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Through adversity these ACT women strive to help others

Wendy Johnson 16 September 2019
2019 Lifeline Canberra Women of Spirit awards

Keynote speaker, Julie Bishop, former Minister for Foreign Affairs, with Carrie-Ann Leeson, CEO, Lifeline Canberra, at the 2019 Lifeline Canberra Women of Spirit Awards. Photos: Lifeline Canberra.

To say that Joan Andersson’s upbringing was horrific is an understatement.

She grew up in a cult known for exploiting children. She’s been impacted by substance abuse and domestic violence, been in custody, suffered mental illness and had her children taken from her.

But Joan is a spirited woman. She turned her life around and is now making life better for women doing it tough through ‘Women Get It Done’, a gardening and handywoman service offered by women who also haven’t had a smooth ride in life.

In recognition of her contribution, Joan was recognised as the 2019 Woman of Spirit award at the Lifeline Canberra 2019 Women of Spirit Awards. The award honours a woman who, in overcoming personal adversity, has made positive change in society and inspires others to make a difference.

Joan Andersson, recipient of the 2019 Woman of Spirit Award.

“Winning [this award] means the world to me,” says Joan. “My children, partner and family are so proud. It shows that given an opportunity and support, there’s no telling what we can achieve.”

The award is already giving Joan a louder voice to spread the word about Women Get It Done. The business gives women coming out of custody, domestic violence and other adversity the opportunity to thrive, as Joan has. Joan and her partner also run ‘Together We Get It Done’, helping men in similar circumstances.

Women Get It Done provides employment, but also organises access to free or low-cost training and puts people in contact with psychologists, support workers and other support services.

“It’s about supporting people through adversity and removing the stigma around what they’ve been through,” says Joan.

Soon after winning, Joan began receiving calls from employers wanting to help. Within 24 hours one person had been employed.

“It’s great because we can’t ourselves employ everyone and these employers understand that it’s not just getting a job that matters, it’s about supporting women to succeed, including by being flexible with things like time off for appointments relating to parole conditions,” says Joan.

Joan intends to use the exposure gained through the award to help many more women.

“It’s a huge honour and so beautiful to be acknowledged for our work. It’s a big deal to now have a platform to highlight what we do, and take us to the next level,” says Joan.

Bonnie Carter (centre) was recognised as the 2019 Lifeline Rising Woman of Spirit.

Bonnie Carter was the recipient of the 2019 Lifeline Rising Woman of Spirit. The Rising Woman of Spirit award recognises a woman who has overcome personal adversity, and started outstanding community work that makes a difference and inspires others.

Bonnie’s story started in 2016.

That year, she became pregnant to Grace, who was stillborn at 19 weeks. A year later, she birthed Matilda, who was stillborn at 23 weeks. Bonnie has since lost two more children through miscarriage.

“To go through losing a baby once is heartbreaking enough,” says Bonnie. “Going through four pregnancy losses is indescribable.”

Though shattered, Bonnie transformed her experience into positive change for others.

She has raised funds to refurbish The Canberra Hospital Fetal Medicine Unit Bereavement Suite, making it a warm place for those who have lost a baby, as well as increasing awareness of stillbirth to help reduce the number of cases.

As an advocate, Bonnie has appeared before the 2018 Select Committee on Stillbirth Research and Education, sharing her story and lobbying. The inquiry report saw the Government commit funding to reduce stillbirths in Australia for the first time.

Bonnie has achieved many more milestones, including gaining ACT Government approval to light Canberra structures in pink and blue for the 2018 International Day of Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness. She’s also gained approval to relight the landmarks again for the 2019 International Day of Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awarenesson on 15 October.

Bonnie also raised $2,800 for Bears of Hope, enough to help 28 families grieving the loss of their babies, and organises an annual Bears of Hope Mother’s Day High Tea.

“It’s important to teach the community about pregnancy loss so women feel less alone,” says Bonnie. ‘’It will always be painful for me to share my story publicly, but I’m determined to break the silence. There’s so much work to be done.”

Becoming the recipient of the award was an incredible moment for Bonnie who says her two daughters would be pleased with how their memories are being honoured.

“The award is already opening more conversatons. One woman who approached me at the awards had lost her son to stillbirth about 30 years ago,” says Bonnie. “It still affects her, and she says she’s glad we’re spreading awareness.”

It was a proud moment when this year’s keynote speaker, Julie Bishop, former Minister for Foreign Affairs, told Bonnie to never stop telling her story.

‘’I now have it in my head that I’m going to write a book,” Bonnie says.

Club Lime was a proud sponsor of the 2019 Lifeline Canberra Women of Spirit Awards.


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