FOR Sally Stevenson, being named as a Member of the Order of Australia as part of the Queen’s Birthday Honours has more than just a tinge of irony to it.
Ms Stevenson received the honour for ‘‘significant service to social welfare in Australia and overseas through charitable and government programs,’’ but currently harbours deep concerns about the future of the social welfare organisation she is currently in charge of, the Illawarra Women’s Health Centre.
The women-only centre provides wide range of services to its clients in areas including physical and mental health, advocacy education and legal issues and works with thousands of women from across the Illawarra each year.
‘‘For me the award is more of acknowledgement of the importance of the type of work I’ve done, rather than about acknowledging me,’’ the Illawarra Women’s Health Centre general manager said.
‘‘But what I find more than a bit ironic is that I’m being acknowledged at a time when the most vulnerable people across the country have just been marginalised even further in the budget.’’
Despite the irony, Ms Stevenson said she was honoured to be named on the Queen’s Birthday list, but her biggest reward from her 25 years working in social welfare comes from what she has experienced in that time.
‘‘I suppose I am honoured by it, it definitely came as a complete surprise, it’s not something I ever expected or thought about,’’ she said.
‘‘In this line of work, you do have to have a passion for it, it can be extremely challenging at times, but extremely interesting at the same time.
‘‘I’ve had opportunities and experiences come my way that I would have had otherwise, be it living in Aboriginal communities in Arnhem Land and helping to start the first Aboriginal credit union or living in the central desert area of Somalia and helping people there, all those things are extremely rewarding and extremely valuable.
Ms Stevenson’s extensive international work includes working with Médecins Sans Frontières through out Africa, improving education in India and Afghanistan and founding the Indigo Program, an independent Australian community development organisation which provides assistance to improve the lives of people in marginalised communities in Australia and around the world.
While her work now has her closer to home, Ms Stevenson still finds it as rewarding as ever.
‘‘There are so many positives from working here,’’ she said. ‘‘Ssome of the women that come through our doors face serious issues like high levels of violence and serious mental health issues - things that you would think might be insurmountable, yet they are doing their best to raise their families or try and and improve their lives. That empowers you to really try and help them even more.’’