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Outstanding community leaders announced as 2008 John Curtin Medallists

Media release

C268/08

7 October 2008

A renowned Aboriginal nurse and a person who has dedicated her life to helping others have shared the spotlight today when both were awarded the prestigious 2008 John Curtin Medal at the 11th annual Medal award ceremony at Curtin University of Technology.

Hills Community Support Group (HCSG) CEO Helen Dullard and Aboriginal elder and nurse Joan Winch received the University’s highest non-academic award in recognition of their enormous contributions to the Western Australian community.

Curtin Vice-Chancellor Professor Jeanette Hacket said the two recipients had exhibited John Curtin’s qualities of vision, leadership and community services in their chosen fields and were exceptional recipients of the John Curtin Medal.

“Helen Dullard has worked towards her vision for a better community and served her local area passionately over many years,” Professor Hacket said.

“Helen has been at the helm of the HCSG from its beginnings in the 1980s and has successfully steered its growth, obtained funding for an increasing number of people and expanded its programs to meet changing social needs.

“She has established a number of initiatives including a safe house for young women and a program to help local Aboriginal youth in Midland gain and maintain employment.

“I commend Helen on her work in many capacities and forums, and her dedication to helping people in the eastern metropolitan area.”

The University also honoured Joan Winch for her tireless work to improve Indigenous primary health care in Western Australia.

“Joan was part of the first cohort of students to graduate from the Diploma of Nursing cohort at Curtin University of Technology (then WAIT) in 1979 and became the first visiting Nyungar community nurse at the Perth Aboriginal Medical Service in 1980,” Professor Hacket said.

“Joan recognised the need for training for Aboriginal health workers and established the Aboriginal Health Worker Education Program in 1983 which became the Marr Mooditj (‘Good Hands’) Foundation in 1990.

“Her status as a respected Nyungar elder, founder of Marr Mooditj, Premier’s Indigenous Leaders Scholar and the recipient of many national and international awards, is testament to the battles she has won against overwhelming odds.”

The John Curtin Medal honours Australia’s wartime Prime Minister John Curtin by celebrating those who exhibit his qualities of vision, leadership and community service. John Curtin Day celebrations and the Medal Award Ceremony commemorate the anniversary of his accession to the country’s highest political office on 7 October 1941.

Note to COS/Editor: Below are citations for the 2008 recipients.  Photographs are available on request.

Contact: Sally Rowe, PR Coordinator, Curtin, (08) 9266 2793, 0401 103 373, s.rowe@curtin.edu.au

Citations of 2008 John Curtin Medal Recipients

Helen Dullard
Helen Dullard’s vision is for a better community. As the Chief Executive Officer of the Hills Community Support Group (HCSG), she has worked towards this vision and served her local community passionately over many years.  Helen has been described as a “social entrepreneur” using her considerable skills to better a community and the lives of individuals within it.The HCSG was born some 25 years ago at a public meeting attended by people wanting to set up a support group in the Mundaring area. From these humble beginnings it has continued to grow and currently provides services to youth at risk, frail older people, people with disabilities and carers. It has more than 300 staff, a multi-million dollar budget and services thousands of people in the eastern metropolitan area.  Helen has led HCSG from its beginnings in the 1980s and has successfully steered its growth, obtained funding for an increasing number of people and expanded its programs to meet changing social needs.

Helen recently became aware of the acute need for a safe house for young women and through her hard work and determination she forged partnerships to obtain land, funding and a building to cater for this need. It will be the first of its kind in WA. With the support of a major local business that donated land and a building, Helen has also developed a program aimed at helping local Aboriginal youth in Midland gain and maintain employment.  A group of older Aboriginal ladies (and often their daughters and babies) also come together twice a week to enjoy friendship, develop personal health plans and use their natural talents to produce artworks.  Through careful and respectful sharing of ideas, this initiative led to building new and rewarding contacts with local Aboriginal families.

Helen puts an immense amount of time and energy into her role as HCSG CEO, and also maintains a strong commitment to her local community.  She has been a Mundaring Shire Councillor since 2000 and was elected as President in October 2007. Helen has also been a ministerial appointment to the Local Government Advisory Board since 2002 and was recently appointed to the Racing and Gaming Commission.

Many hours of Helen’s time have been dedicated to volunteering in the community.  She works on local environmental issues and with a long standing interest in the arts has volunteered in the local arts community and has been a member of the Mundaring Community Arts Board since 2000. Helen has only just retired from a 10-year membership on the Council of the Ageing Board where she chaired the Community Services and Health Committee. She is a community member on the Swan Kalamunda Hospital Community Advisory Council which includes representation on both the Carers and Disability Access committees. Helen is also one of 14 chief executive officers of a Round Table set up to build a solid relationship between the Director General of the Disability Services Commission and the not-for-profit sector.  To support this, Helen is a state board member of the National Disability Services and she is an active member of the Mundaring Shire’s Disability and Seniors Advisory Group.

Helen Dullard is indeed a most worthy recipient of the John Curtin Medal for 2008.

Joan Winch
Joan Winch has worked tirelessly to improve Indigenous primary health care in Western Australia. As the founder of Marr Mooditj Foundation, she has helped to deliver appropriate and effective health worker training for Indigenous people and communities across the State. After leaving school at the age of 13, Joan has gone on to have a long and distinguished career in the health sector. She graduated from the inaugural Diploma of Nursing cohort at Curtin University of Technology (then WAIT) in 1979, and became the first visiting Nyungar community nurse at the Perth Aboriginal Medical Service in 1980.

Two overseas trips, a visit to India in 1975 and China in 1977, led her to believe that appropriate and effective health care must involve practical training and education, and a specific cultural context in which to teach and provide care.

After starting work at the Perth Aboriginal Medical Service, Joan began planning an Indigenous health worker education program that applied the principles and practices she had seen overseas. As a result, she set up the Aboriginal Health Worker Education Program in 1983. In 1990, the program became the Marr Mooditj (‘Good Hands’) Foundation. Joan’s vision for a community-controlled, culturally appropriate and effective primary health care program was awarded the Sasakawa Award for Primary Health Care Work by the World Health Organisation in 1987.

In 1999, Joan became the Director of the Centre for Aboriginal Studies (CAS) at Curtin, a position that she held for three years.  She has continued to provide guidance to the Centre through her membership of the Aboriginal Advisory Committee and is the Patron of CAS. While the Marr Mooditj Foundation has made a substantial contribution to the Indigenous and wider community through its health programs and training, Joan has devoted countless hours to serving her community.  While working as a visiting community nurse, she used her free time to help mothers in Indigenous communities with practical help and instruction.  She continued this work after establishing ‘Mooditj Mums’ as part of the Marr Mooditj program, which led to the establishment of the Indigenous maternal and infant health service Ngunytju Tjitji Pirni in Kalgoorlie.

Joan has also served on many committees including the Royal Australian College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists Indigenous Women’s Committee and the Federal Health Minister’s Advisory Council (Women’s Health). Her status as a respected Nyungar elder, founder of Marr Mooditj, Premier’s Indigenous Leaders Scholar and the recipient of many national and international awards, is testament to the battles she has won against overwhelming odds. Joan has never hesitated in taking on challenges that she felt were worth fighting for. She has placed the welfare of Indigenous community members and groups, as well as that of her family and friends, before her own interests.

Joan Winch is indeed a most worthy recipient of the John Curtin Medal for 2008.

Modified: 7 October 2008