The inaugural 25 Champions for Women were selected based on their involvement in forming, contributing to and playing pivotal roles in building and supporting the the organisation in becoming the strong voice for women of Victoria that it is today. It was a difficult process to narrow candidates down to 25 champions for our inaugural induction as there are many women who have contributed to our work. Over time we will continue to recognise these valuable contributions and recognise more women as our champions.
We acknowledge that each and every one of these women have also had a great influence on women’s health beyond our organisation. Below are small summaries of the connection our Champions have with WHV and how they have interacted with our work over the last 25 years. We have included links throughout so you can find out more about them and their broader contribution to women’s health.
Dr Allanson was a founding member of the WHV Abortion Working Group, established in 2008, and a significant contributor to the Victorian Governments Women’s Sexual and Reproductive Health strategy in 2017. Her experience as an active advocate for women’s reproductive health rights and three decades of expertise as a clinical psychologist at the Fertility Control Clinic provided valuable support in the creation of our Sexual and Reproductive Health service, 1800 My Options in 2018.
Dr Susie Allanson continues to be a strong voice for women’s reproductive rights. In 2019 she worked with the Human Rights Law Centre to uphold Victoria’s safe access zones in a High Court challenge. You can read more about her in the Age newspapers article, Meet Susie, the woman behind the push for abortion clinic buffer zones.
Belinda provides valuable support to Counterpart, a service of WHV that connects, supports and informs women living with cancer to live well. A practicing psychologist, Belinda’s expertise was instrumental in writing the framework for the communication skills and training of the first Breacan/Counterpart Peer Support Volunteer program in 2003. Belinda continues to generously volunteer her time to provide psychological support and training to yearly intakes of volunteers. Her coaching helps women with a lived experience of cancer strengthen their listening skills and prepare them for supporting other women with cancer whilst practicing self-care. Belinda also continues to present at Peer Support Volunteer in-service days and What’s On sessions.
Outside of her work with Counterpart, Belinda practices Psychology at Melbourne Psycho-oncology, a service established by Cabrini Health that specialises in providing support services to those affected by a cancer diagnosis. Further details can be found on Belinda’s LinkedIn page.
Prior to working at WHV, Marilyn held numerous positions with the Australian Nursing Federation where she advocated for the rights of nurses and women’s health for more than 14 years. Early on in her career, Marilyn established herself as an advocate for people experiencing complex health and social disadvantage. During her tenure as CEO of WHV (1996-2011), Marilyn lobbied to establish BreaCan (now Counterpart) and Women with Disabilities Victoria. Marilyn also played a pivotal role in the implementation of the Women’s Corrections Services Management Standards and in the campaign for Abortion Law Reform, including removal of abortion from the crimes act. Marilyn’s ongoing commitment to equality has expanded into multiple streams, across health service provision, policy and advocacy, health workforce representation and governance.
Marylyn has received many awards for her ongoing dedication to women’s health including the Australian Centenary of Federation Medal for significant services to women’s health (2003), the Order of Australia Medal (OAM) in 2017 for significant contribution to community, in particular to women’s health and an induction into the Victorian Honour Roll of Women for leadership and advocacy in improving women’s health (2007).
Marilyn continues driving the women's health agenda in Victoria and nationally by providing her expertise to boards (including Chair of the Australian Women’s Health Network), consulting in planning and organisational development and mentoring up and coming managers. Gain more of an insight into Marilyn’s work in this biography.
As CEO of Women’s Health Victoria from 2010 to 2019, Rita demonstrated her leadership in Gender Equality, Sexual and Reproductive Health and the Prevention of Violence Against Women across government, policy makers and the sector. Rita is held in high regard with all stakeholders for her ability to build partnerships and coalitions and work with others towards a shared vision for women in Victoria.
Examples of this include collaborating with groups to successfully campaign for the introduction of safe access zones and later, for a review of Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) services that led to the first women’s SRH strategy and funding for the establishment of our service, 1800 My Options. Rita also secured funding for several projects focused on Gender Equality and was a major contributor to Safe and Strong – Victoria’s first state-wide Gender Equality strategy.
