impact awards

We are proud to present the organisations, teams and individuals who were named as finalists and winners in the inaugural HESTA Impact Awards.


Outstanding Organisation finalists


Advance Rehab Centre


Housing All Australians Ltd


Area of impact: Sector-wide partnerships

Housing All Australians (HAA) is recognised for their innovative ‘Pop Up Shelter’ initiative, which focuses on utilising vacant buildings awaiting redevelopment to increase the supply of short-term affordable housing options.

Partnering with property owners, housing providers, social services, local government and caring private sector organisations, HAA is transforming vacant buildings into temporary accommodation for people experiencing or who are at risk of being homeless. One of their particular focuses is on helping women aged over 55; the fastest-growing cohort of homeless people in Australia. 

In partnership with YWCA and the City of Port Philip, the first Pop Up Shelter – The Lake House –  launched in Melbourne in 2018. An aged care facility sitting vacant and awaiting redevelopment, HAA through their partnerships facilitated over $300,000 of donated goods and services including kitchen and bathroom fit outs, painting, electrical work and furnishings to transform the building into temporary accommodation. As of the end of December 2020, this previously empty building has housed 78 women who were facing homelessness. .

A second ‘Pop Up Shelter’, is currently being refurbished in Box Hill, Victoria, and discussions are happening with building owners in Perth, Sydney, the Gold Coast and Tasmania.



Big Group Hug

Bundoora VIC

Area of impact: Sustainability

Big Group Hug is recognised for their work to support families in need while minimising environmental impact. Committed to ensuring all children have the best start in life, they source second-hand items such as cots, prams, electrical nursery items, clothing and toys to provide to families experiencing disadvantage.

Big Group Hug has grown from a one-person operation to an army of around 200 volunteers who source unwanted items, and then clean and repair them for donation. The group has purchased equipment including a tag and test machine to enable electrical items such as breast pumps to be safely recycled, and an industrial steam cleaner so that donated mattresses can be cleaned to meet health and safety standards.

Big Group Hug’s work is underpinned by five of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, including Goal 11: Sustainable cities and communities. Their commitment to reconditioning and rehoming unwanted items has seen the group save around 6000 items from going to landfill. In the 2019-2020 financial year Big Group Hug distributed around 60,000 new and recycled goods to more than 1300 families facing financial hardship. 


Little Wings

Ishar Multicultural Women's Health Services

Mirrabooka WA

Area of impact: Improved health outcomes/improved patient wellbeing

Ishar Multicultural Women’s Health Services is recognised for their work in providing inclusive, holistic and culturally sensitive services for refugee and migrant women. They use a social model of health in which medical issues are not separated from the interconnections of social, economic, cultural, age and gender-related issues.

Ishar provides access to a broad range of services and support including a Family and Domestic Violence Support Program, health and wellbeing services, a program for mothers new to Australia, a program to support carers of people with mental health issues and disabilities, and a lifestyle program for women aged over 40.

Through these programs, Ishar each year delivers approximately 50,000 services to culturally and linguistically diverse women who together speak more than 40 languages.

Through deep understanding of the complex needs of these women and the multi-faceted barriers they experience when accessing healthcare, Ishar is positively impacting women’s lives and reducing pressure on Australia’s health system.


Little Wings

The Water Well Project

Malvern VIC

Area of impact: Improved health outcomes/improved patient wellbeing

The Water Well Project is recognised for their work to improve the health and wellbeing of communities from migrant, refugee or asylum seeker background by increasing health literacy.

Many people from migrant, refugee or asylum seeker backgrounds often experience poorer health outcomes. The Water Well Project was established to provide these communities with free, interactive, community based, health education sessions delivered by volunteer healthcare professionals with the aim of increasing health literacy.

