Women who have transformed Bendigo’s art, health and sports landscapes were celebrated last night in a gala dinner recognising female achievement.
Swim coach Val Campbell, artist Gayle Maddigan and nursing teacher Karen Riley were awarded the inaugural Zonta Women of Achievement prize, which acknowledges the hard work of women aged over 55.
Club chairwoman Sue Clarke said while the judges intended to bestow the honour upon just one woman, they were unable separate the three finalists.
“We were thrilled with the quality and commitment of all the nominees, and the judging panel had a most difficult task,” she said.
Indigenous artist Ms Maddigan was chosen for the award because of her commitment to social justice for her community.
Her latest body of work, Displacement/Embracement, depicts the everyday life of Aboriginal women from communities throughout Victoria, celebrating the strength and integrity with which they live despite their experience of displacement.
Ms Campbell made her community contribution in the pool, coaching at Bendigo East Swimming Club for more than 40 years.
“Her love for swimming and commitment to children reaching their personal best is well admired throughout [the club] and the broader community,” BESC vice-president Donna Morgan said.
The final member of the lauded trio is Karen Riley, a nurse and educator renowned for her work in community health, caring for people irrespective of their social, economic or cultural backgrounds.
Ms Riley also taught taught thousands of nursing and public health students, believing strongly in the power of education to change lives.
“If you can dream it, you can do it. And if you teach it, everyone can do it,” she said.
Ms Clarke told the Bendigo Advertiser last month she was excited to acknowledge the work of over-55s who were often overlooked for awards.
“They just get on and do it,” she said.
“Our community would be a sadder place if it wasn't for the hours that older people put into volunteering.”
Young women not forgotten
Comeback kid Bree Mellberg received another boost last night when she was awarded Zonta’s inaugural Anne Horrocks scholarship for pioneering young women in science, technology, engineering and maths.
The athlete, who broke her neck in a freak accident three years ago, has returned to her microbiology studies and hopes to complete both honours and PhD in the subject.
Zonta Bendigo introduced the scholarship this year to encourage women studying in the male-dominated field, naming the award after their former club governor who had a successful career in science.
Gabriela Giggins was also acknowledged at last night’s celebration, receiving the Young Women in Public Affairs award for her extra-curricular work at Bendigo Senior Secondary College and beyond.
Ms Giggins was a leading organiser of last year’s the Regional Constitution Convention, a community event held to discuss ideas of Australian nationhood.