Committed to the Prevention of Violence Against Women, Rita contributed extensively to the Royal Commission on Family Violence and sat on a number of key ministerial advisory committees to implement the recommendations. Rita continues to be an influential voice for equality and the rights of women as CEO at Safe Steps.
A WHV Board member between 2009 – 2017, including two years as Treasurer and three years as Board Chair, Meredith was instrumental in ensuring compliance with regulatory requirements, maintaining financial health and good governance.
Meredith’s background in social and public policy, commitment to community participation combined with 20 years’ experience in law provided a breadth of knowledge that was highly influential in guiding WHV’s strategic direction and policy and advocacy work. Meredith also played a strong role in the work with the safe access zones legislation and driving the need for a state-wide sexual and reproductive health strategy for women, which was launched by the Victorian Government in March 2017.
Meredith has made a significant impact with her commitment to gender equality and women’s health both on the Board and in her professional life. Meredith is a Health and Social policy consultant and is Convenor for The Women's Table. Visit Meredith’s LinkedIn Profile to read more about her many roles and incredible impacts in these areas.
With over 30 years of clinical experience, a strong advocate for women’s health, particularly Abortion Law Reform and a member of the Sexual Health Task Force, Dr Sally Cockburn was also a founding member of the WHV Abortion Working Group, formed in 2008.
Active in community affairs and charities, Sally has a long and distinguished career serving on many ministerial advisory committees over the years and health care boards including Vic Health and Family Planning Victoria.
Sally remains a big supporter of WHV and was the MC for a panel discussion on women’s health polices at our 2014 AGM and for Counterpart’s 15th Birthday in 2019. Known nationally as one of the leaders in health communication, Sally continues to provide reliable information, debunking myths and misconceptions about difficult topics across television, radio and print media.
Sally was inducted into the Victorian Women's Honour Roll in 2010 and has also received Monash University's Distinguished Alumni Service Award. Read more about her achievements on her LinkedIn profile.
Rhonda was a founding member of BreaCan (now Counterpart) WHV’s peer support and information service for women with a cancer diagnosis. She is one of the original Peer Support Volunteers and helped expand the service into the hospital setting through the Bridge of Support programs. A crucial part of the team, on average Rhonda works 20 shifts per year, which over the past 16 years amounts to more than 300 shifts. Travelling between Sunshine Hospital, Royal Melbourne Hospital, Royal Women’s Hospital and Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre to provide a listening ear to women during treatment, Rhonda’s commitment to supporting women living with cancer knows no bounds.
Rhonda’s contribution extends beyond peer support as she also shares her knowledge and insights by volunteering in training sessions, assisting with recruitment of new volunteers and representing the organisation at various events each year.
Like many of the Counterpart volunteers, Rhonda has a unique way of drawing upon her own experience with cancer to provide care and support to other women. She continues to generously give her time, remaining a valuable Counterpart team member, bringing a warm, positive energy to every interaction.
Mary Crooks has been an important partner of WHV and informal adviser in relation to fundraising and information about the philanthropic sector over many years.
Since 1996 Mary has held the role of Executive Director of the Victorian Women’s Trust and has tirelessly championed the rights of women and girls in the quest for gender equality. Her work in this role has led to grants to WHV for innovative programs over the years including the ground-breaking Labia Library, which has amassed more than 20,000,000 views since launching in 2013.
Mary has received many awards for her commitment to public policy, feminism and social justice. In 2012 Mary was appointed as an Officer in the General Division of the Queen’s Birthday Honours (AO) for her “distinguished service to the community through contributions to public policy, …… and as an advocate for the advancement of women.”
To read more on Mary’s incredible dedication to helping women visit The Encyclopedia of Women and Leadership in Twentieth-Century Australia website.
