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Women Leaders head to Sydney Dance

The world of dance was opened up to Society of Women Leaders Members on Wednesday 21 September when we were the guests of Sydney Dance Company. About 20 Members, as well as the daughters and guests of some Members, were treated to an exclusive and very special behind the scenes viewing of one of the rehearsals for SDC's upcoming performance entitled Untamed. Held in a rehearsal studio, we were able to get up close and personal to the dancers and appreciate at close quarters the physical energy and exertion required to look so effortlessly graceful.

Artistic Director, Rafael Bonachela, engaged us with tales of the inspiration behind Untamed including what influenced his own choreographic choices. The process of linking movements together looks random to the untrained eye but gaining an insight into the process, from very simple and basic starting blocks into complex combinations was a true revelation. 


After the rehearsal, we were able to mingle with the dancers and other representatives of SDC over cocktails and canapés before enjoying a Members only dinner at El Phoenician. Our wholehearted thanks go to fellow Member, Susan Wynne, for facilitating this opportunity. We look forward to visiting SDC again.

Fireside Philanthropy


Our first ever "Fireside Chat" series was launched on 27 July at the home of Founding Patron, Anne Pike in Mosman. This was a different sort of evening to our usual Society of Women Leaders get togethers and was billed as an opportunity for Members to gather in a very low key environment with informal dress very much encouraged.

We were thrilled that a group of more than 20 Members attended, the majority duly following instructions and arriving in jeans, jumpers and boots - with those who had to come straight from work feeling disappointed that they hadn't had time to dress down.

With no sponsors (and truth be told, no fireside either!), everyone kindly brought a bottle and with a few nibbles provided, it was truly a wonderfully relaxed evening spent around the kitchen bench in Anne's home. We are most grateful to Anne for her generosity in hosting us in her warm and inviting home.

Once we'd had a chance to fill our glasses and introduce ourselves to new faces, Anita gave us an advance copy of the inaugural Society of Women Leaders Year in Review 2015-2016 which showed us what a busy year it's been in our world of philanthropy. Kimberly ran through details of the new initiative we will be supporting for the next 3 years to help malnourished children in Nusa Tengarra in Indonesia and we welcomed new member, Julie Spatt, and Student/Youth members, Tania Harris and Isobel Pike, who were all present.

Thank you to all those Members who attended.

YPP Respite Day - Friday 22 July 2016

Friday 22 July saw the quarterly respite day for young mums at the Young Parents Program residential home in Randwick. Members of our Society of Women Leaders volunteered to take over the care of all the babies and toddlers currently living there to give their teenage mothers the chance to step away from the responsibilities of motherhood and be kids again for a few hours.

Row, Anne and Ali did the morning shift before being relieved by Kimberly and a couple of her friends at lunchtime. The girls are allowed to be away from the residence from 10am to 3pm and during that time, we feed the children, change their nappies, and play with them. It's also wonderful to have the opportunity to spend time with other Society of Women Leaders Members, particularly when you meet someone you haven't had the chance to chat to before.

We loved watching the interaction between the little ones aged 5 and 6 months but young Mr toddler who is nearing his 2nd birthday proved to be a bit more of a challenge for us all!

As always, it's wonderful for our Society of Women Leaders to be able to support the Young Parents Program in a "roll your sleeves up" kind of way. A baby fix is always appealing but to be able to facilitate a few hours of normality for this group of young mothers and support their journey towards being independent parents is the true drawcard.

2nd anniversary celebrations in Melbourne

Our Society of Women Leaders, together with women who wanted to learn more about our unique giving circle, gathered in Melbourne on 7 June as part of our 2nd anniversary celebrations. With thanks to our generous sponsor, Paspaley, we met at the Collins Street store where we were warmly welcomed by boutique staff and Creative Director Christine Salter. Christine explained her connection to our Society of Women Leaders and how proud she is to be associated with a group of action-oriented philanthropists. We were also lucky enough to hear a little bit about Christine's grandfather's story - the man who started the Paspaley family business and how he came to Australia as a refugee during World War 1 in search of a better life. We also learned that the Paspaley pearl farming requires the highest of environmental standards to be adhered to in order to produce the exquisite pearls the brand is famous for today.

Christine and her team arranged for a beautiful dinner for the women at Cecconi's restaurant downtown which provided a stunning (and delicious) backdrop for our guest speakers for the evening. Vicki Mau, National Migration Support Manager and Penny Harrison, Executive Director for Victoria both senior executives at Australian Red Cross, spoke about the unique role the organisation has with programs such as Immigration Detention Monitoring, working with people who seek asylum in Australia and women and minors who are trafficked and/or forcibly married. It's challenging and confronting work and we felt very proud of our association with women such as Vicki and Penny who not only work here in Australia to address significant humanitarian issues but who both spend significant periods of time working in conflict zones alongside women in order to understand the particular issues women face who are displaced due to war and conflict.

