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Curtin University
John Curtin Day

2018 Award Ceremony

The John Curtin Medal is awarded by Curtin University to people who have made a significant contribution in their chosen field in Australia or internationally and who have exhibited John Curtin's qualities of vision, leadership and community service. Read more about the recipients.

John Curtin Medallists

Fay Alford (2018)

Fay Alford - 2018 John Curtin Medal recipient Fay Alford - 2018 John Curtin Medal recipient

For more than 35 years, Fay Alford has dedicated her life to Western Australian children and families in need of foster care and advocacy services. She is now one of the State’s most knowledgeable, well-respected and active leaders in the out-of-home care system.

Having herself been a child in care when she was just eight years old, Fay’s early experience of the out-of-home care system was traumatic. However, it also gave her the knowledge, commitment and vision to flourish throughout a lifelong career in the foster care sector.

After working on a volunteer basis for many years, Fay became the Director of Foster Care Association of Western Australia more than 14 years ago. As leader of the State’s peak body for the support and advocacy for out-of-home services, Fay worked to enhance services, advocate for the rights of children and families and, ultimately, create the conditions that allow families to be strong and to stay together.

During this time, she contributed to State Government policy on frameworks for care and the roles of foster carers. Under the Hon Minister Helen Morton MLC, she was adviser to the Minister for the Department of Child Protection and Family Support.

With Emma White, then Director General of the Department of Child Protection and Family Support, Fay helped to promote the Foster Care Partnership Policy, which emphasises a collaborative process for setting effective policy in WA and, importantly, includes the Aboriginal community sector.

 

Fay also served as a member of the Out-of-Home Steering Group as part of the State Government’s Out Of Home Care Strategic Plan 2015–2020. The plan is currently in the midst of a staged five-year roll-out. Fay is also a board member for Kinship Connections – an initiative to help Aboriginal families heal and reconnect.

Western Australia currently has around 5000 children in foster care and a shortage of foster carers. Alcohol addiction, rising drug use – particularly of methamphetamine – along with increasing mental health issues and family breakdown, continue to have devastating impacts on families.

Fay’s career has directly addressed these social issues facing our State, through her enormous contribution to recruiting and training carers, preparing foster families, building community awareness, and advocating for progressive and effective models of care.

Living her own life by the principles to which she has committed, Fay and her husband David have welcomed more than 90 children into their home over the past three decades, while raising their own biological daughters. Fay and David have also adopted three of their many foster children.

Through more than three decades of leadership, courage and self-sacrifice – Fay Alford has committed to a cause that is close to her heart and significant for Western Australia.

She is a most worthy recipient of the John Curtin Medal for 2018.

John Curtin Medallists

Susan Saleeba (2018)

Susan Saleeba - 2018 John Curtin Medal recipient Susan Saleeba - 2018 John Curtin Medal recipient

More than 15 years ago, after volunteering in the slums of Kaptembwa in the Kenyan province of Nakuru, northwest of Nairobi, Susan Saleeba became disillusioned with the charity for which she had volunteered, when she realised that very little of her donated money had been spent on the ground.

Wanting to address the vast gap between affluence and poverty, but certain there was a better way, Susan embarked on a journey driven by her own vision: to break the cycle of poverty through education where 100 per cent of donations go to on-the-ground needs – and to do this in a sustainable way.

Susan established the Nakuru Hope Foundation, a robust and ethical enterprise where all monies donated are spent directly on the people they are intended to support. In addressing disadvantage in Kenya, Susan chose a focus on literacy, believing strongly that a lack of literacy is the source of poor health and impoverished living conditions – themselves contributing to the breakdown of the family unit and, at times, the abandonment of children.

At the core of her foundation’s achievement is the Nakuru Hope Gabriel’s Learning Centre and its associated orphanage. The centre opened in 2008, and now provides a pre-primary and primary school; adult skills-based programs; and home visits to distribute food, medicine and medical assistance.

In mid-2014, the 40-bed Gabriel’s Orphanage was opened alongside the school to provide a safe family environment to those who have been abandoned or need a period of refuge from domestic instability and assault.

 

Today, the learning centre has close to 300 children attending, ranging from ages three to 10 years. In addition, 20 children who started with Gabriel’s now attend high school, boarding schools and surrounding public schools. Five students have progressed to attend university.

A land donation in 2014 enabled the foundation to start its farm, which now produces food to assist with 2000 meals a week. An array of fresh vegetables feeds children who would otherwise go hungry and supplies fresh produce for modest stalls that have been constructed for families to begin small businesses.

The next stage of Susan’s dream is to build a sanctuary for women and children fleeing family violence. In the first stages of realising this vision, she has acquired a half-acre plot in Nakuru West.

Susan’s self-sacrifice has been profound. She has invested a significant amount of her own money and time into the foundation over an extended period of time. At a stage of life when she could have chosen to retire from work and reduce her social commitments, Susan chose the opposite.

The name given to her by the local community – ‘Mama Susan’ – is evidence of the great fondness that the people of Kaptembwa have for her, and attests to the fact that she has overcome the challenges of being an outsider and building a flourishing community enterprise to achieve not only material success, but lasting relationships that bring joy to both the local community and to Susan herself.

Susan is a most worthy recipient of the John Curtin Medal for 2018.