Words: Melissa Ferguson, Photos: Anna Ryan
In an intimate setting in the heart of South Yarra, over thirty guests gathered collectively to help form our first Boardroom Series Lunch for Melbourne for 2019. Generously hosted by SWL Member Krista Vendy Rogers and her husband Brett Rogers, guests were treated to a delectable fine dining experience at Steer Dining Room. Both Krista and Brett provided honest and humble accounts of their involvement with Australian Red Cross Society of Women Leaders, and earnestly described how they have both been positively impacted as a result.
Jovially introduced by host Brett, SWL Chair Anita Pahor encapsulated the essence of Society of Women Leaders, by providing guests with a heartfelt report on the incredible impact that this unique circle of giving is making, with over two million dollars being raised to fund Red Cross programs since its inception.
Recently celebrating fifteen years of service at Red Cross, our first guest speaker was Director of Community Programs Kerry McGrath. Kerry demonstrated the intrinsic value behind investing in Justice Reinvestment, a new program area that is being funded by SWL. Kerry stressed the importance of addressing the underlying causes of crime as a greater means of deterring future criminal activity, reducing prison costs, and decreasing recidivism rates with our young people.
Our second guest speaker for the afternoon was proud Nunga woman of the Ngarrindjeri Nation Debra Moyle. A dedicated social worker currently working with the Port Adelaide community, Debra highlighted the stark reality of the over incarceration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in our prison systems.
Despite making up three per cent of Australia’s population, Debra shockingly reported that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples represent over twenty eight per cent of Australia’s prison population. Startling facts followed such as cases of children missing forty days of school (each year) before entering grade three, young people not having been given a proper ID upon exiting the prison system, and only to be handed a visual representation of their mug shot on a prison discharge form. With Australian prisons being filled with disproportionately disadvantaged people, Debra stressed the importance of having community designed programs led by Community Elders and Leaders, who in partnership with Australian Red Cross, can create a space where community members can best determine their needs and in turn provide the best solutions for their community.
Both Kerry and Debra were met with great applause and an even a deeper appreciation from guests who were privy to hearing about their amazing work, so much that SWL Founding Member Lisa Blundell (courteously) interrupted our Chair Anita mid-sentence to announce that she was going to donate an additional twenty five thousand dollars to Red Cross’ Justice Reinvestment work! The announcement of the sporadic donation created an unanticipated buzz and electricity that filled the room. Clearly very humbled and taken back, Kerry and Debra expressed their immense gratitude to Lisa and SWL for their continued generosity.
This is a pure example of the magic that is SWL.