Alison Woolla Memorial 2020 Award winners announced

Published: 21st October 2020

May Ballie and Myrtle Foote have been jointly announced today as the winners of the Alison Woolla Memorial Award 2020 at this year’s Local Government Association of Queensland (LGAQ) Annual Conference held at the Gold Coast Exhibition and Convention Centre.  

The award honours the legacy of the late Alison Woolla, a former Mayor of Aurukun and dynamic reform leader, who provided support for members of her community when they were experiencing abuse, opening her doors and inviting them to stay with her. 

May Ballie and Myrtle Foote are the co-founders of Pormpur Paanthu (Women's house) in the Aboriginal community of Pormpuraaw. The centre provides a refuge and services to assist women and children experiencing domestic and family violence (DFV). Through the creation of the centre, May Ballie and Myrtle Foote have been instrumental in saving the lives and improving the futures of many women and children in their community. 

They have also been active in expanding the services to include a safe place, specifically for children, through vacation and after school care, childcare, as well as a DFV support service for men. Many lives have been saved and many families have been assisted to have a brighter future as a result of the centre’s work, while an entire community has come to better understand and manage DFV.

When we first started out, we had women getting bashed up, and no other stronger people used to stand up and take women in. We used to take them in,” May said. 

“The main thing was about children and the wives – looking after them. 

Redlands City Council Mayor Karen Williams, LGAQ Domestic and Family Violence Project Officer Jim Boden and  Mayor Keri Tamwoy, Aurukun Shire Council

Redlands City Council Mayor Karen Williams, LGAQ Domestic and Family Violence Project Officer Jim Boden and Mayor Keri Tamwoy, Aurukun Shire Council

“Back in those first days, we didn’t have counselling – we had to talk to the women and the men ourselves.”  

Of her experience, Myrtle said there were some wonderful breakthroughs,  

“When the council came back to me and said they have got a house available for the women, that was really for me, you know, I was so happy women can go to the place where they can be safe. It was a big relief for me,” Myrtle said. 

“I’m so proud of working with my people in the community, with women and children especially.” 

LGAQ CEO Greg Hallam said it was a privilege to honour the work of May and Myrtle,  

“The work of May and Myrtle has a positive rippling effect through the community that will be felt for years to come and we are grateful to be able to recognise their work through the award. We look forward to holding the award in years to come to recognise the work that goes on across the state to prevent domestic and family violence.”  

May and Myrtle have been awarded a $5000 prize and an artwork created by Brisbane artist Laura Vincent. The hand-crafted piece was created using resin and timber and represents the complex emotions felt by those who experience DFV.