Our Stories

Pamela Rudder

Delta Society Australia Volunteer

Pamela Rudder

Tell us a bit about yourself and your involvement with Delta?

I have been involved with Delta Society since 2010. My dog Winnie and I have been visiting the Children’s Hospital at Randwick since then. 

It would have to be one of the most rewarding things I have had the privilege to do in my life.  I was blessed with twin daughters (now 24 years old!) and while they have been extremely healthy, we did have the need to come to The Children’s Hospital once or twice.  As a parent you feel at your most vulnerable at this time – your child is unwell and you have to entrust their care to others. 

In the midst of this distress comes a smiling volunteer with a fluffy affectionate dog – your child’s face lights up and for a brief moment their pain and your concern is forgotten.  The staff also face stress each day, and there have been many times in those five years that Winnie has been waylaid at the nurse’s desk before we can get to the patients!


How would you describe yourself in 5 words?

Lucky, blessed, fortunate, hopeful, helpful


Is there anything inspiring that you have learnt on your journey that you would pass on to others who may be going through difficulties?

I have learnt to really try to always be in the present.  Not even to take life one day at a time, or one hour, but minute by minute.


If you had to teach someone one thing, what would you teach?

I would want to teach them never to underestimate the kindness of strangers.  That the smallest random gesture of kindness they can demonstrate can have huge and positive benefits to others.

Catherine Keenan

Executive director and co-founder - Story Factory

Catherine Keenan

Tell us a bit about yourself and your involvement with Story Factory

I am the co-founder and executive director of the Story Factory. I started it with my friend Tim Dick, when we were both journalists at The Sydney Morning Herald and we became captivated by the idea of opening a centre where kids could discover how exciting and empowering writing can be. We opened in Redfern in 2012, and I’ve enjoyed every day here since. As someone who has always loved reading and writing, it is so special to watch young people suddenly realize that they love it to – and they’re better at it than they thought.


Who do you most admire in life?

One of the people I most admire was a student at the Story Factory. Her name is Vivian Pham and she came to us when she was in year 11 at Birrong Girls High, in Western Sydney. She enrolled in our longest program, where students commit to come every Sunday for a year to write a novella. But Vivian didn’t write a novella, she wrote a 93,000  word novel, a fully-fledged love story set in 1990s Cabramatta, about handsome tearaway Vince and the girl he loves, quiet, sheltered Sonny. It’s totally brilliant and will be published in 2020 by Penguin Random House. I am lucky enough to now count Vivian as my friend, and I admire her so much for the breadth of her imagination, her engagement with the world, and the originality of her thought.


What’s the best decision you ever made?

I once got into trouble answering this question! In a radio interview, I said that the best decision I ever made was leaving the Herald to set up the Story Factory. Leaving seemed risky at the time, as I was quitting a large company to be the only part-time employee at a fledgling not-for-profit. But I said on the show that I now thought it was the best decision I ever made because I love what I do and I love seeing the impact our writing programs have on the marginalised young people we work with.


However, my two kids, Grace and Seb, heard the interview and protested that they were the best decision I ever made. Which is totally true!

Jackie Ruddock

former CEO – The Social Outfit Incorporated

Jackie Ruddock

Tell us a bit about yourself and your involvement with The Social Outfit

I’m Jackie Ruddock, the founder and CEO of The Social Outfit. We are a trading social enterprise that provides employment, training and education opportunities in the fashion industry to people from refugee and new migrant communities in clothing production, retail, design and marketing. 


Our belief is that by tapping into the rich creativity of people from our refugee communities that it can lead to empowerment and social inclusion. By utilising the rich traditions of sewing and tailoring that are established in our new migrant communities, we have created a social business model where people build skills in a supportive environment, whilst interacting with broader Sydney communities.


Setting up The Social Outfit took a group of talented people about two and half years, so I’m very committed and excited about our creative work and what is possible. Now that our store and community site has been open for a year, I’m even more hopeful about our future possibilities! It’s incredibly hard work, with new challenges all the time. But one of our values is learning, and it’s a wonderful opportunity to work in an environment where diverse people all come together and try our best.


Plus, I do love fashion and wearing colours, so it’s an inspiring workplace too!


What is a skill would you like to learn and why?

It’s probably not surprising but one skill I’d really like to learn is industrial sewing. I know vaguely how to use a domestic sewing machine for things like hems and repairing holes, but working at The Social Outfit has really opened my eyes to the skills required in garment construction.


