Inspiring women awarded

Domestic abuse survivor Gennady Sharpe speaks at the Awards & Gala for Women’s Refuge Services in...
Domestic abuse survivor Gennady Sharpe speaks at the Awards & Gala for Women’s Refuge Services in Queenstown last Saturday. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
Inspirational women from across the South were celebrated last Saturday night at an event which raised more than $20,000 for Women’s Refuge (Otago) and Central Lakes Family Services.

Awards & Gala for Women’s Refuge Services and Inspirational Women Awards organiser Julia Strelou says she’s "blown away" by the generosity of the community, and the women working tirelessly to make it a better place.

The money raised will go towards eventually establishing a safe house in Queenstown.

Timed to coincide with National Non-Violence Against Women Day, the event involved live and silent auctions, as well as speakers.

They included Gennady Sharpe, who previously appeared on reality TV show Heartbreak Island, to raise awareness about the horrific domestic abuse she suffered at the hands of a former boyfriend.

In the second annual awards, Wakatipu Community Foundation chief executive and founding trustee Jennifer Belmont received the Women’s Touch Inspirational Woman award for revolutionising philanthropy, managing $3.5million in donations and $35m in pledged bequests since its launch five years ago.

Hospitality entrepreneur Karen Hattaway, who recently sold Queenstown’s award-winning Blue Kanu, won the Fowler Homes Entrepreneurial Woman award.

Along with previously owning seven businesses, Hattaway, who’s also a survivor and a qualified life coach, advocates for women’s empowerment and has raised significant funds for individuals and charities and has hosted cultural events to celebrate Maori heritage.

Teacher Rebecca Hembrow won the Ray White Community Recognition Award for her work as the volunteer coordinator for the Luma school programme.

Joint winners of the Mountain Scene Resilient Woman award were Andrea Balona, who battled breast cancer while establishing QT Community Cats, Chenin Madden, who overcame chronic anxiety to establish wellness programme Cr8ting Balance, and Julie Moyle who, following the loss of a child, started A Star is Born charitable trust, offering keepsakes to grieving families.

The Rydges People’s Choice Award went to Tru Women’s Gym owner Carla de Njis.

Additionally, an ‘Honorary Inspirational Woman Award’ was presented posthumously to award-winning Stuff journalist Jo McKenzie-McLean, accepted by her mother, Shari McLean.

The passionate advocate for reducing the stigma around cancer — who saved two men from drowning in Lake Dunstan just hours after undergoing chemotherapy — co-created the podcast Jo vs Cancer, offering insights and support to others on similar journeys prior to her death on July 25.

Strelou says the work winners, finalists and nominees do within their respective communities "has a real impact".

"They are the ones making our community a better place and they deserve to be recognised.

"It feels incredibly special to offer them that."