PEOPLE across Victoria are celebrating the legacy left by former Bendigo Community Health Services leader Kim Sykes, who died on Saturday aged 67.
The transformational leader headed the service from 2010 to 2018 during a career that encompassed health and human services through the public, private and not for profit sectors.
Family members say a gathering to celebrate her life and accomplishments could take place as multiple state lockdowns end.
"We know that Mum was loved by many who sit across state and national borders, and as such, we will wait to celebrate her life and accomplishments with as many of her friends and family as possible," they said in a statement published on BCHS's Facebook page.
Kim's son Aaron told the Bendigo Advertiser her determination to break poverty cycles to improve people's health was rooted firmly in her own experiences as a young woman.
She turned down a higher education opportunity without telling loved ones over concerns about their ability to support her financially.
"Mum would often do things like that. She had a real sense of what it was like to have nothing and to work really hard, while struggling as a single mum," Aaron said.
"She ended up taking up a career in nursing and that ultimately led to the successes she ultimately enjoyed."
Kim spent her career working across a wide variety of health roles as well as in government and eventually moved to Bendigo to head up the area's community health service.
She was incredibly good at underscoring the importance of community health and bringing others along on the journey to make people's lives better, Emma King says.
The Victorian Council of Social Service chief executive witnessed that capacity first hand when visiting a children's centre in Kangaroo Flat during Kim's days at the BCHS helm.
"When we walked through there was a trampoline and tree in one of these beautiful play areas and Kim talked about how parents and carers could come in to drop children off," she said.
"All of the people there were the ones who could say 'how can I help you?' So your child got to bounce on a trampoline and have a really good time while someone asked you what you needed.
"So she and her teams were very good at thinking about how the service she ran could help people to the best possible effect."
Former BCHS chair Geoff Bowyer said Kim transformed a traditional provider into an innovative service leader.
"As I saw it, she was a person who was incredibly well respected by all of her staff at a time of organisational change," he said.
"Culture was a big thing for her. She helped make the organisation outwardly focused and very much a can-do group."
Kim was also highly respected by government decision makers who turned to her for important perspectives on the big challenges facing Victoria.
"She had such wide experience," Geoff said.
Kim moved back to Melbourne to be with family including her children Aaron and Jess around the time she was diagnosed with the cancer that would eventually lead to her death.
"The vast majority of that time was spent making new memories and meeting her grandson, who became one of the new joys of her life," Aaron said.
"She didn't lose her battle with cancer, she managed it with dignity and chose how to live her life on her terms."
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can access our trusted content: