Mighty Melburnians promote care and compassion

Three drag queens performing on stage.

For nearly 20 years, the Melbourne Awards have been our city’s highest accolade, celebrating inspirational people who dedicate their time and energy to make Melbourne a world-leader.

We recently caught up with past winners, who work in diverse fields, to see how their organisations are evolving in response to COVID-19.

Karen Bryant is the CEO of Midsumma, Australia’s premier LGBTQIA+ cultural festival and the winner of a Melbourne Award in 2019. The first lockdown began just after one of the team’s best-ever festivals in 2020.

‘Many people in our communities have experienced isolation – from families, workplaces and social spaces – so having safe venues and support networks taken away during COVID was a trigger for re-experiencing past trauma for many,’ Karen said.

‘We initially set to work to create a safe, meaningful online space on our website where people could access information in one place, connect and share stories and art.

‘Even though, after many iterations of plans, we were able to present another great in-person festival in 2021 amid glorious weather, we are still in a pandemic and need to reactivate and adapt within this environment.

‘Looking to the future, I hope we can learn to get along better with each other, understand and champion differences, and fight injustice and discrimination with respect and graciousness for people with different perspectives or lived experience to our own.’

Youth Projects
Melanie Raymond OAM is the Chair of homelessness support agency Youth Projects, which won a Melbourne Award in 2010.

Since its win, Youth Projects has continued its mission in earnest, including launching a night-outreach nursing program, to deliver health-care on the pavement to people experiencing homelessness, and significantly expanding its employment services.

‘We see the “giving” side of Melbourne all the time. There is a high-level of concern and care for people on the margins and immense curiosity about what solutions can be found,’ Melanie said.

‘The initiatives to house people sleeping rough during the pandemic showed that we can move quickly on this issue in an emergency and this creative and collaborative work continues today.

‘For many people in Melbourne, their isolation and marginalisation existed pre-COVID. Let’s hope post-COVID we see more effort to connect people in meaningful ways.

‘This is vital to improving mental health, and community-based answers are there for us to implement.’

In Harmony With Health, Royal Melbourne Hospital
Dr Emma O’Brien leads the music therapy program at Royal Melbourne Hospital, which won a Melbourne Award in 2018. During COVID-19, the program became more important than ever for staff and patients.

‘Melbourne is this incredible city that really understands the powerful, vital role that the arts plays in people’s wellbeing,’ Emma said.

‘Royal Melbourne Hospital had a tough time during 2020 – we were at the front line of COVID-19 and, while many people recovered, sadly many older adults passed away.

‘I am so proud of my exceptional team members, who never give up finding ways to connect with people through music.

‘Even in the worst of times we were there, singing to people in full PPE, from behind glass. That’s the kind of tenacity that Melbourne has. No one was giving up and everyone was trying to have a moment of happiness.’

The New Joneses
Tamara DiMattina is the creator of The New Joneses, a group that shares practical ways to be part of the climate solution, such as through our choice of bank, energy provider, super fund, food, transport, clothing and holidays.

Since its Melbourne Award win in 2014, the team has been busy engaging the community.

When COVID-19 cleared the calendar, The New Joneses took its vibrant advocacy work on a road trip from Brunswick to Broken Hill, along with actors Yael Stone and Stephen Curry and Internet star Nat’s What I Reckon.

‘Like everything The New Joneses does, the road trip was climate change presented differently – it’s sweary, it’s a bit heavy-metal and it’s a lot of fun,’ Tamara said.

‘Post-COVID, I hope that we will hold onto the community spirit that shone through the darkness of lockdowns and see the pandemic as an opportunity to reset our lives, our businesses, our cities.

‘We need to put all our efforts towards reducing emissions to preserve and protect the people we love and planet we live on.

‘I’d love to see slow, walkable cities, doughnut economics, a city that puts people and planet before profit, renewable energy powering everything and more women in positions of power.’

Head to The New Joneses to watch videos from the road trip.

Apply now
Take inspiration from these past winners and nominate an amazing person or organisation for a Melbourne Award. Registrations for the 2021 awards close on Friday 11 June.

For more information, visit Melbourne Awards.

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