Jill’s is well known for her commitment to women’s health and in particular women’s Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) rights. In 2017 as the former Minister for Health, she launched Victoria's first ever Women's Sexual and Reproductive Health strategy. It included funding for WHV’s 1800 My Options service, a phone line for information about contraception, pregnancy options, including abortion and sexual health, launched in 2018. Since that time this free and confidential service has supported thousands of women to find trusted SRH services without judgement or stigma.
As the Minister for Health, Jill also provided funding to develop our gendered data index into an interactive online platform, describing the Women's Health Atlas (a joint partnership between WHV and Spatial Vision) as ‘a spectacular achievement, an engaging platform that reflects the reality of women in Victoria.’
Jill Hennessy MP, served as the Minister for health from December 2014 - December 2018. She is now the Attorney General and Minster for the Coordination of Justice and Community Safety, COVID -19 and continues to be a great supporter of women and the work of WHV.
Louise served as Deputy Chair on the WHV board prior to being appointed in the role of Board Chair in 2009 until 2011. With her experience as CEO at the Victorian Assisted Reproductive Treatment Authority (VARTA), Louise provided valuable input into WHV’s work on Sexual and Reproductive Health. During her time on the board, Louise was actively involved in a number of significant developments including campaigns to decriminalise abortion and the expansion of Working Together Against Violence, the first workplace based training program of its kind in Australia, which won an Australian Crime and Prevention award. Louise also played a significant role in developing what is now the Women’s Health Atlas.
Louise remains committed to women’s reproductive health and continues her role as CEO at VARTA and as member of NHMRC’s Embryo Research Licensing Committee. You can read more about her dedication to sexual and reproductive health in this Health Victoria article.
Patty has held a close relationship with WHV as a part of the Women’s Health sector over many years whilst working for a number of different organisations including as the CEO of Women’s Health Grampians from 2006 to 2015.
As CEO of Our Watch from 2015, Patty has further strengthened her partnership with WHV in the Prevention of Violence Against Women – supporting joint policy and funding submissions at state and federal level. WHV is a registered trainer for a number of Our Watch programs and is currently piloting a new approach about workplace equality and respect.
Patty is a great partner and friend to WHV and continues to bring a strong collaborative approach building coalitions and alliances to improve Gender Equality and Prevent of Violence Against Women. Visit Patty’s LinkedIn page to read more about her achievements in women’s health and gender equality and her unwavering commitment to women’s protection through paid and volunteer roles.
Dr Maggie Kirkman is as a Senior Research Fellow at Global and Women's Health, Public Health and Preventive Medicine at Monash University. Using her knowledge and experience gained from research in sexual and reproductive health over many years, she played a pivotal role in founding the WHV Abortion Working Group in 2008. Dr Kirkman’s knowledge also played a vital role in a review of the Victoria’s Public Sexual and Reproductive Health services, which led to Victoria’s first Women’s Sexual Reproductive Health (SRH) strategy in 2017. As part of this work she advocated strongly for a state-wide phoneline for Victorian women, which became the 1800 My Options service.
Dr Kirkman continues to engage WHV in her research activities and supports the organisation’s policy and advocacy work. She is a member of the Australian Psychological Society and the majority of her work relates to the psychosocial aspects of reproduction. For more details visit Maggie’s biography on the Monash University website.
With an incredible strategic understanding of the cancer sector and experience providing supportive and survivorship care, Di was influential in the development of WHV’s BreaCan, now Counterpart, service.
As the inaugural Manager (2003-2011), Di cultivated BreaCan as a pilot project through three years of project work and evaluation, before securing ongoing funding from the then Department of Health to embed BreaCan (now Counterpart) as an important part of the cancer sector. Di shaped the service around the importance of 'the voices of women'. A big part of this was achieved by developing a Peer Support model made up of women who had a breast cancer experience, that was later expanded to include women who had a gynaecological cancer diagnosis. The Peer Support Volunteers provided support over the phone, face to face in the resource centre and in hospitals where women were being treated. Di developed many innovations including an exercise program specifically tailored to women affected by breast or a gynaecological cancer and event programs including a program for women living with advanced cancer. This work was publicly acknowledged when BreaCan won a Victorian Public Health Care Award for Innovations in Models of Care in 2007.