Australian Red Cross CEO, Judy Slatyer also delivered a few words to the group encouraging us to think big about what our combined contribution could be by lending our voice and intellect to the issues. She challenged us to think about how well placed we are as women to make a contribution shaping the future of Australia, perhaps like never before in history.

The generous support of Paspaley, the heartfelt speeches delivered by Vicki and Penny and the knowledge that together we can make a difference were all two of the women present needed to decide that they too wanted to join our Society of Women Leaders. So as we marked our two-year anniversary, we continued to grow in number and in knowledge. We look ahead at our third year with vision and expectation and we brace ourselves for another big year!

Thank you to everyone who came along and especially Vicki, Penny and Christine for making the night so special and informative.

Visit to Young Parents Program, Randwick, Sydney

By Founding Patron Anne Pike

The wonderful people who work at Red Cross' Young Parents Program in Randwick, Sydney were the hosts of our recent Steering Committee meeting on 15 June 2016.

This was the first program that our giving circle chose to support and we are thrilled to be entering our third year of association with them with a further contribution of $150,000. Young Parents Program is a wonderful initiative that supports and educates very young parents with complex needs to live and parent independently, some whom without the support of Red Cross may otherwise be at risk of having their children placed into care.

At Randwick, we help fund key support offered to all families under the Residential Program, the only one of its type in NSW. It is a 12 month residential program teaching young mothers not only how to look after their baby but also such skills as how to cook, budget the housekeeping money and drive so that when they graduate from the program they have a good chance of being able to live independently with their young family.

After the Steering Committee meeting concluded, we were joined by our newest Member of our Society of Women Leaders, Jennifer Kwok as well as Crystalynn Anastasia, and Members Beth Madison and Kerry Johnston. Sophie Mackey - Manager of the Young Parents Program - spoke to us about the dedicated staff and volunteers working in the program and the role they play. We were taken on a tour of the facility accompanied by some of the young women currently in residence with their babies.

Such an experience brings into immediate focus exactly what we as a group of female philanthropists are setting out together to try and achieve - this is what our giving circle is all about. Together, we hope to change people's lives; for us to have the chance to meet a bubbly, giggly 18 year old young mum and her 4 month baby makes it clear just how important is our work. Through our contribution, these young parents are supported to build their self-confidence and develop essential skills so they can ensure their children can reach their full potential in a safe and nurturing home environment.

We know how fortunate we are and it's wonderful that we are helping these young parents living just down the road from us to have the option of making positive choices about their future.

We thank the Red Cross staff and the young parents for the lovely al fresco afternoon tea they put on for us and for their generous hospitality throughout the day. You are always so very welcoming to us.

We thank too Member Serena Sanderson for donating sandwiches to keep the Steering Committee focused during our meeting.

And finally, we thank our new friend Michelle Walsh for her fabulous donation of over 400 items of practical baby clothing to the young parents and their children.

Should you wish to help by volunteering at the upcoming "respite day" at the Young Parents residence in Randwick on Friday 22 July, or would like further information about what this entails, please contact our Member and volunteer Row McGilvray at

Society of Women Leaders marks its 2nd anniversary

Two years in and already thousands of lives impacted

By Founding Patron Anne Pike

The lights of Vivid Sydney shone brightly across the city on 27 May and the glow from the purple spectrum (which is, of course, the Society of Women Leaders colour) settled most firmly over Vaucluse where we were gathered to celebrate the 2nd anniversary of our Society of Women Leaders.

Our venue for the evening was the spectacular residence of Founding Patron Yang Yang who graciously opened her home to Members of our Society of Women Leaders, their guests and, for the first time, partners and family who were able to experience for themselves the energy and buzz that can be created by a room full of philanthropic women.

Creative Director extraordinaire, the incomparable Adam Williams, had overseen the transformation of Yang's home into a purple palace through the clever placement of dozens of purple lights both inside and out. The light may not have been perfect for selfies, as Adam pointed out, but the wonderfully talented Michelle Playoust again showed off her skills with the fabulous photographs she took throughout the evening. Working with a budget of zero, Adam was able to work his magic through the generosity of our sponsors Paspaley, Serena Sanderson Catering, Founding Patron Monika Tu and her business Black Diamondz and Charles Heidsieck Champagne.

As we enjoyed the light show on the Sydney Harbour Bridge from the warmth of Yang's elegant reception room, our wonderful Australian Red Cross volunteers encouraged us to buy a key dangling at the end of a purple ribbon (thank you, Row McGilvray!). The all important key sales would cover all of the additional costs of the night. Who would be lucky enough to buy the key that would open the box holding the very generous and special prize donated by Paspaley?

Our beautiful hostess, Yang, welcomed us to her home. She admitted that it was the first time she had addressed a room filled with 150 people - speaking English, that is! We were moved by her heartfelt words as she described how her emotions overcame her when she helped out recently at one of the programs we fund, the Young Parents' Program in Randwick, and how passionately she felt about helping women and children in need.

