05 August 2014
2014 Women of Spirit Awards
Each year, Lifeline Canberra recognises women of the ACT and region who have overcome adversity, given back to the community and become an inspiration to those around them.
The Women of Spirit Awards is one small way to thank these amazing women, and remind them how special they are.
2014 saw the introduction of a new category to the Awards, The Rising Women of Spirit Award. This award recognises women who have recently overcome personal adversity and has commenced outstanding community work which makes a difference in the community and inspires others.
This award was assessed on the same criteria as The Women of Spirit Award, however it provides encouragement and recognise an individual who has not had a significant period of time to give back to the community, yet has still achieved amazing outcomes.
This year we celebrated 14 finalists, 7 in each category.
We are excited to announce our 2014 Women of Spirit in the below categories:
2014 Rising Woman of Spirit - Niki Van Buuren
18 January 2003 is a day many Canberrans will never forget, the day the bush fires ravaged through our beautiful city and changed the lives of many. Certainly a day that Niki and her family will never forget.
On Saturday, 18 January 2003 Niki and her mother, Wendy, headed down to the horse paddocks in Chapman out of concern for Niki’s horse, Drew. Little did they know, they were walking into a complete danger zone and a moment in time that would change their lives forever.
Both women were terribly burnt in the firestorm. Niki suffered burns to 66 per cent of her body and lost the tips of all her fingers except her right thumb. She was hospitalised for 10 months and, for many months, her condition was described as ‘touch and go’. She underwent over 30 operations to stabilise her condition.
On the first anniversary of the bush fires, recently out of hospital, Niki stood up in front of over 300 people and read a poem dedicated to the horses she lost in the firestorm. Since then, Niki has spoken at various events, inspiring people everywhere she goes.
Niki went on to finish her photography course at CIT and decided to continue studying to become a teacher. Every time Niki stands up in front of her class, she shows that with determination, you can rise above extreme adversity.
2014 Woman of Spirit - Penny Leemhuis
It was a mountain that took her freedom and created great suffering; it was a mountain that gave her back her life. In 1994 Penny had an accident on Mt Ainslie which left her with herniated discs, fractured vertebrae and crushed the nerve to her right leg at the spinal cord. After years of treatment and pain, Penny was classified as totally and permanently incapacitated, leaving her bed ridden.
In 2000 Penny started to take back her life. Her goal was to walk Mt Kosciusko and Mt Crackenback. Penny attempted both mountains and almost reached the summits in 2005, raising money for Ballarat Base Hospital Oncology. In 2006, Penny again attempted the mountains and succeeded. In 2009 Penny organised a fundraising hike of Mt Kosciusko for Motor Neurone Disease.
Penny has been active in the media, advocating for inclusion for all people. She has developed health and fitness programs for disadvantaged adults and disengaged youth. Also speaking to organisations, groups and individuals on overcoming adversity, Penny has worked to improve health and fitness and promote social inclusion and justice.
While continuing to give talks and inspire others, Penny is also involved in the ‘Homelessness for Vulnerable Women’ project and volunteers as a Lifeline Canberra Telephone Crisis Supporter.
'It’s not the falling down that’s important, it’s the getting back up that counts' - Penny Leemhuis
We would like to thank our event partners:
- Tags: Women of Spirit