Seventeen inspiring women were recognised for their contributions to the local community at the 2019 Lifeline Canberra Women of Spirit Awards on Wednesday 4 September.
The awards recognise women who have faced adversity and have found within them the strength to not just persevere, but also to give others a helping hand.
The Rising Women of Spirit Award was presented to Bonnie Carter, an advocate for infant loss awareness.
Mrs Carter became a mother for the first time in 2016 to Grace, stillborn at 19 weeks, and in 2017 birthed Matilda, stillborn at 23 weeks. She has also suffered two miscarriages.
According to her citation, Mrs Carter fundraised and refurbished the Canberra Hospital Fetal Medicine Unit Bereavement Suite “to ensure others receiving sad news could do so in a room of warmth and love”. She also appeared before the 2018 Senate Enquiry into Stillbirth Research and Education, as well as being involved in numerous community fundraising efforts.
Mrs Carter accepted her award on behalf of bereaved parents and for her daughters.
“It is a living nightmare leaving the hospital with empty arms, returning to a beautiful but empty nursery, planning a funeral rather than a Christening,” she said. “With awareness comes change and with change comes hope.”
The Women of Spirit Award went to Joan Andersson, who described her background as “colourful and unique”.
“I never knew events like this existed … and I never stopped to think I’d be named for something like this,” she said.
Ms Andersson grew up within Children of God – a cult known for exploitation of children – and was taken into state care at age 12. She has been impacted by substance abuse, domestic violence, mental illness and more.
Five months ago, Ms Andersson started Women Get It Done, a social enterprise that gives women coming out of custody, domestic violence and other adversity the opportunity to contribute to society with opportunities for training, employment and other supports.
The Honourable Julie Bishop was guest speaker for the event and imparted some wisdom to guests including: don’t ever let others define who you are and what you can achieve; set your own high standards; back your intuition and judgement; take calculated risks and be aware of the consequences; mentoring works; and find joy in your life.