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Sydney International Women’s Day Cocktails

6 March, Sydney Words Anne Pike Pics Robin Walton











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.