Making quality clothing is a lot like building. All the pieces need to come together in the right ways; and when they do you often see a fantastic garment that starts a story. Many customers love telling us how much people comment on their clothes bought from our store.


And, if you’re interested to see as well how clothing is made, you come and visit us. From our site at 353 King Street Newtown our clothing manufacturers share their workspace with our sewing school students. There’s a window into our sewing room. Perhaps in the near future you might even see me too trying my hand at industrial sewing!


Have you done anything you are proud of lately?

In July 2015, we celebrated our first birthday with a fashion parade at Redfern Town Hall. The room was filled with our community, supporters and allies. The night was such a special event for all of us involved at The Social Outfit; a real chance to showcase the passion of our students, the skills of our sewing manufacturers; and to make connections between the to the new migrant and broader Sydney communities. There were so many supporters in the room, and that is key when you’re starting out.


People attending loved the night, and as one of our values is to ‘celebrate the skills and styles of our diverse communities,’ I think we collectively did a great job!


The best way to see this is with some images of the night… so I hope you enjoy!


By the way, when looking at these fashions, it’s worth remembering that about half of our clothes are made by re-purposing excess fabrics that have been donated by the mainstream fashion industry. And, the other half are manufactured from silk beautifully produced at our sister organisation, The Social Studio in Melbourne. So our clothes also support broader employment and training programs, and the environment too!

Daniel Appleby

Trustee - Sheargold Foundation

Daniel Appleby

If you could sit down with your 15 year old self, what would you tell him?

Regularly take time to stop and think about what you really want to do in life - work, relationships, sports, interests, dreams - and strive to achieve those things. Don’t be dissuaded, don’t just go with the flow. Take the time to nurture yourself. And try to meditate every day – it really will improve your life and the lives of people around you!

Has a mentor/teacher ever changed your life? How so?

I have had the great fortune of benefitting from a number of mentors. At school I had a couple of teachers who helped me to always be myself. The founder of my law firm, Robin Speed, inspired my approach to work and the law – a focus on distilling issues to their core and endeavouring to give people what they really want…especially peace of mind and the benefit of my experience. My Shifu (Master) in traditional Shaolin Kung Fu, Brett Russell, which I have studied for a number of years – my Shifu has mentored me in the discipline, calmness and preparedness of martial arts, spiritual growth, and applying them in the rest of my life.

How do you celebrate your victories?

Usually with a fist pump, a big smile, a quick thank you to the universe and those who have helped me, and then to my local café with my wonderful family for a burger, a beer, and their homemade caramel slice…

What have you done today to make someone’s life better?

As a lawyer I spend every working day helping my clients, trying to solve their legal issues, trying to improve their businesses – trying to make their lives better. At least that’s the approach I take to the law, and I think part of the reason I am able to do the work that I do, for the people I do. In everything else I strive to always be mindful of others, their feelings, their comfort, and with positivity and calmness trying to improve the lives of those around me. I also strive every single day to improve the lives of my beautiful wife Monika and son Hunter.

Being part of the Sheargold Foundation allows me to indirectly help the people the Foundation works with, and improve the lives of the many people who benefit from the work those organisations we support.

Hollee Curran

Former General Manager – Delta Society Australia

Hollee Curran

Tell us a bit about yourself and your involvement with Delta Society Australia?

My name is Hollee Curran and I am the General Manager of Delta.  I have been with the organisation just over 13 years and still enjoy coming to work each and every day.  I came to Delta with a strong background in education and finance but also with a passion for the human-animal bond and the importance it plays in the everyday life of an animal owner. When I first started with Delta, I have to say I thought it would be just another role however the passion that was shown by my previous General Manager inspired me to see what an impact I could have by enabling others to share their animals with those people who didn’t have access to a dog, whether it be because they were in hospital, aged care or even prison.  I believed that no one should be denied this special opportunity to bond with an animal and set out to make sure that we could offer our services to as many as possible. I also saw the importance of educating the general public in dog safety principles and providing training services to animal owners to help them have a well socialised dog in their home.  Now 13 years down the track, this passion is still strong as I have watched growth in the organisation, its staff and of course the people who provide their time and their animals to help my vision as well as the mission of the Society to flourish. I should also tell you I am an avid cat lover, go figure!! Maybe overtime Delta can find a niche to introduce visiting cats.