Chair and Founding Patron Kimberly Gire made us laugh when she recalled how she put up her hand and was "picked" as the inaugural Chair of Society of Women Leaders in Australia two years ago. From her initial $10,000 donation, we have together raised through our pooled pledges and donations more than $1.4 million in funding for Australian Red Cross. Kimberly announced that 3 Members had just decided to extend their Membership pledges to 5-years to become our newest Founding Patrons. Thank you to Caroline Furlong, Alex Coward and Anne Pike for your show of commitment to our wonderful sisterhood and commitment to help fund long-term programs with sustainable, life-changing impact.

Next, up, Peter Walton, Director, International Program at Australian Red Cross introduced a new initiative of Australian Red Cross in Eastern Indonesia, a life-changing program to eliminate the preventable conditions of childhood stunting and malnutrition. Excitedly, our supporters at Blackmores have agreed to help fund this program empowering women and children to live healthier and happier lives. If we are able to find additional partners to match their generous contribution, our Society of Women Leaders will be in a position to fully fund and co-create this life changing program. Watch this space!

A highlight of the evening was the screening of a short film clip showcasing some of the projects we support and capturing some of our Members speaking about why they joined our Society of Women Leaders. The film clip was the idea of Dave Fenlon, Managing Director, Australia & NZ Blackmores and had been put together pro bono with the assistance of his staff and contacts. Dave has been such a fantastic believer in and supporter of our work. Not only that, but through Shareable App, he has gifted us our very own Society of Women Leaders app!

The biggest surprise of the night came when close friend of Society of Women Leaders and Australian Red Cross Ambassador, A/Prof. Munjed Al Muderis, spontaneously joined Kimberly on the stage, and caused the room to descend into shocked disbelief, when he made a spontaneous announcement that he would be gifting a significant $100,000 donation to the philanthropic initiatives of Australian Red Cross Society of Women Leaders. Not only are we overwhelmed by his generosity, but we are also humbled by his belief in our circle of women leaders.

When the keys were all sold, it was time to find out which one would open the lock, and it was Ali McEvoy's key which did the trick. This also ensured that all event costs were covered for the night, upholding our policy that no funds raised for our philanthropic work through donations go to event expenses - a policy we feel very strongly about.

We have once again shown that our growing circle of women leading through philanthropy have big hearts, which seemed very obvious on the night when several women told us that they want to join us as new Members.

It was an amazing 2nd anniversary celebration, proving that there is a lot of fun to be had whilst helping others. We thank all our Members, supporters, emerging 'Gentlemen's Club' and new friends for their generous support of Society of Women Leaders and Australian Red Cross. We are thrilled to be entering our third year and can't wait to see what excitements it brings. Kimberly has some very big plans…

McCarroll's Maserati

On Wednesday 3 May Society of Women Leaders enjoyed an evening of champagne, canapes and fast cars at McCarroll's Maserati in Artarmon, Sydney. Although not a Society of Women Leaders function, our close friend, supporter and Red Cross Ambassador Dr Munjed Al Muderis was Maserati's Guest of Honour and had arranged for us to be included in the evening.

Dr Al Muderis had presented to Society of Women Leaders at an event held at King & Wood Mallesons in September 2015 (courtesy of our Founding Member Susan Hilliard) and several of our embers joined us at Maserati just to hear him again. He is an inspirational speaker with an incredible story to tell - from fleeing Baghdad in fear of his life in 1999 and arriving at Christmas Island as a refugee in a rickety boat to now being one of the most celebrated orthopedic surgeons in Sydney who was even sought out by Prince Harry on the Prince's recent visit to Sydney in May 2015.

Dr Al Muderis' told his story with humour and passion which is incredible given some of the inhumane treatment he describes as part of his journey. His humour is cheeky and he might've over stepped the mark by telling our hosts that he prefers Porsche to Maserati (but admitted that his Maserati engine does sound sexy)!

Although none of us were enticed into making a purchase on the night, we enjoyed window shopping and it was fun to slip behind the steering wheel of a heftily priced Ghibli and dream for a few moments.

Founding Patron's gift to the elderly

Our gorgeous Founding Patron, Yang Yang recently celebrated a special birthday and surprised us all when she announced that the greatest gift she can get is knowing that she is helping others. Instead of traditional gifts, Yang invited her guests to support the humanitarian work of Australian Red Cross Society of Women Leaders, showing us all that she is as generous and she is gorgeous.

Her guests' donations were pooled into our Society of Women Leaders giving circle and at our recent national steering committee meeting, Yang tabled her request to allocate those funds to the work Red Cross does calling isolated and elderly people across Australia who are living alone, to check in with a friendly call to make sure they are safe and well. It's a beautiful service that helps elderly people to live at home for as long as they would like to and are able.

During her party, Yang gave an eloquent and heartfelt speech (in both English and Chinese) about the sisterhood she has found with her fellow philanthropists. There wasn't a dry eye in the room. Between Yang's touching speech and Leo Sayer's serenade to her for her birthday, an elegant, fun and philanthropic night was experienced by all.

