Sydney held its International Women’s Day event on Wednesday 6 March 2019 with a Cocktail
evening at the magnificent home in Hunters Hill of Kerry-Anne Johnston, Founding Member and
Chair NSW Events Committee. This was the third consecutive year that Kerry-Anne has
generously hosted this event and despite having to navigate not only travel and family trauma but
also a severe thunderstorm causing an area wide power outage just hours before the party
started, she graciously welcomed 60 SWL members and their guests to her home, beautifully
decorated with summer flowers and themed with “a touch of red”.
With glasses of pink Moet on ice in hand and having enjoyed a selection of canapés, we moved
into an adjacent space in the Johnston residence to commence the evening’s formal proceedings.
Kerry-Anne welcomed us to her home, telling us that the original inhabitants of the land we were
on were the Wallumedegal people. Anita Pahor, Chair and Founding Member, explained the
concept of the SWL giving circle and described the projects SWL supports for the benefit of the
many guests present who were not members. Since our inception less than 5 years ago, we have
raised over $2 million to support Red Cross projects. We recognised that our gathering was to mark
International Women’s Day which has a campaign theme this year of #BalanceforBetter to call for
further strides towards a gender-balanced community.
One of the very first programs that SWL chose to help fund was the Young Parents Program
which assists young parents aged 13 to 24 who typically have had experiences of domestic
violence, substance abuse or homelessness. Our first guest speaker was Catherine Robinson of
Red Cross who told us that by providing $170,000 per year, SWL is YPP’s biggest donor outside of
government agencies. She introduced our second guest speaker, 25 year old Bowie, who is one
of the many recipients of YPP’s care. Bowie told us her heart wrenching tale of physical abuse
which led to substance abuse and how by receiving a suspended sentence rather than a jail term
when pregnant with her first child, she started to turn her life around. Through the guidance and
mentoring received from the YPP outreach program, Bowie now has a healthy two year old boy, is
in full time employment and is in a stable relationship.
The inaugural SWL International humanitarian mission had taken place from 19 to 24 February
when 5 SWL members travelled to Nusa Tengarra Timor in Indonesia to visit some of the
communities that had benefited from the Red Cross health, sanitation and education for mothers
programs supported by SWL. Danni Murray, Founding Member and Partnership Advisor QLD,
was one of the members who joined the mission and she spoke to the group about her
experiences. With a wonderfully frank and open account, Danni described how the sleeping and
bathing conditions challenged her, as well as meal times when the food on offer was mostly
unfamiliar. But, despite the physical hardships, Danni told us how the welcome from the local
communities to the SWL visitors and the connections made with the people they met made her
recognise the importance of the work being done in the NTT area and made her hugely proud of
the changes that SWL was helping to bring about.
At the conclusion of speeches, and after an important acknowledgement that Row McGilvray,
Member and Partnership Advisor NSW, was a finalist in the annual Blackmores International
Women’s Day Awards for 2019 for the many volunteer hours she gives to benefit SWL, we
reconnected with old friends and made new ones. We thank Red Cross for being represented by
Belinda Dimovski, Director for Engagement and Support, and Poppy Brown, just days in to
her new role as Director for NSW, and also Catherine Robinson of YPP and Melinda Cruz on
behalf of Milk Bank.
Our most grateful thanks go to Kerry-Anne and Gary Johnston for their ongoing and incredibly
generous support of SWL.