When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I wanted to be a police officer. I wanted to protect people by ensuring they could not be hurt. They say “Look where I am now Mum” and I have to say working for Delta and being where I am now is a way better place to be in than a career in the forces. I’m in a wonderful place, as I have the freedom and love that I need in my personal and professional life. Who could ask for anything more….


How would you explain your basic life philosophy?

Don’t dwell on the past because you a missing everything in the present.

Lauren Sheargold

Executive Director and Co-founder – Sheargold Foundation

What is something you would like people to know about you?

How strongly I feel about helping others and contentment I feel when on the right path. Using my skills and abilities to help people better their life. If we can make even a small impact on someone’s life, we will know it has all been worthwhile. I cannot foresee what the future holds but I do know I am going to do everything to make it a meaningful journey.

How do you inspire yourself to live a better life?

Here are a few ideas:

  • Expressing my passion

  • Sharing influences and acknowledging the contributions of others

  • Treat everyone equally

  • Helping people to heal

  • Exploring alternative thoughts and being open to new ideas

  • Helping others to build & realise their inner strength


Have you heard of any quotes that have meant alot to you?

“Don’t worry about failures, worry about the chances you miss when you don’t even try.” – Jack Canfield

Jacinthe Brosseau

Former Sydney Therapy Dog Branch Co-ordinator - Delta Society Australia (Position funded by Sheargold Foundation)

Jacinthe Brosseau

Tell us a bit about yourself and your involvement with Delta Society Australia?


My name is Jacinthe, I am French-Canadian from Montreal and have been living in Australia for 10 years. I am married to a wonderful Australian man called Mark, have two lovely and cheeky children called Remi and Manu, and two lovely and cheeky dogs called Bobby and JD. A house full of boys, never dull! I am passionate about both volunteering and supporting people (and their doggies!) into volunteering. I have worked in volunteer promotion, management support, and coordination for 10 years, with a focus on promoting and supporting youth volunteering and community engagement. I volunteered for an animal rescue and after my first day came home with two little rescue dogs. I am an advocate for animal welfare. I wrote a thesis on Australian mateship and included information about the special bond between humans and their canine mates. I have thoroughly enjoyed my experiences as a volunteer community visitor in aged care. For all these reasons and more, I am very excited to be the new Sydney Therapy Dogs Branch Co-ordinator.


What’s the biggest personal change you’ve ever made?


The biggest personal change I made was moving to Australia. My mother likes to remind me that I could not have found a man further away, it is indeed the other end of the world. As I am very close to my family and friends in Canada this move caused a lot of heartache and separation anxiety. Ongoing communication (from phone to Skype to Whatsapp) has been key to staying and feeling connected with people, and I have been fortunate enough to be able to go back to Canada quite often. The process of settling into my new Australian home was not an easy one for me, even though I spoke English fluently and had a great husband and family-in-law supporting me. The game changer was getting involved in volunteering as a community visitor in aged care. It gave me a sense of purpose, increased my self-confidence and was a truly inspiring experience as I was able to meet and connect with some incredible people. It also paved the way for a fulfilling career in the community sector in Sydney. This is why I am passionate about supporting people into volunteering. I have from day one adopted and promoted an inclusive and strength-based approach to volunteering and volunteer management. I consider volunteering to be a vehicle for addressing needs in the community but also for allowing people to thrive and forge meaningful relationships with people they may never had come in contact with. This can also be applied to our canine friends!


How would you describe yourself in 5 words?


Kind, determined, enthusiastic, introspective and collaborative.

Steve Benton

Trustee - Sheargold Foundation

Steve Benton

If you had to teach someone one thing, what would you teach?

Simply this, it would be 'loving kindness’ - give as much as you think you can each day and then just a little more. The desire and ability to genuinely see life from another’s perspective, and extend to them, real kindness, will make everyone feel happier and connected. It doesn’t take long to realise kindness is contagious and takes only the right attitude on your part to improve someone else’s situation or circumstance. The more you practice this generous act, the better you feel, and before you know it, those you extend kindness too are being kind to others.

What is the difference between living and existing?

Unfortunately, some people only exist rather than live because the mundane pressure to survive or deal with their negative emotions is overwhelmingly denying them choice. Living on the other hand is about truly being able to enjoy your feelings and experiences right now.

Mike Sheargold

Chairman and Co-founder - Sheargold Foundation

Mike Sheargold

Why do you want to inspire people to a better life?