The values and ways of working that Di cemented into the practices of BreaCan continue to this day.
Paddy, a long-time advocate and leading speaker on abortion both nationally and internationally, has dedicated more than three decades to improving health services and access to reproductive health care for women and girls. This experience, combined with her knowledge as a trained gynaecologist and obstetrician, was invaluable to WHV throughout the establishment of 1800 My Options, WHV’s Sexual and Reproductive Health phoneline. Paddy worked closely with the team to help shape the scope and practice of the service to meet the needs of women and provided coaching to staff and built strong pathways between the Choices Clinic at the Royal Women’s Hospital and 1800 My Options. Paddy continues to support the ongoing development of the service as well as working with the team to build capacity and capability of SRH services in regional and rural areas and advocating for more publicly provided abortion services.
In 2020, Paddy was inducted into the Victorian Honour Roll of Women.
Dr Paddy Moore currently heads up the Early Pregnancy Service and Abortion and Contraception Service at the Royal Women’s Hospital and a gynaecologist at the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne. To read more about her commitment to women’s health visit the following pieces; Dr Moore is one of Australia’s leading experts in women’s health and ‘No one approaches this lightly': leading gynaecologist speaks about abortions.
Fiona a longstanding campaigner for sexual health, introduced a private members’ bill into the Victorian parliament to amend the Public Health and Wellbeing Act. The law, which was passed in 2016 created legal Safe Access Zones around women’s reproductive health clinics, an area that WHV had been campaigning on for many years. This work has been critical for women and health professionals to access and provide Sexual and Reproductive Health services free from intimidation and harassment.
In addition to her work for all Victorian women, Fiona has passionately advocated for the work of WHV and has participated in many key events and forums. Fiona sat on a panel at WHV’s 2018 AGM, where she discussed contemporary women’s health issues alongside other Members of Parliament including The Hon. Natalie Hutchins MP, Minister for Women & Minister for the Prevention of Family Violence.
Fiona is founder and leader of the Reason Party and has a seat in the Victorian Legislative Council, representing the Northern Metropolitan Region. Fiona remains a passionate advocate and campaigner as well as a friend of WHV and a critical stakeholder to our work. Read more about her work and achievements.
The late Fiona Richardson was a critical stakeholder and a big supporter of the women’s health sector and WHV, presenting at our AGM in 2016. Throughout her time as Australia’s first Minister for the Prevention of Family Violence and then as Minister for Women, Fiona oversaw the establishment of Australia’s first Royal Commission into Family Violence. Fiona bravely stood in solidarity with other victim survivors and shared her story to help reduce the shame and stigma of living with family violence.
Fiona was also responsible for developing Victoria’s first Gender Equality strategy paving the way for numerous developments and achievements towards a more equitable state. Fiona also used her lived experience of breast cancer to support other women living with cancer.
Sadly, Fiona died from breast cancer in 2017, but her legacy remains and her dedicated efforts continue to inspire WHV to realise her vision through our prevention work. Watch The Ministers Secret on Australian Story to gain an insight into her personal experience with family violence.
Judy was one of the founding volunteers of WHV’s cancer support service BreaCan (now Counterpart) in 2003 and has been donating her time and knowledge ever since.
As a qualified exercise instructor, Judy has facilitated the organisations Feel Good exercise program for women with cancer on a voluntary basis, every fortnight since BreaCan began and for the last five years has been the backbone of the Counterpart Stepping into Wellness program, funded by Pink Affair.
After her experience of breast cancer more than twenty-five years ago, Judy has vigorously campaigned for exercise to be recognised and prioritised as a form of rehabilitation for women following a breast cancer diagnosis. Judy holds a strong presence within the cancer sector as an active volunteer and consumer representative for many cancer organisations. In 2020, Judy was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia for service to community health.
To read more about Judy’s cancer experience and important work keeping exercise as a rehabilitation tool see her survivor story on the Peter Mac website.
