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Curtin University
John Curtin Day

2020 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

Shelly Skinner (2020)

When working as a palliative care social worker at Princess Margaret Hospital, Shelly Skinner saw first-hand the effect death had on families, and particularly on young children. The immediate and long-term impact of the loss of a loved one on young children is well-documented, and Shelly wanted to help. She collaborated with like-minded colleagues and was able to launch Blue Skies, a day camp program run through Silver Chain, designed for children aged between eight and 12 years.

When Silver Chain could no longer support Blue Skies, Shelly considered setting up a charity to facilitate the camps so ongoing support could be provided to families in need. This led to the creation of Lionheart Camp for Kids (Lionheart).

Each year Lionheart offers camps to bereaved children aged between five and 12 years. The camps also provide guidance to the surviving parent or guardians. Critically, the camps and all Lionheart services are free to grieving families. Additional camps have recently been designed for adolescents affected by the death of a family member.

Shelly's passion for Lionheart is infectious and drives the organisation. In addition to her work on the camps, she leads community engagement, building relationships and partnerships with like-minded organisations, and advocating for Lionheart to raise funds. Her innovative ideas have meant that Lionheart has been able to progress towards its aim of long-term sustainability, as well as adapt to the COVID-19 environment and provide ongoing support to families which have previously attended a camp. This ensures Lionheart remains in touch with and strengthens its community even during a time of physical isolation.

Shelly's ultimate goal is for Lionheart to be part of developing a connected, compassionate, and caring society, where grief is seen as a natural, healthy response to loss, and where no child grieves alone. She is a very worthy recipient of the John Curtin Medal for 2020.