Thank you Yang!

Founding Patron Yang Yang, left, celebrates her birthday with dear friend and fellow Founding Patron Monika Tu.

Society of Women Leaders provide respite for young mums

Friday 15 April marked our second respite day for the year. These days are a great way for our Members to get involved and gain more insight into the Young Parents Program. We had 5 Members volunteer on the day helping to take care of babies so that the young mums could take some time out. Our Members all had a positive experience, as you will see in the comments I received back.

"It was such a blessing to spend time with the gorgeous babies. The love and care given by the beautiful carers really touched me." Monika

"It was one of the best moments for me. Please say thanks to Jake's mum and tell her how much I enjoyed the time we spent with him." Yang

"The program is remarkable, I couldn't believe how seamlessly everything works and how routine oriented those beautiful babies are at such a young age. I take my hat off to the staff for setting those essential boundaries around routine and teaching the mums how to raise their bubs. Truly a very important program." Ali

"It was a pleasure spending time with the kids." Crystalynn

We have our next Respite Day on Friday 22 July and we're organising a tour of the Residence in Randwick, Sydney, for Members on 15 June where we will see how the young mothers are supported and encouraged on a daily basis followed by light refreshments and a talk. More details will follow shortly and please let Rowena know if you'd like to get involved

Thank you (from left) Crystalynn Arya, Founding Patron Monika Tu, Founding Patron Yang Yang, Member Ali McEvoy, and Member Shayne Nealon for giving your time and opening your hearts.

By Member and Volunteer, Rowena McGilvray

Boardroom Series Luncheon and Tour of Blackmores

Wednesday 6 April saw Society of Women Leaders as the guests of Blackmores and the day provided further evidence, if any was needed, that membership of our group not only gives us the opportunity to be educated and inspired by those around us but what's more, it actually opens the doors to us allowing access to one-off, "money can't buy" experiences that are truly quite extraordinary.

Through the munificence of one of our Members, Blackmores was the generous host to some 40 Members and guests of Society Women Leaders including the new CEO of Australian Red Cross, Judy Slatyer who having only joined Red Cross some 6 weeks ago found time to be in Sydney (via Melbourne and Perth!) to be part of the event. Judy was able to give us her impressions and insights of Red Cross after only a short time at the helm and showed her commitment to continue to support those who are trying to make a difference in the lives of those in need. How amazing to have shared some time with you, Judy. It's good to have you in our corner.

Left to right: Member, Caroline Furlong; Founding Patron, Yang Yang; Australian Red Cross CEO, Judy Slatyer; Founding Patron, Monika Tu; Founding Patron, Hayley Baillie; Founding Patron, Steph Fairfax; Founding Patron, Linda Martin; Blackmores CEO, Christine Holgate; Member, Virginia Herlihy; Chair and Founding Patron, Kimberly Gire; Member, Tracy Noon and Member and Australian Red Cross Executive, Anita Pahor.

Blackmores arranged for tour guides to take our group around the award winning Blackmores Campus which opened in 2009 and is located in Warriewood on Sydney's Northern Beaches. The Campus has received several awards for environmental sustainability and boasts a carbon footprint of just one-eighth of a comparable development.

It is an ultra modern facility covering 25,000 square metres and housing more than 370 staff members. We saw the futuristic packaging and distribution facility where the overwhelming impression was that this mechanical, industrial space was as clean and shiny as a modern commercial kitchen. We saw the wellness centre offering a gym, lap pool, yoga & pilates area as well as treatment rooms for massage and naturopathy illustrating just how much Blackmores values their staff.

On tour, Founding Patrons Yang Yang and Monika Tu take a look around the award winning Blackmores Campus looking glamorous even in safety gear.

Most excitingly we saw too the CEO of Blackmores, Christine Holgate, who in November 2015 was awarded the coveted CEO of the Year award by CEO Magazine being the first woman to ever receive this award.

Christine joined us for an intimate lunch and spoke to us for a generous amount of time. You would've heard CEO's speak before probably. But you would never have heard a CEO speak to a room of strangers like this before. It was a remarkable presentation, perfectly pitched to the women present. Christine acknowledged that she would likely bore us if she spoke about the P&L at Blackmores, the share price and her investment strategy (we would have been delighted with that, of course).

Instead, Christine shared with us stories and photos of her childhood and youth. She told us who had been the main influences in her life and she shared with us about the struggles she had encountered, allowing us the privilege of hearing some raw and very honest stories about her personal journey. We learnt about the development of her career, her love of Asia, her ambition, what drives her and most specially, we gained a glimpse into the inner workings of this extraordinary woman. We were all moved beyond words by her raw honesty and emotion.

Blackmores CEO, Chistine Holgate sharing inspirational stories with our Members.