Kay’s advocacy work and long-standing career in women’s health and wellbeing began in the 70’s when she took on a volunteer role at a women’s refuge. Kay was inspired to move into politics and as Minister for Women and in the Cain/Kirner governments she developed the first women’s health policy.
Kay’s connection to WHV is both historic and ongoing. As chair of the Victorian Women’s Health Kay lead the policy consultation, ‘Why Women’s health?’ The outcome and ongoing legacy of this work was the establishment of eight women’s health centres, eight sexual assault centres and a state-wide women’s health information service that along with another organisation, would go on to form Women’s Health Victoria as we know it today.
Kay assisted with the establishment of EMILY’s list in the early 90’s and was inducted onto the inaugural Victorian Honour Roll of Women in 2001 - ‘Women Shaping The Nation’, for her significant contributions to Victoria.
Kay continues to have a strong presence with a number of community groups, particularly those in the Bass community dedicated to combatting family violence. To read more on Kay’s incredible work for women visit the Her Place Museum website and this wonderful article in the Bass Coast Post.
As a key advocate for human rights, Helen provided strong advocacy on a range of issues during her time as Deputy Board Chair (2000 – 2003) and Board Chair (2004 – 2005). This included working in partnership with the Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society from Latrobe University and the Victorian Aids Council to successfully tender to establish the world's first Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex Health and Wellbeing Resource Unit.
As a member of the board during a significant period of change for WHV, Helen also successfully lobbied for the Department of Health to include gendered data in the health information surveillance system, secured charitable status for the organisation and long term funding for BreaCan (now Counterpart), WHV’s cancer support service.
Helen previously served as the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commissioner and as Australian Race Discrimination Commissioner. She has received a number of honours and awards including Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) in 2018 for her commitment to human rights and equality including health sector policy development. For more of an insight into Helen’s incredible history see her LinkedIn profile.
Angela’s experience as Chief Investigator of SPHERE in sexual and reproductive health for women in primary health care combined with her research on preventing unwanted pregnancies, emergency contraception and medical abortion options proved critical when founding the WHV Abortion Working Group in 2008. Angela is a great collaborator playing a valuable role supporting the WHV’s policy and advocacy work through research. A key outcome of this collaboration was the decriminalisation of abortion.
During more than ten years as the national convenor or co-convenor of the Women’s Health Special Interest Group as both an advocate and academic, Professor Taft lobbied intensively for the Emergency Contraceptive Pill to be available over the counter and for the importation of the early abortion drug, Mifepristone. Angela also developed the first Framework for a National Sexual and Reproductive Health Strategy in 2008.
For over 18 years, Angela has worked on a major research project about intimate partner and gender-based violence, important efforts that continue today. Angela is a Professor and former Director of the Judith Lumley Centre of mother, infant and family health research (JLC) at La Trobe University. Read more about Prof Angela Taft’s dedicated work to women and sexual and reproductive health.
As Chair of the Health Sharing Women’s Health Service (before it became WHV) and as one of 14 inaugural committee members Dr Jo Wainer was an integral part of the inception of Women’s Health Victoria.
A committed advocate for sexual and reproductive health rights, Jo campaigned for abortion law reform; better access to contraception; the inclusion of gender on the medical curriculum; and for improved women’s health services in rural areas and established the Women’s Health Association of Victoria (the women’s health network). Jo also founded a multi-disciplinary women’s health clinic to provide abortion services, employing 24 staff and providing services to over 5000 women per year.
In 2010, Jo became a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for her service to the community as an academic and researcher in women’s reproductive rights and female rural doctors.
Dr Jo Wainer continues to champion women’s health issues and states in her biography (featured here on Women’s Web) ‘I intend to be one of the wise women and I will continue to spend my life in the service of the feminine.’
During her time as WHV’s Senior Policy and Health Promotion Officer (2014 – 2019), Amy made major contributions to legislative and policy reform, most notably through her advocacy work to establish safe access zones around abortion providers. Amy also left her mark on Safe and Strong: Victoria’s gender equality strategy (2016); the WHV submission was acknowledged by the then Minister for Women as the leading submission informing the strategy.
