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SWL Inaugural Fundraising Gala

Celebrating 5 Years of Women Leading Through Philanthropy. Sydney, 17 September 2019

Words Rochelle Collis. Photos: Andrea Francolini Photography (sponsored by Jaycar).

The Society of Women Leaders 5 Year Anniversary Fundraising Gala Dinner was a celebration of friendship, philanthropy, shared hearts and minds. The 17th of September was the night to honour the members of SWL and relive the moments of the past five years which formed bonds of friendship and collective giving.

It was a stormy Tuesday night, but the weather didn’t deter anyone from our special evening. Members, partners, guests and sponsors arrived at the Art Gallery of NSW, one of Australia’s leading public galleries. The magnificent vestibule greeted guests, who were then ushered to the Lowy, Gonski Gallery and treated to elegant cocktails with a string quartet playing beautiful music.

At 7.30pm the formalities commenced, and all were seated in the Entrance Court of the Gallery. Susan Wynne SWL’s Deputy Chair was emcee for the evening and she greeted guests, thanked the major sponsor Jaycar and acknowledged the support of the Art Gallery of NSW, as well as paying respect to the traditional custodians of the land, the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation.

Susan Wynne also welcomed special guests, CEO of Australian Red Cross Judy Slatyer, the President of Australian Cross – Ross Pinney Florence Nightingale Recipient Ruth Jebb, and our own inspiring leader, National Chair of SWL - Anita Pahor all of whom had travelled from interstate to attend the gala.

Judy Slatyer, CEO, Australian Red Cross was our first speaker of the night. Judy joined Red Cross after seven years as global Chief Operating Officer for WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature). Her talk told the story of SWL’s amazing heights of fundraising having raised over $2.5 million in the last five years. She congratulated the women of SWL not just for our fundraising but for our respect of humanity in the manner in which we conduct ourselves. Kindness can never be overrated in any circumstances and our group is the epitome of kindness, she said - giving to people we have never met.

Judy’s final message hit a note with the audience, she spoke of the effect of climate change. Heatwaves have caused more deaths in Australia since 1890 than bushfires, cyclones, earthquakes, floods and severe storms combined. We will spend more and more on climate change disasters. In 2016, the World Economic Forum listed ‘failure of climate change mitigation and adaptation’ as its highest risk in terms of impact, and third highest in terms of likelihood. These chilling verdicts resonated with many in the room and we find ourselves deep in reflection.

The evening not only marked a milestone for SWL, but it also marked our partnership with the Australian Red Cross. We were recognised for our 5 years of volunteering in female led philanthropy, the efforts and outcomes that have been achieved were recognised by giving SWL the 2019 Humanitarian Partner Award. At the request of our National SWL Chair, Ross Pinney, the President of the Australian Red Cross presented the award to the SWL Partnership Advisers Row McGilvray NSW and Danni Murray QLD and Founding Member from our Victorian Chapter – Lisa Blundell.

Anita Pahor, our National Chair was the next speaker for the evening. Before she commenced her talk a commemorative 5-year video played marking all the special occasions SWL has come together for the greater cause of helping people. What an anniversary memory and so many special moments in history!

Anita is never lost for the right words and she inspires and reminds us at every event about the responsibility we have of carrying the Red Cross emblem with us on our wrist - an emblem that holds tremendous humanitarian significance and responsibility. The Red Cross emblem literally means don’t shoot and is an internationally recognised symbol in times of conflict. We all wear it with pride. It is very clear to all who meet her that Anita is a passionate advocate for humanitarian projects. Since November 2017, she has been leading the Australian arm of one of the world's largest philanthropic giving circles which funds humanitarian projects of the Red Cross focussing on supporting women and children.

Anita continued with outlining what it means to be a part of SWL; we are committed female philanthropists who work together to advance the mission of Australian Red Cross by embracing and engaging women in our communities, across the country and around the world. Women are increasingly taking the initiative when it comes to philanthropy, seeking not only want to see change, they want to be part of the catalyst to effect change

Our keynote speaker for the evening was Florence Nightingale Award Recipient Ruth Jebb, who was awarded this for exceptional courage and devotion to the sick, wounded and disabled in conflict and disaster zones.

The Brisbane-based nurse has provided life saving care to sick and injured children in some of the world's most difficult conditions including coordinating a feeding clinic for thousands of malnourished children in Sudan.

She has also provided midwifery and intensive care in Cambodia and, among other missions, has helped with disaster relief after Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines and the 2015 Nepal earthquakes. After more than a decade of overseas missions dealing with tragedy and hardship, Ms Jebb said: "Every mission I come away from it thinking I've left a piece of myself." She had seen devastating things that have stayed with her. But she also experiences the hope of humanity and the human spirit.

“Every day there's something positive you can take out of the work that you're doing, whether it's knowing that you've just helped one person that day, even if it feels like another hundred needed your help," she said.

Ruth Jebb’s words will continue to resonate with SWL as we continue to support International Aid Workers as one of our chosen programs of the Australian Red Cross where we allocate part of our pooled funds from our collective.

The 5th Year SWL Gala concluded with fundraising through auction and raffle items kindly donated by members and their partners Nici and Simon McCarroll, Adele and Daniel McDonald, Kate and Alistair Champion, James and Hayley Baillie and sponsor Brian Purkis from Bvlgari. Also through donations and in particular a huge thank you to Caroline Furlong and Marcus Blackmore who donated an additional $50,000 on the night. We also welcomed two new members who were presented with their SWL bracelets.

The night’s fundraising activities surpassed our target of $100K with the final tally coming to over $190K – such amazing generosity of members and guests.

The night ended with that hard to get photo of all the members of SWL present in the room. We are always too busy talking and catching up, but that shows the signs of true affection and friendship. Our bond will keep on keeping on… can’t wait for the next 5 years!