All sessions are delivered upon requests from community groups and co-designed alongside community partners. Through interactive dialogue and activities such as role-playing patient-doctor interactions, The Water Well Project sessions help participants understand components of the Australian healthcare system and services available to them, as well as help them better engage in preventative health promoting activities. This empowers participants to take greater responsibility for their health and wellbeing, as well as that of their communities.

During the COVID-19 outbreak in Victoria, The Water Well Project delivered many more sessions to ensure these communities received timely, up-to-date and culturally relevant information.

To date, The Water Well Project has delivered more than 700 healthcare sessions, reaching more than 12,000 people with flow-on effects to their households and wider communities.


Team Innovation finalists




The Living Room

Melbourne, VIC

Area of impact: Improved health outcomes/improved patient wellbeing

Youth Projects is recognised for going above and beyond to provide people experiencing disadvantage with access to essential services through ‘The Living Room’ health initiative.

The Living Room is a free primary health service for people at risk of or experiencing homelessness, providing judgement-free access to critical health services and social supports, as well as aid such as hygiene education, access to emergency accommodation, laundry facilities, food and phone charging.

When COVID-19 hit, the team pivoted their services to meet the needs of their clients and the wider community. By working hard to stay open, increase their capacity to see more people and collaborate with health and homelessness networks, the team supported hundreds of people to access safe accommodation and provided vital information and services to clients during the pandemic.

Over the past year, The Living Room provided nearly 28,600 services to people experiencing homelessness and disadvantage, with their nurses and outreach crews covering 74,600 kilometres on foot across Melbourne’s CBD to deliver critical care to those in need. Their innovative and responsive approach has saved lives and mitigated a broader public health emergency in inner Melbourne.



Bendigo Health Facilities Management Team

Bendigo, VIC

Area of impact: Sustainability

Bendigo Health’s Facilities Management Team is recognised for their outstanding work to implement a comprehensive, hospital-wide recycling program, cutting down drastically the amount of waste going to landfill.

After realising many items being sent to landfill from the hospital were recyclable, the team started to think beyond traditional kerbside recycling to develop a program that segregates different types of waste at the hospital and off-site facilities for collection and recycling.

With incredibly strong uptake of the program by hospital staff, Bendigo Health now recycles or repurposes more than 20 separate waste streams, including comingled recycling, polystyrene, soft plastics, e-waste and batteries, chemical drums, bed screens, masks and protective equipment, fabric, green/food waste and more. In the 2019-2020 financial year, Bendigo Health estimates the program has been successful in diverting in excess of 142 tonnes of recycling from landfill.

The team plans to use the prize money to add single-use coffee cup recycling to the program, preventing coffee cups, lids and liquids from going to landfill.



YWCA Asista Program Team

South Melbourne, VIC

Area of impact: Gender equality

YWCA Australia’s Asista Program team is recognised for their life-changing work to help young women and girls in the child protection system build leadership skills and drive positive change.

Asista is a mentoring program for girls aged 12 to 18 in the child protection system. Many of these young women have experienced past trauma, including exposure to abuse or neglect, family violence, alcohol or drug abuse or poor mental health. The program links these young women with a positive female role model, who helps them build self-esteem, resilience and confidence in a safe environment through fortnightly social and recreational activities.

The physical and emotional safety of the young women is the top priority. A great amount of care and preparation goes into the matching process of mentor and mentee, with careful consideration of personalities, interests and location. Mentors are also provided with support and the relationship is reviewed regularly.

Over the past 21 years, Asista has worked with more than 300 young women. After a year in the program, young women reported a 27% increase in their happiness, a 52% increase in their ability to handle problems, and 100% enjoyment of the activities and time with their mentor.


Individual Distinction finalists


Advance Rehab Centre

joint winner 

Melissa Browning

Southport, QLD

Area of impact: Diversity and inclusion

Melissa Browning is recognised for her leadership in developing and implementing an innovative approach to improve racial and health equity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, building understanding and inclusion in Gold Coast Hospital and Health Service (GCHHS).