We are indebted to our fellow Member, Caroline Furlong for facilitating our day at Blackmores. It was a very special experience and we are supremely grateful for our association with the Blackmores organisation.

By Society of Women Leaders Member and Steering Committee Secretary, Anne Pike

Burberry Crown Melbourne Cocktail Evening

With thanks to Burberry, we gathered at the Crown store in Melbourne on 24 February to kick start the year in style. Members and guests heard from Marina DeLuca Head of Retail Burberry, Kimberly Gire Chair and Founding Patron and the inspiring Ruth Jebb. Melbourne Member Amanda Coombs drew the lucky door prize and one of our Member's guests won a gorgeous Burberry scarf. Burberry also generously gifted a gorgeous scarf to Ruth as a way of thanking her for her continued service to Australian Red Cross as an international aid worker.

Sydney Autumn Member Cocktails

In Sydney we started the year with cocktails at Founding Patron, Lorraine Tarabay's temporary home where more than 50 Members and guests gathered. We heard from Kim Ryan who manages the Young Parents Program and we were able to see exactly how our pooled funding is changing lives right here in Sydney. Piper-Heidsieck generously donated the champagne for the event and our fellow Member Lorraine provided the delicious canapes. Our giving circle expanded as we officially welcomed Beth Martin, Ali McEvoy and Kate Slack-Smith into our Society of Women Leaders.

Boardroom Series Luncheon, MinterEllison Sydney

Members started off the year with an informative and topical Society of Women Leaders Boardroom Series Luncheon, generously hosted by MinterEllison in Sydney on Wednesday, 17 February, 2016.

In the stunning Fiona Stanley dining room, fellow Member and MinterEllison Partner Virginia Briggs welcomed a group of Members and their guests around a circular boardroom table. Set against the backdrop of a sparkling Sydney Harbour view, we heard from Australian Red Cross Director, Australian Services and member of the National Executive Team, Noel Clement.

Noel reminded us of the importance of leadership in difficult scenarios, using Red Cross' work in detention facilities as an example of how incredible change can be made through skilful negotiation, patience and compassion.

"Red Cross is the only organisation external to the government to visit all detention facilities on a regular basis," he told us.

"Visiting people in immigration detention means we can undertake regular independent humanitarian monitoring of the conditions in facilities to ensure the health and welfare of detainees is upheld across Australia.

Noel explained how, along with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Australian Red Cross also monitors conditions of detention in the Offshore Processing Centres in Nauru and Papua New Guinea.

Red Cross uses its unique auxiliary position to engage in confidential advocacy with the Department of Immigration and the Australian Government to ensure people subject to mandatory immigration detention are treated with dignity and respect and have access to the services they need.

After hearing such incredible insights, invited guest Tracy Noon confirmed her Membership to our Society of Women Leaders. She was presented with our signature Red Cross silver charm bracelet, which symbolises our joint commitment and our 'circle' of sisterhood - women leading through philanthropy.

One more gift…

Row McGilvray and Kimberly Gire (aka my mum), from the Society of Women Leaders volunteering to serve lunch

The annual Australian Red Cross Migrant Support party is a time to unwind at the end of the year, and 9 December proved to be a perfect day. The sun shone outdoors at Auburn Community Centre as temperatures soared into the high 30s. Approximately 250 people attended the day, which was an event run by the Migrant Support Program. The attendees were clients of Migrant Support Program as well as program volunteers, caseworkers and staff.

For 100 years, Australian Red Cross has been working with people who have been impacted by migration. This program works to address the humanitarian needs of migrants, offering support for people seeking protection in Australia, people who have been separated from their loved ones, people who have been trafficked or forced into marriage and those experiencing significant challenges as a result of their migration experience. Australian Red Cross supports the health and wellbeing of vulnerable migrants in many ways, including conducting regular independent visits to immigration facilities across Australia to ensure the dignity of people in detention is upheld and protected

This celebratory day consisted of many interesting activities: shouts could be heard coming from the soccer pitch, the laughing workshop proved to be popular, butterflies flew their way onto the faces of smiling children at the face painting stall. It was certainly an enjoyable and eventful afternoon.

I volunteered at the balloon animal stall, where we volunteers made all sorts of creatures, such as monkeys, dogs, butterflies, as well as swords and flowers… which seemed very impressive to the young children.

The lunch served was one of the highlights of the afternoon, with a selection of different curries to choose from. The food was donated by Australian Red Cross Society of Women Leaders, with several members also coming along to volunteer on the day. Santa made an appearance late in the day, and children were able to collect a special, cherished present and a candy cane from Santa's volunteer helper (a last minute recruit…me!).

To end the party, several Australian Red Cross staff members performed a Bollywood dance, with clients and volunteers joyfully joining in. The day was a great success, bringing together clients throughout the community to celebrate and communicate, and this event could not have happened without the work of dedicated staff and volunteers. I am proud to have helped out in a small way on the day, volunteering alongside my mum, to give one more gift this Christmas…my time.

