. The whole community has embraced Cassidy as their own.
Learn more about Cassidy’s work here
YoungBeing – runner-up
Law student Kimberly is a passionate community leader and fierce advocate of change. When she was just in Year 8, she developed her own organisation Cloud 9 to decrease the stigma surrounding mental health and spoke at youth mental health forums which resulted in many schools creating similar groups. After graduating from high school in 2016, Kimberly continued her mental health advocacy work at university by creating PeerLink to offer mentoring and workshops to students experiencing stress.
Despite being diagnosed and treated for blood cancer last year, Kimberly has not faltered in trying to change the world. She’s on the Youth Cancer Service’s National Youth Advisory Group Board and Student Representative Committee at Macquarie University. She volunteers for the Women Entering Business Society, Law Society’s Social Justice Committee and Women Lawyer’s Association of NSW where she helped create a gender equity motion. She also mentors high school students from refugee backgrounds.
Kimberly is an R U OK? Community Ambassador, 2016 NSW/ACT Young Achiever, and an Australian Financial Review’s Top 100 Future Leaders in Australia. Her passion for community service has enhanced the wellbeing of others, and she hopes to use her law degree to create further social change..
About Sister Esther 'Mercie' Whellan
The Blackmores Mercie Whellan Women+Wellbeing Awards were started in 2018 and are named after Sydney Northern Beaches resident Sister Esther 'Mercie' Whellan, who trailblazed the path for women in health in Australia.
Born in 1922 in Rockhampton, QLD, Mercie began her early career as a registered nurse. At age 25 she accepted a job offer to work alongside Blackmores' founder Maurice Blackmore and under his tutorage later studied to become a naturopath.
Respected by all, Mercie steadily worked her way up at Blackmores. She held several significant positions including General Manager for many years and Director from 1962 until 1994 when she turned 72. She was one of the first female chairmen of that era.
Mercie is integral to the success of Blackmores today and we continue to be inspired by her achievements.
About Sam Bloom, special guest speaker
The blink of an eye, a heartbeat, a split second in time.
That’s all it took for Sam Bloom’s life to change forever.
Sam had everything she had always dreamed of. She’d travelled extensively, fulfilled her childhood dream of becoming a nurse and was a happily married mother of three young boys. She spent her time raising her family on Sydney’s Northern Beaches, and ran, swam, biked and surfed every chance she had. Life was bliss. Then, without warning, the dream turned into a nightmare.
On a 2013 family holiday in Thailand, Sam leant against a rotten balcony railing falling through it and crashing six metres onto the concrete below.
She was lucky to be alive and had suffered devastating injuries, including severe damage to her spinal cord that left her completely paralysed from the chest down. Broken and hopeless, Sam reached her outer limits of physical and mental suffering. But with courage, determination and a little help from an unlikely feathered friend, she made her way back from the edge, scarred but undefeated.
Her message – never, ever give up.
Learn more about Sam here
Sam Bloom - World Adaptive Surfing Champion 2018
Updated 8th March 2019