I’m acutely aware of the amazing opportunities that have been presented to me throughout my life but at the same time I’ve had to work extremely hard to make the most of those chances and get where I am today. I understand that not everyone gets those same opportunities so my hope is that our foundation can help deliver as many people as possible their good opportunity and I’ve got faith that most people when offered this chance will work hard and grab it with both hands.


How do you celebrate your victories?


With a nice bottle of wine!

Nikola Amanovic

Director, Parramatta - Story Factory

Nikola Amanovic

Tell us a bit about yourself and your involvement with Story Factory

I am the director for Parramatta at the Story Factory. When I joined the team in May 2017, my job was to lead our expansion to Western Sydney. This involved setting up a new centre, recruiting the team and connecting with schools, and community and arts organisations across the region. Previously, I worked in performing arts and in community development, in Western Sydney and abroad. My role at the Story Factory has allowed me to merge my love of storytelling with that of working with diverse communities to create positive change. Working with young writers, reading their stories and celebrate their accomplishments makes this the most enjoyable job I’ve ever had.


What’s the best decision you ever made?

The best decision I ever made was to quit my accounting job and pursue a career in arts. It was a huge shock for my migrant parents, especially my dad who wanted us to have our own practice. The path I chose was definitely more volatile but it really paid off, first when I got into NIDA to study directing and then when I joined the wonderful team at the Story Factory. I often say to my dad that I would again trade the thousands of dollars I could have made with the thousands of stories I get to read, witness and exchange.


What’s the wisest thing you have ever heard someone say?

When I did a secondment at Opera Australia, straight after graduating from NIDA, a director I reported to told me that “fun is serious business.” That thought helped me take art and creativity seriously and recognise its healing and life-changing abilities, for creators and audiences.

Chantal Lewis

Senior Development Director, Asia Pacific - Room to Read

Chantal Lewis

Tell us a bit about yourself and your involvement with Room to Read?

My name is Chantal Lewis. I joined Room to Read in 2012. Over the past 20 years I have had the privilege of working for some of Australia’s leading cultural institutions, but my greatest achievement has been forging a career with international humanitarian organisations. My first experience in this space was with Médecins Sans Frontiéres, the medical aid organisation. Its impact on me personally and professionally was profound. After my son was born I was invited to join Room to Read, an organisation dedicated to ensuring all children have access to a quality education – a basic human right that can significantly change their lives and the lives of their family, community and country. My current responsibility is to lead our wonderful Asia Pacific team throughout Australia, Hong Kong, Japan and Singapore building global support for our work. It is without question the most inspiring and challenging role I have ever had, and as a result I love every minute of my working day.


If you could witness any event of the past, present, or future, what would it be?

The Berlin Wall falling in 1991 – what an incredible event for humanity.


What does a perfect day look like to you?

Coming to my desk at Room to Read – every day feels as inspiring as my very first, and finishing my day with my family, the greatest gift I have ever received.


When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I was inspired to a career in philanthropy by Live Aid, an international event connecting the citizens of over 110 countries through two concerts in London and Philadelphia in aid of famine stricken populations in Ethiopia and neighbouring Sudan. It took place in 1985, before the internet was even heard of, and using 13 satellites to beam a live television broadcast to more than one billion viewers. The event raised over 127 million dollars, and as a teenager I was struck by the incredible power of the human spirit, and what could be achieved by uniting people behind a cause. Sitting in my living room in Sydney, watching the close of the telecast I thought “Imagine being able to do something like that in your lifetime?”.

Melissa Abu-Gazaleh

Founder and Managing Director - Top Blokes Foundation

Tell us a bit about yourself and your involvement with Top Blokes Foundation?

I’m Founder and Managing Director of the Top Blokes Foundation, a social education and mentoring program for young males aged 10-24 years. Our weekly mentoring programs strengthens the mental health and emotional resilience of young males while improving their engagement and perception in the wider community.

We are driven to make an impact on young men’s personal and physical well-being and social connectedness, and to see an improvement in community safety and harmony. We see our role as providing a platform to challenge, grow and inspire young men to become the next generation of top blokes.


Has a mentor/teacher ever changed your life? How so?

I am fortunate to have had a number of people invest in my personal and professional development. For me, I remember my first mentor, a teacher in high school. This teacher made me feel a sense of pride in myself and hope in my goals. In conversation one day, this teacher said:

‘People get angry if they are feeling hurt. Find out what is driving their hurt’

I think this piece of advice has shaped my thirst to understand what drives human behaviour. Since leaving high school, I have perused a career in social services which has since included counselling, mentoring and leadership. I’m fortunate to have a number of wonderful mentors in my life.