By Holland Touw, Youth Member - Australian Red Cross Society of Women Leaders

Women lead the way on Cup Day

As Michelle Payne rode to victory on 3 November becoming the first female jockey to win the prestigious Melbourne Cup, a small group of our Society of Women Leaders were also going above and beyond for vulnerable women around Australia.

An intimate Cup Day event, hosted by Chair and Founding Patron, Kimberly Gire set the stage for an afternoon of champagne, canapés, and feel-good giving.

Chair and Founding Patron, Kimberly Gire (left) with Steering Committee Member and Founding Patron, Hayley Baillie.

The traditional racing sweep was replaced with a draw that saw all money going to Red Cross' Young Parents Program. In total, an incredibly generous $3,400 was raised for young mums who have minimal family or community support.

These young families, thanks to the Society of Women Leaders, will now have access to new baby capsules, holiday gifts for the children, Coles Myer vouchers to buy basic household items, and vouchers for holiday activities, such as visiting the zoo or theme parks.

We'd like to thank Piper-Heidsieck for sponsoring the event and Linda Volker for donating our sweep prize of a luxurious stay at Lavender Lodge, Bundeena.

Steering Committee Member and Founding Patron, Yang Yang enjoying a glass of Piper-Heidsieck champagne at our Melbourne Cup Day function.

Swept up in the exhilarating Cup Day atmosphere set by Adam Williams, who generously donated his time as MC, Lilly Jia put up her hand to join the Society of Women Leaders so we were delighted to welcome a new member to the giving circle.

It was truly wonderful to enjoy the day with such inspirational women, knowing that young parents will be given the support and care they need in the lead-up to the holiday season.

Holiday event at Burberry marks a milestone

This week the flagship Burberry store in Sydney's CBD hosted a milestone event for Red Cross' most influential philanthropic circle: the Society of Women Leaders.

The event was a celebration of the festive season and a celebration of the relationships the Society has built, especially with teams like Burberry, who opened their doors after-hours and hosted our event with true style and a generous spirit.

But most importantly, it was a celebration of the 51 women who have pledged their commitment to the Society of Women Leaders - working together to ensure women and children who face issues such as domestic violence, trafficking or abuse can access vital aid and support at Red Cross.

"What we've achieved is quite incredible. We started with one, and now we're 51," Kimberly Gire, Chair and Founding Patron of the Society said in her opening address.

"Women are the heart of philanthropy and tonight is all about gorgeous women coming together to do amazing things. Tonight is a celebration of you all."

Steering Committee Member Caroline Furlong Blackmore with Chair and Founding Patron Kimberly Gire.

Kimberly spoke of the power of women giving aid around the world. She talked of Florence Nightingale, a nurse who helped inspire Henry Dunant's humanitarian movement - Red Cross - based on neutrality and impartiality.

In fact, the medal which continues Florence Nightingale's legacy was present in the room. Nola Henry, Red Cross aid worker and recent recipient of the prestigious Florence Nightingale Award for bravery and care of disaster and war victims, honoured the group with a recount of her experiences overseas.

"One of the most defining things that we have no influence over," Nola said, "is the country we are born in."

"I'm one of the lucky ones. I'm lucky to be born in Australia. No matter where you are in the world, people ultimately want the same things for their families - but where there is conflict and war, they are starting from a different base. While we don't have to think too much about basic essentials, they spend every day focusing on clean air, food, water, shelter."

Red Cross aid worker and guest speaker Nola Henry recounts her experiences in Afghanistan.

"In every country around the world, there are nurses and doctors working to save lives. I am one of them, but I have a choice. I can leave at anytime.

"It's important to put the people back in the centre of our stories," Nola said, speaking of her time in Afghanistan, working in the women's surgical wards and supporting new mothers and their babies.

"I stayed because I knew that if I did my best, I could reach someone - a woman with a family, with a life to live."

Nola's story captivated the room, her experiences consolidating the reason so many women have signed up to support this amazing Society.

As our newest Founding Patron, Selena Spring confirmed: "I attended a Society of Women Leaders Steering Committee and discovered the amazing work the Society supports. I knew I couldn't just be part of this inspirational group of women for a short time.

"I want to see the change. I want to pledge longevity and give everything I can to these amazing causes."

Founding Patron Hayley Baillie, Louise Proost and new Founding Patron Selena Spring.

Against the backdrop of Burberry's festive gift collection, Selena was presented with the Society's five-year pledge charm (to add to the Society's signature Red Cross charm bracelet), in thanks for her dedication, and as a reminder of the significant and powerful impact that she will be making to the lives of people in need.

2015 has been an amazing year of growth for the Society of Women Leaders which is already looking to the New Year, planning ways to make a lasting difference for women and children who need it most.

"We wish all of our members all the very best this holiday season and would like to say a very big thank you for working together in friendship this year to make a difference to the lives of so many women and children," added Chair and Founding Patron, Kimberly Gire.

