Award honours community spirit

Award honours community spirit

23 Sep 2008

Social work student Seher Ozonal has won the inaugural David Jolley Leadership Award.

Seher Ozonal

Seher Ozonal

Ms Ozonal was chosen for achieving excellent academic results and for taking a leadership role among her peers. She has been involved in a wide range of community activities since high school, including weekly volunteer work at a local Turkish school, and with many other community groups.

David Jolley, a La Trobe graduate and social worker, tragically passed away in 1987 at the age of 34, leaving a daughter, Ingrid and partner Liz. He is remembered as an active figure in the Bendigo community, and his family has put forward the annual $500 prize to honour his memory.

Ms Ozonal, a Mildura resident, says she feels extremely privileged to be the first recipient of an award that honours such a remarkable man.

"This award means so much for my family, especially my parents," she says.

"They chose to come to Australia because they wanted to give their daughters a good education- it has always been a big priority for them."

Migrating from Turkey as a baby with her Kurdish family, Ms Ozonal settled in Sydney before moving to Mildura when she was 13.

"The first thing I noticed on my way into the town was that there were no fences," Ms Ozonal says. "Not even around the farms or the vineyards!"

It may have been a metaphor for Ms Ozonal's desire to knock down barriers. Her first target: language. Her ambition is to become a bilingual social worker to help people access community resources. Living and studying in Mildura, Ms Ozonal has developed a deep understanding of these concerns.

"It is a problematic issue," she says.

"People underestimate how important it is to be able to communicate; it limits access, proper medical attention and many other social and economic needs."

"Imagine trying to get your license if you can't read the test questions, or tell a doctor what is wrong with you if there is no one to understand what you're saying," says Ms Ozonal, who will graduate along with her sister later this year.

Ms Ozonal's sister, Sultan, will graduate with an Arts degree and plans to obtain her Graduate Diploma in education next year. At the moment, Sultan teaches English at V.C.E level at a local Mildura Turkish School.

Ms Ozonal plans to stay in Mildura, and inspired by David Jolley and her Kurdish background, she will continue to push for change in her local community.

"During my last placement I hope to work with Indigenous families. I feel that our cultures have a lot in common and I want to help."

The Jolley family wanted the prize to be awarded to someone who exhibited the same type inherent drive for social justice as Mr Jolley, who was known as an engaging and charismatic social worker.

Background to David Jolley

During his short career he was the Principal Officer of the Regional Foster Care Program in Ballarat, Chair of the Foster Care Principal Officers Forum, Convenor of the Central Highlands (now Grampians Region) Parent Aid Committee and member of the Child Protection Service / Protective Unit Care Consulting Group that examined complex child protection cases.

He had a reputation as a great organiser full of innovative ideas who displayed a positive attitude to all things and worked energetically to improve social work practice. Mr Jolley also held a keen interest in politics and was engaged in community political life holding the positions of Branch President and Secretary and local candidate campaign director within the Australian Labor Party.

Continuing the tradition, Mr Jolley's daughter Ingrid recently graduated with a Bachelor of Social Work from La Trobe University earlier this year.

Seher Ozonal is available for interview. Please call Mikhaela Delahunty on 03 9479 5353 to arrange.

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