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2019 award winners

We're proud to announce the winners of the 2019 EMILY's List Australia awards. Congratulations to all of these exceptional women who have made immense contributions to the feminist movement.


The EMILY is awarded to EMILY’s List women who have shown exceptional courage, determination, innovation and commitment to issues, reforms and practices that promote the position of women in Australian society. This also includes increasing access to essential services for women. The 2018-2019 EMILY is awarded to two outstanding women:

Michelle O’Byrne
Michelle, a member of ELA from the beginning, is a shining light in advocacy for equality for women. From the early days at the start of the affirmative action debate in the ALP, then as a co-convenor of ELA, to her role now as the Australian Chair of the Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians, working to increase women’s participation in the political process has been central to her core values. Currently Deputy Leader of the Tasmanian Labor Party, Michelle was first elected to the Federal Parliament in 1998 to 2004 and has been in the Tasmanian parliament since 2006. As Minister for Health, she was instrumental in guiding through decriminalisation of abortion legislation in 2013, ensuring safe access zones (as a first in Australia), safe birthing, access to early learning and supports that contribute to a safer, respectful Tasmania for all women. She has been at the front of progressive family violence reform in Tasmania for more than 20 years. Michelle’s multiple nominators described her as “a campaign supporter, instigator, warrior and back stop for all women. Michelle builds other women, early so they truly can rise” and “Tasmania was the first state to achieve safe access zones, and it happened because of Michelle’s leadership, and others have followed her lead. This fact alone qualifies Michelle for this prestigious award, plus she has always been a stalwart of our Tassie EMILY’s family including mentoring women like me.” Congratulations Michelle, an exemplary EMILY. Michelle was nominated by Alison Butcher and Adam Clark, and Ella Haddad Emma Gill.

Claire Pullen
Claire, an EMILY's List Angel and as the Chair of Our Bodies Our Choices, provided exceptional leadership and strategic vision to the community campaign to decriminalise abortion in NSW. Previous reform attempts had failed for a range of reasons but Claire had the insight to see a critical gap: that people who are prochoice had no connection to their MPs who could exercise a vote in favour of a Bill.

Key innovations and insights Claire brought to the campaign include:
• Assessing why previous setbacks happened
• Analysing the marriage equality voluntary postal survey result and applying its lessons to the campaign
• The ability to lobby across parties and factions to shift and hold MPs
• A dedication to developing key Parliamentary and media relationships early
• A clear digital voice and a digital-first strategy to reach new audiences and cross geographic divides

This fight took courage. The stakes were high and as one of the public faces of the campaign, there was risk of personal consequences. Claire was dedicated to ensuring an ethical and social justice orientation within her committee and saw the sameness of other campaigns as a detriment. Her OBOC committee includes women of colour, women with disability, regional women, renters and mortgage holders, mums and step mums. All are trade unionists and women of childbearing age- a clear difference overall in their voice and depth of campaigning. EMILYs List supports pro-choice women to Parliament and it can be proud to have Claire as a member who campaigned so hard for such a historic win. She was mentioned on several occasions during parliamentary debate and rightly so. As the Bill’s co-sponsors said, she is a warrior woman. She is fearless. Claire was nominated by Emily Mayo and Trish Doyle.

Mollie Smith Award

Since 2000, the Mollie Smith Award has been presented annually by the family of Mollie Smith to honour her many years of volunteer service to the Labor Party. Mollie is honoured for her support for issues affecting women, her community work and her mentoring of young women interested in politics and community action. For these reasons, Mollie is a perfect ambassador for our award recognising exceptional volunteer service to EMILY’s List. We thank Mollie’s family for their continued involvement in this award.

Emily Mayo
This year’s award recipient is Emily Mayo. Emily is an active member of EMILY’s List and a feminist, unionist, ALP member, community organiser and campaigner. This year, she instigated #ArrestUs, a tipping point action in the successful campaign to decriminalise abortion in NSW. Emily coordinated every aspect of the action including gaining the informed consent and active participation of the more-than-fifty women who came together to duplicate the action of women who took out a newspaper advertisement in the 1970s calling on their own arrests to draw attention to the fact that abortion was criminalised. Emily built a powerful and passionate action and group of women who changed the narrative of the abortion debate in the media, the community and the Parliament. She supported and promoted diverse women to stand up and speak out about their abortion stories and coordinated all the media contributions. The #ArrestUs action saw thousands of people add their names and abortion stories on Facebook and by using #ArrestUs on Twitter and Instagram. The Facebook post reached 250,000 within 24 hours, trended across Sydney, Melbourne and Australia on Twitter for two days and collective and individual stories featured in media nationally and internationally. Perhaps most significantly Emily, always looking to build power and capacity in others, deliberately gave the voice of the action to others – younger women, Indigenous women and Women of Colour. Emily’s work in political and community organising and mentoring of others – as exemplified by #ArrestUs makes her a perfect recipient for the Mollie Smith Award. Emily was nominated by Claire Pullen and Penny Sharpe.

Pat Giles Award

Kay Hallahan AO
Kay Hallahan AO is the sort of committed Labor member we all want in our area. Having joined the party in 1976, Kay is at many events and forums, mentors many of the women, young and old, we see as leaders in our party, including Alannah MacTiernan. Kay was the first woman to sit in both houses of the WA Parliament, elected in 1983 as an MLC and 1993 into Legislative Assembly. From 1986 she held ministerial portfolios including Community Services, the Family, Youth, the Aged and Women’s Interests, Planning, Lands, Heritage and the Arts and Minister for Education. She served as Deputy Opposition Leader from February 1993 until October 1994, in a tumultuous time post WA Inc, retiring from Parliament in 1996. However her commitment didn't stop there, in 2004 following the death of Jane Gerick, Kay ran against Don Randall in Canning. While Kay has had an active political representation career she also chaired and was a director at many not for profit organisations including Save the Children Australia and recently the UN WA branch. Her working career prior to politics included the Police Force in 1969, from which she was forced to resign when she married in 1972 (remember that was less than 50 years ago). She subsequently trained as a Social worker and worked in the community health sector including the Alcohol and Drug Authority. In 2002, she was made an Officer of the Order of Australia for “service to the community, particularly as an advocate for the needs of children, women and the elderly, in matters of social justice, and to the Parliament of Western Australia."

'Don’t Be Too Polite, Girl' Award

Marije Van Hemert
This year the award recipient is Marije Van Hemert. Marije has worked tirelessly over the past four years to achieve abortion reform as a convenor of WA Labor for Choice and coordinator of Western Australians for Safe Access Zones. Through her activism she has brought a number of young women into the labour movement and supported them to become activists for change. She has an unmatched passion for women’s issues and gender equality.

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