"Our humanitarian sisterhood has gone from strength to strength, and we are very excited about what 2016 will bring for our members, and for the women and children we are dedicated to helping in every way we can."

The Society of Women Leaders also extends a heartfelt thanks to Burberry for its generous support of this event and as a valued supporter of our giving circle throughout the year.

If you'd like more information about the Society of Women Leaders, please email us here, or to join us, please complete our pledge form.

Recipe for Success

Rob Caslick empowers young mothers to create healthy meals for their families

Young mothers at Australian Red Cross' Young Parents program recently got the chance to cook up a healthy and nutritious meal with Rob Caslick, the winner of the 2016 Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide 'Food for Good' Award.

The mums, some of whom grew up without an understanding of healthy food habits, took part in a six week cooking course led by Rob.

"Some of the young parents don't have favourite foods, because they never had their parents cook for them,'' says Rob, the founder of social enterprise Inside Out Soup Kitchen. ''They don't have good food memories that we all take for granted.''

Throughout the course, the mums learnt how to prepare a variety of healthy meals for themselves and their young children. From quiches to casseroles, they learnt about the nutritional value of meals and how to create them from scratch.

The Red Cross Young Parents program helps young mums and dads develop the skills they need to live independently, ensure the best outcomes for their children, move into employment or higher education and break the intergenerational cycle of trauma, abuse and neglect.

Read more »

Paspaley Pearl Discovery Cocktail Evening

On the evening of 22 October, our Society of Women Leaders gathered together at an inspirational event to celebrate the impact they have had on the lives of women and children around Australia and further afield….and they continued to cast their vision for what they will aim to achieve in the future.

Christine Salter, Creative Director for Paspaley and third generation Paspaley family member, generously hosted the event at the flagship Paspaley boutique in Sydney's Martin Place bank building. Against the backdrop of this stunning historic venue, and with sparkling pearls adorning the room, the scene was set for our Society of Women Leaders - women making a difference through philanthropy - to connect with each other and be moved by the amazing work they make possible.

Christine spoke first, recounting the incredible story of how the Paspaley family revolutionised the cultivation of South Sea pearls. Their leadership has transformed the industry globally, and Christine's story became the perfect introduction into how passion, dedication and vision can truly change the world.

Left to right: Founding Patron Lorraine Tarabay, Anita Pahor (Australian Red Cross), Nora Gazal and Founding Member Maud Gazal enjoy an inspirational evening at the Paspaley boutique in Sydney.

Head of Australian Services at Red Cross, Noel Clement, then outlined the important work of Red Cross, showing how the Society of Women Leaders has supported thousands of vulnerable people around the world. Noel explained how the Society's focus on giving aid to trafficked women and children, as well as victims of forced marriage, has brought care and support to those most in need. This was followed by a personal account by former caseworker, Janelle Sayers.

Janelle, who is now Emergency Response Team Leader at Red Cross, brought many of our Society Members to tears. She told how she had helped a young mother and her children to escape an abusive relationship, overcome complicated visa issues, and get on their feet in Australia, building a brighter future.

"Janelle's story was incredibly touching," said Kimberly Gire, Chair and Founding Patron of the Society of Women Leaders. "To hear first hand how the Society of Women Leaders is having an impact only makes us more dedicated to the programs we support. We are passionate about helping as many disadvantaged women and children as we possibly can."

Members of the Society of Women Leaders were then treated to a tour of The Pearl Room, where Paspaley's annual South Sea Harvest is sorted and graded in the transformed bank vault in the basement. They were shown a number of exhibits, gaining an insight into the fascinating world of South Sea pearls.

Left to right: Founding Patrons Linda Martin, Kimberly Gire, Yang Yang and Member Crystalynn Anastasia at our Society of Women Leaders event.

And then the shopping began. With Paspaley donating 10% of sales to Red Cross, many Members and guests generously purchased a gem that will bring hope to someone in need.

After a wonderful evening, seven guests stepped forward to join us as new Members of the Society of Women Leaders. In addition, one of our existing Members extended her support, pledging an additional five years to ensure critical continuity of funding for the work the Society supports.

We extend the warmest of welcomes and our sincere and deepest thanks to all of these women, and indeed, all of our Society Members, for their commitment to our unique giving circle - our sisterhood of women, leading together through philanthropy.

Founding Patron Hayley Baillie (second from left) and Society of Women Leaders Chair Kimberly Gire (right) welcome new Members at the Paspaley event.

Our sincerest thanks to Paspaley for their generosity and support as we continue to grow our Australian Red Cross Society of Women Leaders, supporting some of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged women and children in our communities, across Australia and around the world.

If you'd like more information about the Society of Women Leaders, please email us here, or to join us, please complete our pledge form.

Burberry Champagne Tasting

Burberry in Sydney very generously offered to host a private Charles Heidsieck Champagne tasting for our Members at their flagship Sydney store on Wednesday, August 12th from 6.30pm - 8.30pm. We started the evening off with champagne on arrival in the gorgeous Burberry store, before moving upstairs to their private heritage boardroom overlooking the lights of Martin Place for the champagne tasting and Australian Red Cross speaker.

