JavaScript is required

Kay Vrieze

The desire to help people improve their lives has always been the driver for community leader Kay Vrieze.

Honour Roll

"My inspiration is that feeling of giving someone a second chance," Kay said of her work with her community in Narre Warren, in outer south-eastern Melbourne. Kay has managed the largest neighbourhood house in Australia for the past 25 years and was a counsellor for Nursing Mothers Australia (now Australian Breastfeeding Association) for 15 years, supporting new mothers in breastfeeding their babies.

"It's a wonderful thing to be there for a significant moment in someone's life - like helping a new mother breastfeed or seeing a father who has never been able to read who is reading a book to his child for the first time," Kay said.

As Community Development Manager at the Narre Community Learning Centre, Kay provides training in areas of policy and procedures, planning, communications and development of community-based management committees. Her work with Narre Neighbours began in 1981 as a part-time co-ordinator of what was initially a small, self-help organisation, assisting women to enrich their lives in a new, outlying suburb of Melbourne.

"In those days Narre Warren had limited social and emotional support services outside womens' own homes," Kay said. Narre Neighbours has now grown from 200 to 2000 participants and Kay said that even though it has expanded, the organisation is still "open, welcoming, fun-loving and very genuine in its approach to people".

Kay has been a leading influence in adult education in Victoria over the past decade. Her leadership style and management techniques which focus on empowering individuals to develop and bring their ideas to fruition, have been studied by academics. "What I like to think I've achieved is offering second chances for people, whether that's new skills for young people or helping older people getting back into meaningful participation in their communities - it's all about reconnecting people."