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6 min read

Honouring a champion of social justice in Melbourne’s west: Lynne Wannan Fund

Profile of Dom O'Donnell
Written by Dom O'DonnellPosted on 4/5/2021

Established in 2020 to honour the work of one of Melbourne’s most recognised advocates for social justice, the Lynne Wannan Fund has now awarded its first grant in partnership with scholarship organisation Western Chances.

Activist, advocate, community builder and policymaker, Lynne Wannan, AM, was committed to making a difference.

“Lynne held firm beliefs in social justice, particularly for women and young children,” explains Terry Bracks, AM, Founding Chair at Western Chances.

Based in Melbourne’s west, Western Chances helps young people in the area achieve their potential through the provision of scholarships, opportunity programs and ongoing support.

“These young people often face financial and other barriers, which make it difficult for them to succeed,” Terry explains.

To date, the organisation has helped over 3,000 young people overcome these barriers, supporting them to extend their education and career opportunities.

“Lynne was always a strong advocate for women and their careers, and that involved creating career paths and ways in which young women could get qualifications.”

Terry says none of this would have been possible without Lynne’s unwavering support.

“I had the idea and model but Lynne was the one who said ‘let’s do it’ and we did. Lynne was the Founding Deputy Chair, and in the first five years was very hands-on and involved.

“She gave hours of her time to ensure that we had good governance, good policies and good people in place.”

When Lynne passed away in 2019, Terry and some of Lynne’s closest friends and family, including her husband and co-founder of Australian Communities Foundation, Hayden Raysmith, AM, came together to establish a fund in her memory.

“Lynne was always a strong advocate for women and their careers,” says Hayden, “and that involved creating career paths and ways in which young women could get qualifications.

“As Founding Deputy Chancellor of Victoria University, she was a particularly strong advocate for young women from Melbourne’s western suburbs.

“When it came to matters of national policy, she was a fearless advocate for women being in key decision-making roles.”

Each year, the Fund honours Lynne’s legacy by awarding a scholarship to a young female Western Chances recipient to further pursue her chosen education or career.

“Hard-working and giving back to the community, with a passion for equality. That was Lynne.”

“The Lynne Wannan Prize is awarded to a young woman who we believe displays the qualities inherent in Lynne’s life and work,” Terry explains.

“Hard-working and giving back to the community, with a passion for equality. That was Lynne.”

Terry says the recipient of the inaugural Lynne Wannan Prize, Julie Alkarra, is someone Lynne would be very proud of.

“Julie was chosen for her high academic record, her willingness and enthusiasm to make the most of every opportunity that we offered her, and also for her community service.

“She is a refugee from Syria who arrived in Australia in 2016 with little English. She was accepted to study a Bachelor of Pharmacy/Master of Pharmacy at Monash University, which she commenced in 2017, the year she was awarded her first Western Chances scholarship.

“Julie is active in the community as a volunteer and committee member with two different organisations.

“In one of these roles, she works to support young refugees to integrate into their new world. She is an extremely worthy recipient of the inaugural prize.”

2021 Western Chances scholarship recipients

Lynne’s husband Hayden echoes Terry’s remarks when asked about the inaugural prize.

“Lynne would be very pleased to be able to give someone like Julie a pathway to undertake a more active role in relation to decision-making and being involved in organisations that promote opportunities for young women.”

Importantly, says Hayden, the award also honours Lynne’s legacy by leaving it to the recipient’s discretion as to how to use it.

“Lynne was a great supporter of that approach: to support young women to get on with their lives and make the most of their opportunities. We don’t need to tell them how to do it.”

At Australian Communities Foundation, we can help you establish Named Funds to honour the memory of a loved one. Learn more about Named Funds here or contact us to have a conversation about getting started.

Lynne Wannan Fund

Supporting young women in leadership roles, particularly in relation to the status of women and community services.