How would you explain your basic life philosophy?

Chase a life of significance, not just happiness.

I’ve learnt that it’s very easy to live a life without passion and safely in the comfort zone. However, the joy in life is discovering how I can use my sense of power and privilege to make a difference in another person’s life.

Rachel Aveling

Senior Expressive Therapists - KidsXpress

Tell us a bit about yourself and your involvement with KidsXpress?

My name is Rachel and I am a senior Expressive Therapist at KidsXpress. That means that every day I get to work with children who have experienced adversity, and every day these wonderful children teach me so much. The power of play and the expressive therapies never ceases to amaze me; these tools give children a language for self-expression and recovery.


What do you value most in life?

Relationships. We are relational beings. Our brains are wired for social connection. Without meaningful, loving relationships very little else matters. Loneliness, social isolation and stigma can all lead to a loss of meaningful relationships. I try to put as much energy into the relationships I have with people I love and respect because it brings me so much love and support in return.


What is the difference between living and existing?

I think life can go from just “existing” to really feeling like you’re “living” when we experience a meaningful connection with another person, or when we care about someone else and know they care about us. That person could be a friend, a family member, the guy who sells you your paper every morning, or even your therapist. And the research backs me up, just one strong relationship is a powerful protective factor!

Callum Franciskovic

Youth Worker - Top Blokers Foundation

Tell us a bit about yourself and your involvement with Top Blokes

I have always been passionate about the mind and mental health of others. This naturally was channeled into a love and study of psychology; which led me to my work with Top Blokes.  
Working for Top Blokes for over 5 years now; I learned alongside the young men we work with what an impact you could make in others.
Touching on serious issues such as mental health, suicide, bullying, anger, peer pressure and masculinity to name a few; encourages you to adapt to the needs of the participants in each group you work with.
My prevailing belief in this field of work is that it requires vulnerability. Rapport will not grow if you do not share of yourself and demonstrate that you have been through experiences that mirror the state of your participants.
I have gone on to delve into different aspects of the organisation. Whether that be project management work, research and development. I will emphasize that it adds meaning to my life to work with and see the positive change in young males because they had someone they could look up to and support them.


Has a mentor/teacher ever changed your life? How so?
The teachers that stood out to me all had the same trait. They were passionate. They cared about what they were doing and with whom they were teaching.
I was a timid child growing up and rarely expressed my opinion. Having a teacher or supporter in my life who encouraged me to express myself and try something new meant the world to me. It allowed me to grow and mature into the person I wished to be; someone who is confidence and capable in helping others.
Truthfully, there is no one standout moment in any teacher I have had, but i remember them fondly and hopefully bring a little of their passion into my own work.


What’s the best decision you ever made?
Something simple. When I was 18 my brother took me to the gym. I, as an nonathletic and physically weak person, this was not my typical place to be.
However, I took to it like a duck to water. It was not fun by any means, but the improvements it has made to my life, both physically and mentally are immense. It is a discipline I aim to hold for the rest of my life.


Delta Society Australia

Melinda Farrell

Chief Executive Officer- Delta Therapy Dogs

Tell us a bit about yourself and your involvement with Delta Therapy Dogs
I’m the CEO of Delta Therapy Dogs. I joined the organisation in August 2019. I’ve spent my career in education and for-purpose organisations. I love my job because it gives me the opportunity to contribute to something really meaningful, helping animals bring joy to people. The work that our volunteers and their delightful Therapy Dogs do, whether it’s a calming pat, floppy ear to listen, friendly paw to shake, or a well-deserved treat to feed, brightens the lives of some of the most vulnerable people in our community when they need it most. Getting to be a part of that is so rewarding.

If you could sit down with your 15-year old self, what would you tell him or her?
I’d tell her to say yes to every opportunity that comes her way. I’d tell her not to let fear, other people’s opinions or not feeling ready stop her, she’ll learn how to cope and thrive along the way. Saying yes will give her so many rich and challenging opportunities that will help her grow and define the woman she wants to be in the future.
And I’d tell her to enjoy her teenage weekend sleep-ins while they last 

What do you value most in life?
In life I most value meaningful connection with people. Life will always throw you curve balls and unexpected challenges, but if you are surrounded by people you love who will support and be there for you no matter what, you can get through anything. And doing the same in return is a gift you can give to others. Sharing the crazy ride of life with others is what it’s all about for me.