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Curtin University
John Curtin Day
John Curtin Medallists

Dr Ann O'Neill (2016)

Dr Ann O'Neill - 2016 John Curtin Medal recipient Dr Ann O'Neill - 2016 John Curtin Medal recipient

Dr Ann O’Neill’s vision is for a safe and socially-just society, where people can live free of fear and violence, and where social conditions and structures are supportive of victims of violence.

This vision is borne out of her own tragic experience of domestic violence.

In 1994, Ann’s estranged husband broke into her home while she was asleep, shooting her two young children aged six and four, before shooting Ann and then turning the gun on himself.

Ann was the only survivor but suffered a severe injury, which resulted in the loss of her leg.

Despite experiencing the unimaginable loss of her children, and dealing with her own injuries as well as victim-blame and scrutiny by the media, Ann has channelled her grief into helping others.

Ann is quoted as saying that, “we, as a community, have an obligation to make our community better. We can blame other people, but ultimately it's up to each and every one of us to do our bit to try to make society as just as possible.”

Just seven months after the tragedy, Ann commenced full-time study. She earned a degree in Social Work with First Class Honours and a PhD in International Health from Curtin University. Her PhD dissertation was a ground-breaking study of how secondary victims of serious crime are supported.

She has since dedicated her life to assisting others through her social work, advocacy, research, education and public speaking.

Just over a decade ago, Ann founded Angel Hands Inc., a non-profit community support group dedicated to victims of serious crime. Angel Hands was the first web‐based support group of its kind in Australia. Today, it provides a range of programs to support the recovery of people affected by homicide and serious interpersonal violence, and works to assert their needs within the wider community.

As the inaugural convenor of the first WA Homicide Victims Support Group, a voluntary, non-profit organisation providing peer‐to‐peer support for those who have lost a loved one through homicide, Ann raised awareness of family violence and helped people cope with life after homicide.

She has recently become an ambassador for Our Watch, which was established to drive nationwide change in the culture, behaviours and power imbalances that lead to violence against women and their children. Their mandate is to stop violence before it happens, which aligns directly with her work.

Ann also educates and assists government departments, organisations and individuals on issues of family violence, as well as how people can deal with trauma, stress and change in their lives and their work place. As a public speaker, she has been recognised internationally through presentations in England, Croatia and the United States.

Although feeling for many years that she would never have another family, Ann has married, and in 2013 celebrated the birth of a baby boy.

Ann’s extraordinary courage and her outstanding vision, leadership and community service make her a most worthy recipient of the John Curtin Medal.