More than 50 women, including members and their guests, joined us for this very special evening in celebration of Australian women working together in philanthropy and friendship in support of Australian Red Cross. Our most successful event to date, 6 new members joined our Society of Women Leaders on the night, bringing us to a total 31 members, and allowing our circle to commit to fund a female international aid delegate, like Ruth, for 12 months in the field.

Red Cross International Aid Delegate Ruth Jebb addresses Members at the Burberry event.

Our keynote speaker on the night was the inspirational Australian Red Cross international aid delegate, Ruth Jebb. Ruth, a Registered Nurse from Brisbane and nominee for the Pride of Australia People's Choice Medal, had recently returned from 4 weeks in Nepal as part of the first response to the devastating earthquake there.

At the end of the evening, Burberry generously gifted a classic Burberry trench coat to Australian Red Cross international aid delegate, Ruth Jebb, in honour of her more than 10 years working in the field with Australian Red Cross.

Thank you to Burberry for supporting us as we grow our circle of Australian Red Cross women leaders working together for some of the most vulnerable people in our community and around the world.

Left to right: Founding Patron Lorraine Tarabay, Founding Patron and Chair Kimberly Gire and Red Cross International Aid Delegate and Guest Speaker Ruth Jebb enjoy a glass of Charles Heidsieck champagne at the flagship Burberry store.

Boardroom Series: King & Wood Mallesons Lunch

King & Wood Mallesons very generously offered to host a Boardroom Series Luncheon for Society of Women Leaders Members and their guests on Wednesday, September 16th 2015. Taking in the spectacular view from one of their Sydney boardrooms, guests were served a platter of fresh food before hearing from inspirational Red Cross speaker, Dr Munjed Al Muderis.

Society of Women Leaders Members with Red Cross speaker, Dr Munjed Al Muderis (third from left).

Dr Al Muderis' personal story of fleeing Iraq and coming to Australia as a refugee makes him a powerful advocate for Red Cross humanitarian work supporting vulnerable asylum seekers and refugees.

Today Dr Al Muderis is a pioneering surgeon giving amputees the ability to walk. He is now based on Sydney's North Shore but his journey was filled with the same hardships shared by those who are forced to flee their homes and seek asylum in a new country.

Autumn Luncheon, Arthouse Gallery

Members and guests of Society of Women Leaders met at the Arthouse Gallery on Wednesday, March 18th 2015 for an Autumn Luncheon surrounded by the gorgeous artworks from the In the Still exhibition that were on display during Art Month in Sydney.

Members setting the table for the Autumn Luncheon at Arthouse Gallery.

Members and guests were joined by celebrity chef, Alvin Quah, as they explored the artworks on show. In addition to drinks and canapés, guests enjoyed a sit down lunch and presentations by Artist Shona Wilson and a caseworker from the Society of Women Leaders-supported Young Parents Program.

Members and guests enjoy a shared lunch at Arthouse Gallery.

All photos by Michelle Playoust.

Upcoming events

Please feel free to invite a friend or colleague who would like to learn more about joining you as a Member. For RSVPs or enquiries, please email us.

21 September, Sydney Dance Company Tour
Join us for a behind-the-scenes tour of the Sydney Dance Company in Sydney. Members and Student/Youth Members and daughters of Members welcome. Contact Kimberly if you'd like to join us for dinner afterwards.

20 October, Sydney Boardroom Series Luncheon
With thanks to Josh Penn, SWL supporter, NAB Private Bank will host us for one of our Boardroom Series Luncheons to hear first-hand the details of our new maternal and child health program in Eastern Indonesia.

18 November, our special Society of Women Leaders cruise, Overseas Passenger Terminal, Sydney!
With thanks to Member Ali McEvoy, this very unique Society of Women Leaders luncheon will take place on board Holland America Line's MS Maasdam. (You will need your passport!).

9 December, Melbourne Boardroom Series Luncheon
With thanks to Member Kate O'Callaghan, JB Were will host our final 2016 Boardroom Series Luncheon in Melbourne.

3 December, Member and partner holiday drinks
Save the date for this very special thank you to all Members hosted by Larry Kestelman and Anita Pahor onboard the Vegas which will be visiting Sydney.

15 December, Young Parents Program Recognition Ceremony, Sydney
Limited seats are available to join previous and current participants of this life-changing program as they mark their achievements for the year. Contact Kimberly or Anita to secure a set. The event will be held at Randwick from around 11am until 2pm.

16 December, Migration Support Programs Christmas Party, Sydney
Save this date as we join with staff, volunteers and clients to celebrate the end of the year. There will be opportunities to volunteer on the day. Contact Row for more information

16 February 2017, Sydney Boardroom Series Luncheon
Save the date for a boardroom series luncheon generously hosted by Mercer.

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