Department of Family and Community Services

Community Hero

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Christine Mastello

Christine Mastello is highly valued and well-respected in her community for the significant role she has played making a difference to those in need.

She began her long-standing service to the community at the young age of 13, collecting money at a railway station for the Epilepsy Association. A couple of years later she was devoting a day each month to play in a park with underprivileged children. And a few years after that she was visiting nursing homes to talk with residents who had no regular visitors.

As well as being involved with established organisations, Christine has founded more than 15 groups that connect local people with one-another or with much-needed services including a young parents’ playgroup, Toukley Haven Scouts, Youth Suicide Planning Committee, Domestic Violence Court Support and Central Coast Special Needs Kids Christmas Party.

Despite her many commitments Christine has also found time to serve on various boards, including Northern Lakes Family Centre (Uniting Care), Southlakes Community Services, Southlakes Business Chamber and Community Alliance, Community Drug Action Team and Toukley Women’s Refuge.

Dr Raji Ambikairajah

Dr Raji Ambikairajah is a highly values-driven individual, whose mission is to create a global, measurable, positive impact on the lives of others. She holds a PhD in electrical engineering and has spent most of her career in the technology start-up and venture capital sectors.

As the Chief Operating Officer of Women in Banking and Finance, Raji accelerated the organisation's growth over a 24-month period to span four cities in Australia, achieving a 32 per cent increase in annual revenue and impacted over 2000 Australian women through the new opportunities she curated for the business.

Her deep-rooted belief is that a quality education is key to unlocking the door to potential and possibility. Raji is an Ambassador for Room to Read, a global non-profit organisation that provides children in low-income countries with access to education. Before this, Raji was Room to Read's Sydney Chapter Leader for seven years. Under her leadership, the chapter reached 116,480 children, grew to be the biggest in the world in terms of volunteers and was in the top five for fundraising.

Raji is also an experienced board director and is currently a non-executive director of the Sydney School of Entrepreneurship.

Kay Schubach

Kay Schubach is a survivor of acute domestic violence. Her memoir of the events, Perfect Stranger: A True Story, was published by Penguin Books in 2012, and has sold over 10,000 copies.

Kay is now a prominent campaigner, ambassador and advocate for systemic reform across policy, law and judiciary for sexual assault, domestic violence and gender equity. She is currently in dialogue with ministers and statutory bodies to effect change in policy, attitudes and legislation around the early release of high risk sexual assault offenders into community.

She has partnered with a lawyer to form a legal advisory and mediation firm. They focus on supporting victims through abusive relationship breakdowns and empowering them by means of strong financial and legal strategies.

Kay is an ambassador for Domestic Violence NSW, and patron of the Lisa Harnum Foundation and the Bondi Beach Cottage.

In 2015 Kay was selected in the top 10 Social Enterprise & Not-for-profit category in The Australian Financial Review and Westpac 100 Women of Influence.

Also a stage-four cancer survivor, Kay says, ‘It is the responsibility of each and every one of us to ensure we live in a compassionate and fair society’.

The Founders of Lou's Place

Nearly 20 years ago, four women opened the doors of Lou’s Place to helpwomen who were in crisis, homeless, feeling isolated or needing support. It was, and still is, the only daytime refuge for women in the inner city of Sydney.

Women come to this terrace house in Kings Cross to rest, eat, shower, wash clothes and enjoy some company. Lou's provides a warm, and supportive place where women can feel safe.

Lou’s also offers activities and programs for women to build confidence, develop life skills and have fun, as well as crisis intervention, case management and legal advice on site. Hundreds of women fleeing DV have found their way to Lou’s over the years.

The idea of Lou’s Place started with a conversation between Dr Lisa O’Brien and Ilse O’Reilly with Pam Bartlett and Susie Manfred joining forces shortly after.   Together, they founded The Marmalade Foundation, which operates and funds Lou’s Place.

These four women have worked on a volunteer basis to set strategy, design service programmes, provide management and fundraising expertise, supervise on-site professional welfare staff, and recruit and train an army of volunteers. Lou’s Place does not receive any government funding.  It is truly a community based and supported project.

The varied expertise of these four magnificent women proved just the right ingredients for a successful partnership. Together they have created a business and service model that is going strong nearly 20 years later.

Michele Ellery

Michele Ellery is a visionary advocate for victims of domestic violence and childhood sexual abuse. She is the founder of Queen of Hearts Community Foundation, an organisation that supports survivors of childhood sexual abuse and domestic violence on their journey for justice and healing. As CEO, Michele volunteers her time to serve more than 1,000 families in Penrith, the second-highest suburb in NSW for reported domestic violence and child sexual abuse.

This sharp turn in her career came after a family crisis in 2012, when it was discovered her children had been sexually abused. While supporting her children on their journey to justice and healing she discovered the significant lack of services for victims and the lengthy wait times to access them. This drove Michele to set up Queen of Hearts Community Foundation.

The money Michele fundraises provides a highly-specialised team of counsellors and case managers who deliver free services that include case management, specialised counselling and therapy groups, Court support, and advocacy that is provided within 10 days – a significant achievement given that some victims wait up to 10 weeks. Michele has also partnered with the Australian Dental Health Foundation so that victims of domestic violence can receive free dental services from local dentists.

Michele has recently been awarded Penrith City Council Australia Day Citizen of the Year.