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Sheila O'Sullivan

Sheila has been a leader in Australian public relations for decades, focusing on encouraging local communities to participate in political life.

Honour Roll

Most recently Sheila received the 2004 United Nations Communication Award for her work in guiding the campaign that was successful in securing support for East Timorese refugees who wanted to become permanent residents in Australia.

Sheila O'Sullivan was born in Melbourne in 1944 and completed a Bachelor of Arts at Monash University and a Primary Teacher's Certificate. She taught in state high schools in Melbourne and was a researcher in geography at Monash University. Sheila began her career as an advocate for local communities when as a young mother she became passionately involved in local issues in her neighbourhood. This early interest sparked a 30-year career as a highly successful strategist, issues manager, community advocate and lobbyist at all levels of government. She worked for a number of prestigious firms as a public relations consultant before starting her own consultancy in 1994.

Sheila has worked with a wide range of government and community groups, including the Municipal Association of Victoria and individual councils, designing programs to encourage women's participation in local government. Much of her work has focussed on developing new models of community engagement.

As a highly-awarded public relations practitioner, she has been instrumental in raising the standing and professionalism of the industry. She was involved in the development of the Public Relations Institute of Australia (PRIA) course accreditation program for universities and since 1994 has been Chairman of the Examination Board of the PRIA nationally. Sheila is chairperson of Socom Public Relations Consultancy and is a Fellow of the PRIA. In 2003 she was awarded a Centenary Medal for outstanding services to local government.

She holds a number of directorships and Board positions of both public and private organisations, including the Museum of Victoria and the Sustainable Energy Authority of Victoria. Sheila has a firm belief that building the capacity of communities improves the quality of decisions made at all levels of government. Her commitment to community engagement has enabled many communities to convert their abilities into direct participation in the political arena. Sheila's work has helped to build a pathway for energising civic capacity in women as well as encouraging more female public relations practitioners to recognise their strategic abilities and take on senior management roles.

Reviewed 25 May 2022

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