- Local Champion
Sister Ann Halpin dedicated her life to the integration and empowerment of thousands of women in the cities of Greater Dandenong and Casey.
In 1995, inspired by the vision of women around "the well' (a sacred space where women gathered to talk and share stories), Sister Ann opened a drop-in centre for isolated women. The centre evolved into Wellsprings for Women Incorporated, where today over 200 women from regions as diverse as Vietnam, Cambodia, Syria, Afghanistan, Thailand, Korea, Sudan and India gather each week.
Wellsprings organises home visits to isolated women from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, and offers educational programs including hospitality, office administration, literacy through creative arts, English as a second language, and job-seeking skills.
Innovative programs like Women Weaving Wellbeing and Live the Dream offer a specialised informal learning environment for over 300 women from Africa and their children. The community kitchen teaches newly-arrived migrant women how to use unfamiliar produce and products and cook easy, healthy recipes, while making new friends.
The sustainability of Ann's programs was proved in 2008 after a group of Afghan women who learned to read and write at Wellsprings returned to the program to help teach others. Ann was astute in her creation of Wellsprings.
She built a strong funding base, which included 'reciprocal referral arrangements' with local agencies that encouraged them to collaborate for the best outcome.
Dr Anne Astin, director of Wellsprings, worked with Ann and was struck by her total selflessness, generosity of spirit, and welcoming nature. "Ann was always giving to others. She never thought about herself. She has brought so many people back from the brink of tragedy," Dr Astin says.
Ann was awarded Dandenong's Citizen of the Year in 2009. She also received the Holt electorate's Australia Day award in January 2010 for outstanding service to the local community.
Reviewed 25 May 2022