Amy contributed greatly to addressing sexualised and stereotyped representations of women in public spaces. As part of this work she implemented a multi-faceted strategy involving research into the harmful impacts of sexualisation. WHV’s Gender Equality in Advertising project is the product of Amy’s earlier research in this area. She was also instrumental in the Throw Like A Girl gender equity mural that can be seen on the wall of the North Melbourne Recreation Centre and the establishment of 1800 My Options, WHV’s Sexual and Reproductive Health phoneline.
Amy’s influential advocacy on the issue of reproductive coercion has led to Marie Stopes undertaking national consultations and developing a White Paper on the issue, with a view to pursuing both internal service reform and systemic advocacy.
Dr Webster is a trusted expert in the field of Sexual and Reproductive Health and approaches her work with persistence, tenacity and positivity. Amy is currently Senior Policy and Health Promotion Officer at Safe Steps. Read more about Amy’s work on LinkedIn.
Beth has been a significant supporter of women’s health and a critical stakeholder and consumer representative in WHV’s work over many years including serving on the WHV Board.
As a member of Joan Kirner's Women's Advisory Group in the 80's, Beth was a vocal advocate for the removal of abortion from the crimes act. She brought this vital experience as a founding member of WHV’s Abortion Working Group.
During her time as Health Services Commissioner (1997 – 2012), Beth presented a number of sessions at BreaCan (now Counterpart). Calling on her own experience with breast cancer, Beth provided valuable insight as a consumer into how things were for women with cancer as a member of the BreaCan/Counterpart Advisory Group over several years.
A long-time advocate of consumer rights in health care, including women's reproductive rights, Beth has received a number of awards in recognition for her life’s work including induction into the Victorian Honour Roll of Women for services to women’s health in Victoria (2008) and member of the Order of Australia (2013).
Beth continues to be an active spokesperson/advocate for women and the women’s health services. As a public speaker she is a regular MC/facilitator for WHV events and forums which she does pro-bono. Read more about her commitment to health via the Women Australia website.
Mary was a strong ally of Women's Health Victoria throughout her political career. As the former Minister for Mental Health, Women's Affairs and Community Services (2010 -2013) she was a great supporter of BreaCan (now Counterpart). Commenting on the contribution of the volunteers during National Volunteer Week the Minister said: "I congratulate BreaCan for creating an environment where volunteers can thrive. Their contribution is so substantial and so greatly appreciated".
During her time as a politician Mary showed great courage in speaking out about abortion and women's reproductive health rights when this was not always shared more broadly from her party. Her passion for abortion law reform and safe access zones also led to strong bipartisan support. Mary was active in many issues facing women including supporting the availability of over the counter contraception as an option for Victorian women (2018).
Mary was in Politics for over 13 years and is now Board Chair at Global Citizen. Read more about her work on her LinkedIn Page.
Dr Yap oversaw many changes in women’s health during her time on the WHV Board as both a member 2010 –2016 and as Chair from 2017-2018. One of her most significant achievements as Chair of the Board (2016-2018) was successfully advocating for the allocation of funds for 1800 My Options, the first ever state-wide phone line and information service for women about contraception, pregnancy options and sexual health. This is a service WHV had spent 10 years campaigning for.
Desiree is a professional gynaecologist who has dedicated over two decades to improving health care for women. She has led many changes in this sector and her leadership includes a six-year role as President of the Victorian Medical Women’s Society. Desiree’s advocacy was significant in a number of health reforms including legalisation of abortion in Victoria and the development of legislation to support safe access zones around clinics providing sexual and reproductive health services to women. Desiree was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia for her ‘significant service to women’s health and to medicine.’ (2020) Read more in the O&G Magazine interview.
Desiree continues her work as a Consultant Specialist Gynaecologist at The Royal Women’s and Epworth Hospitals and also holds appointment at Monash Medical Centre. Read more on her LinkedIn page.