19.02.2020

Ten social innovators receive $50,000 fellowship to invest in their leadership potential.

Ten extraordinary Australians have been recognised for their leadership potential in driving social impact in Australia, with each receiving a fellowship of up to $50,000 from Westpac Scholars Trust to invest in their personal and professional development.

Amongst the 2020 Westpac Social Change Fellowship recipients is Rona Glynn-McDonald founder of Common Ground, an Indigenous-led organisation that records and shares the cultures, histories and lived experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Since launching in May 2018, Common Ground has reached over 180,000 Australians through its online platform and its First Nations Bedtime Stories Challenge, an online educational program implemented by over 350 schools in its first year.

“As a proud Kaytetye woman and social changemaker, my goal is to help create an Australia that celebrates and embraces its First Peoples. Through storytelling, I’m working to shift the current narratives and systems, to ensure future systems of Australia centre my people,” says Rona.

“The Westpac Social Change Fellowship will allow me to acquire the knowledge, networks and tools to deepen my understanding of how to apply First Nations ecological knowledge to Western systems-thinking frameworks to create new ways of doing innovation that will centre First Nations cultures.”

For fellow 2020 recipient, Danny Hui, personal experience is the driving force behind his passion to help others.

“I’m the parent of three young children. My middle child is diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, and my youngest child has a rare disease called Ponto-cerebellar Hypoplasia. My own family’s experience has taught me that individuals have much more capacity than we imagine, and this has inspired me to dedicate my life to creating social impact,” says Danny.

Danny is the founder of sameview, an online program for disability care coordination that provides a single platform to connect and share information between therapists, educators, support workers and families supporting a child with a disability.

“My goal is to improve the lives of families caring for people with disability. I want to show that better teamwork in disability care can reduce the stress and workload on carers and help people with disability achieve their goals faster and with less resources required.”

“The Westpac Social Change Fellowship will enable me to scale so people anywhere in Australia can utilise the sameview platform. The opportunity to invest in my own development, and to seek experiences and knowledge without boundaries, will be a step-change in my capability to create lasting social change,” Danny says.

Westpac Scholars Trust CEO, Susan Bannigan says, “Now in its fifth year, the Westpac Social Change Fellowship is a game changer for these individuals. It allows them to invest time and energy in their own development; to explore opportunities that were otherwise out of reach, and form valuable connections that will last a lifetime.”

“Past recipients have undertaken short courses at Stanford, Harvard and the Singularity University in the United States, completed internships with global organisations like the world-famous Ortos prosthetics clinic in Denmark, and Uber and Google in the US.”

“Others have used the Fellowship to approach highly respected industry leaders for long sought-after face-to-face meetings. These are all invaluable experiences made possible through the Fellowship,” says Susan.

Reflecting on her fellowship experience, 2018 Social Change Fellow Maddy Buchner, founder of Little Dreamers, says, “During my fellowship year I had the opportunity to meet the best in the business. I used the opportunity to learn from people I could have only dreamt of meeting one day. And these have not just been one-hour meetings. They have become ongoing mentoring relationships, people I can call on to ask about challenges in business, and in life.”

Beyond the financial investment of the fellowship, every Westpac Social Change Fellow becomes a member of the Westpac 100 Scholars Network. Growing by 100 scholars a year across Westpac Scholars Trust’s five scholarship programs, the network connects a community of people from all walks of life with the ideas and drive to help shape a better future for all Australians.

“We look forward to welcoming all 100 of our 2020 Westpac Scholars at our annual summit in April. It’s set to be a special event and will also mark another major milestone – our first 500 Westpac Scholars since the Trust was established in 2014,” says Susan.

To learn more about the fascinating work of the 2020 recipients, visit our Scholars page.