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John Curtin Medallists

Mrs Lynne Evans (2005)

Mrs Lynne Evans - 2005 John Curtin Medal recipient Mrs Lynne Evans - 2005 John Curtin Medal recipient

Mrs Lynne Evans began her career in nursing and midwifery, before going on to study a Bachelor of Applied Science in Community Nursing. Her interest in community work led her to the Health Department where her natural aptitude and leadership skills were soon recognised.

She was promoted to a senior management position as Coordinator of the Strategic Development Department at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital. After a few years, Mrs Evans decided to forgo this prestigious role and pursue her primary interest, providing support and advocacy for the homeless.

For the past six years, she has worked as CEO of the Perth based St Bartholomew's House - an organisation that provides crisis and transitional accommodation as well as related support services for homeless people. Mrs Evans' vision for St Bart's is for a supportive and safe environment that looks beyond the boundaries of institutionalised care and towards services and facilities that provide individuals with the skills and support to function within the community. She understands that people don't simply become homeless; there are causes that may relate to mental illness, prolonged drug dependence or the economic environment. Once this has been understood, it is imperative that residents regain their sense of self-worth by reacquainting themselves with the society from which they have disassociated.

Mrs Evans' personalised approach to her work is remarkable. She demands that each resident is seen as an individual and is treated with respect and dignity. Mrs Evans personally involves herself in the hardest cases, making huge personal contributions by acting as next-of-kin to individuals who no longer have contactable relatives. She has personally cared for the sick and dying, often on weekends or overnight. In many instances, it has been left to Mrs Evans to ensure former residents receive dignified funerals and a place for their ashes to be scattered. Her commitment to this vision is echoed in the extraordinary leadership she exhibits as CEO of St Bart's, an organisation that has flourished under her direction. Originally St Bart's was a shelter for homeless men, consisting of only a few mattresses on a church-hall floor. The St Bart Independent Living Program, established in 1995, has grown significantly, with over 65 properties in the wider community.

Community service has complemented much of Mrs Evans' work at St Bart's. Whilst successfully steering the organisation to its current position, she has continued her voluntary work. She has been active in a wide range of government and non-government organisations, including being past chair and member of the Hills Community Support Group and is currently Chair of the Board of The Community Housing Coalition, WA. She has also presented submissions to the Human Rights Commission, Department of Health and Ageing and the Standing Committee on Environment and Public Affairs.

Through education, Mrs Evans believes the lack of support services and stigma surrounding the mentally ill and homeless can be overcome and she is committed to pursuing this mission. In 2003, she suffered a stoke and after only a short break returned to work more determined and enthusiastic than ever to continue her plans for St Bart's.

Mrs Lynne Evans is indeed a most worthy recipient of the John Curtin Medal.

Work undertaken since receiving the John Curtin Medal

The year in which Lynne Evans was awarded the John Curtin Medal heralded the beginning of a new building project for St Bartholomew’s House and culminated in the opening of the $35 million St Bart’s Lime Street, East Perth, in 2012.

As the homeless shelter’s CEO until 2012, Lynne oversaw the project and overcame the many challenges along the way, with support from the board, staff and many donors including funding support from the federal and state governments.

For the first time in 50 years, St Bart’s was able to offer women longer-term accommodation in its East Perth facility. The move to Lime Street also meant having land available for future development of accommodation for the homeless or those at risk of homelessness to achieve affordable housing on the old site. The ultimate facility sits comfortably in the East Perth community and has increased the range of homeless accommodation options.

Before Lynne retired from St Bart’s, she began writing the history of the facility, particularly to highlight the many people who had contributed to St Bart’s success and reputation. She proposes to publish ‘The Heart of St Bart’s’ as an online book.

After finishing at St Bart’s, Lynne served as acting CEO of the national homelessness peak body in Canberra, where she had been a board member for some years.

She then returned to her nursing background, working as a volunteer in Manila for two years, helping others in the treatment of cleft lip and palate, and burn injuries.

She has been Chair of Indigo Junction (formally Swan Emergency Service), which provides support and accommodation to homeless youth and many Aboriginal Families.

Lynne attributes her passion for community health to Emeritus Professor Robyn Watts, who she considers ‘a guiding light’ in promoting the importance of prevention strategies and care in the community.