Sally Isaac Memorial Scholarship recipient Siobhan Hardiman with Ben Heard from Monash City Council.

By Dom O’Donnell

The Sally Isaac Memorial Scholarship Fund has recognised the work of Melbourne-based gender equality advocate Siobhan Hardiman, awarding her with a $10,000 scholarship to further her study into gender transformative practice and its role in the prevention of violence against women.

The Fund, which was established in 2009 to recognise the enormous contribution made by local government leader Sally Isaac, awards annual scholarships to further the education of young women making significant contributions to the Victorian community.

The selection panel this year was struck by Siobhan’s dedication to, and genuine passion for, her work in gender transformative practice—an approach to preventing violence against women and promoting gender equality that recognises we must first transform practices, norms, and structures around gender.

In its comments about the deliberation process, the panel noted: “Siobhan’s determination, commitment, and enthusiasm for her work are so well aligned with the scholarship’s values.

“Her work in gender transformative practice is so important to our communities right now and is being undertaken in a way that is sustainable and able to be owned by the community—something that is always so crucial for local government projects.”

Siobhan began her career as a counsellor and case manager before joining Monash City Council as a youth worker in 2010. Siobhan now leads the Youth Services team within the Council.

In 2016, Siobhan started the Young Women’s Leadership Program as a partnership initiative between Monash Youth Services and the City of Monash. The program engages young women from migrant and refugee backgrounds and supports them as they build their leadership skills and confidence in a peer-learning environment. Past participants have consistently reported increases in their confidence to apply for educational and career opportunities.

Since receiving funding from VicHealth through its Bright Futures Challenge program, Siobhan and her team have been assisting two other Victorian councils implementing the program within their own cities.

In reviewing Siobhan’s application, members of the Fund’s panel were particularly impressed with this breadth of experience.

“Her career progression from ‘on-the-ground’ practice to systems and strategy level shows a true understanding and appreciation of the issues she now plans to address in her PhD.

“Siobhan has a clear plan for how the scholarship will help her to continue giving a platform to young people and helping them to grow and achieve in a safe space as they navigate their way in the world.”

With the support of the scholarship, Siobhan now plans to begin her PhD in 2020 to further her research into the ways initiatives such as the Young Women’s Leadership Program can shift attitudes around gender and towards women in particular—an undertaking she wasn’t sure was possible before receiving the award.

“If there’s one thing to say about winning the award, it’s that I couldn’t do any of this work without the fund,” Siobhan says. “Pursuing this research would be beyond my capacity.

“Sally’s work and her legacy fund have given me a way forward to keep doing the work for the communities I love.

“It is an honour to be connected to her name.”

The Sally Isaac Memorial Scholarship Fund is a sub-fund of Australian Communities Foundation. Find out more about scholarship funds at ACF or contact the team on (03) 9412 0412 to discuss starting a scholarship.