A proud Bundjalung and Kullilli woman, Melissa led the contextualisation and delivery of the Courageous Conversations About Race (CCAR) program at GCHHS, partnering with the Courageous Conversation South Pacific Institute.  The contextualisation demonstrated Melissa’s commitment to following in her ancestors’ footprints and privileging her Peoples’ ways of knowing, being and doing.  

CCAR is an internationally recognised protocol for achieving racial equity and addressing institutional racism.  At GCHHS, CCAR creates safe and productive spaces for courageous interracial conversations building understanding among staff about how race impacts their lives, their patients’, work and communities and providing tools to support social justice change leading to health improvements for all patients.  

Currently delivered by a team of three, the project has positioned GCHHS to be a transformative leader both nationally and internationally in addressing the impact of race and racism in healthcare settings. Melissa describes her work as "heart work", saying she’s striving to change the minds and hearts of people to make a better world for her mob and future generations. 


Little Wings

joint winner

Julia Claire Hales

Subiaco WA

Area of impact: Diversity and inclusion

Julia Claire Hales is recognised for her leadership in changing perceptions of people with disability, particularly Down Syndrome, through arts and culture. With a performance career spanning 21 years, Julia has spent her life educating the community about the potential and possibilities of people with Down Syndrome.

Her drive to write and act saw her collaborate with an established playwright and Western Australia’s Black Swan State Theatre Company to create the work You Know We Belong Together, in which she also performed the lead role. The play has been critically acclaimed, receiving three awards in the Performing Arts WA Awards and an invitation to the Edinburgh Festival in 2021.

Julia has also worked to pave the way for other performing arts practitioners with Down Syndrome and other disabilities. Her six peers in You Know We Belong Together have all gone on to progress their own work, including a short film and a solo exhibition at the 2021 Perth Festival.

In addition to her work in performing arts, Julia has volunteered extensively as a community educator to work with parents of babies with Down Syndrome, as well as a speaker at schools and events to change perceptions. Julia recently hosted an episode on the ABC program Compass, The Upside of Downs, addressing difficult questions about Down Syndrome with empathy and courage.



Jodie Bergsma

Marrickville, NSW

Area of impact: Diversity and inclusion

Jodie Bergsma is recognised for her exceptional leadership in supporting women to find employment through Dress for Success Sydney’s career support program.

Dress for Success Sydney helps New South Wales women in need improve their employability by providing professional clothing, support networks, coaching and career development tools for free.

Women were the hardest hit by COVID-19 job losses. When the pandemic forced Dress for Success Sydney to cease face-to-face support, Jodie was instrumental in taking the career support program online, giving women access to webinars on networking into the job market, creating a better resume, building confidence to set goals, digital technology, as well as individual mock interview practice.

Jodie not only supported the facilitators but also worked individually with the women to help them access the webinars. Many had limited computer skills or lacked confidence and Jodie helped these women directly to overcome these barriers to participation, breaking down their isolation and building their confidence, skills and networks. Jodie also connected with a major migrant referral service to assist migrant and refugee women with their employment search, ensuring they were not left behind.

From February to June 2020, the number of women who participated in the online career support program increased by 40% and continues to grow.


Little Wings

AJ Williams-Tchen

Balwyn VIC

Area of impact: Diversity and inclusion

AJ Williams-Tchen is recognised for his work to support the mental health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people by providing Mental Health First Aid training to communities, cultural awareness programs in mainstream workplaces, and mentoring and support programs for Indigenous students in schools and Indigenous employees in workplaces.

An  Aboriginal man of Wiradjuri/Wotjobulak background, AJ has trained nearly over 6000 people to become Mental Health First Aiders and has worked with more than 180 organisations across Australia to help them create culturally safe working environments. During the COVID-19 outbreak, AJ developed a YouTube channel to provide a culturally safe space for Aboriginal voices and allies to share stories.



Read about the 2022 HESTA Impact Awards finalists

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