We are thrilled to announce the winner of the inaugural Helen Lynch AM Leadership award is 2018 Social Change Fellow, Laura O’Reilly OAM.
Laura is a serial social entrepreneur, who was inspired by her experiences as the sibling of a young man with cerebral palsy and has been working to build a more inclusive Australian society for people with disability for over a decade.
Her first organisation, Fighting Chance, is a non-profit organisation which operates some of the most innovative services for people with disability in the sector. From humble beginnings in her mother’s garage in 2011, today Fighting Chance operates in five States and Territories, supports 1,200 people with disability on an ongoing basis, and employs around 800 staff.
Under the Fighting Chance umbrella, there are now four social enterprises dedicated to improving the lives of people living with disability - including Jigsaw, an organisation also supported by Westpac Foundation, which is dedicated to training and transitioning people with more moderate disability into mainstream employment. Jigsaw grads hold a job 12+ months on from the program at a rate of 70%, which is seven times the success rate of traditional programs.
In 2015, Laura and her brother Jordan also founded Hireup, a for-purpose company which uses technology to put people with disability in charge of their support workers. Today Hireup employs more than 17,000 workers nationally and provides attendant care and support to 10,000+ people with disability.
“I am very proud of the organisations Fighting Chance and Hireup have become.” said Laura. “If someone had told me in 2011 that by 2023 my organisations would be employing some 18,000 people per year, and supporting 11,000+ people with disability, I would not have believed that possible.”
The Helen Lynch AM Leadership Award was launched for the first time earlier this year and is valued up to $10,000. In honour of Helen Lynch, one of the founding directors of Westpac Scholars, the award recognises the immense contribution a Westpac Scholar has had in building a more inclusive Australia, an area close to Helen’s heart.
“Laura is a remarkable leader with a terrific brain, a great heart and loads of empathy.” said Helen. “What she and the team have built at Hireup and Fighting Chance is a significant achievement. When she started her Social Change Fellowship in 2018 those organisations were already having real impact, but it’s now reached a scale that’s beyond imagination. Laura has immense strength and vision. She is a driving force shaping what meaningful disability support looks like in Australia. I am thrilled to have Laura as the inaugural recipient of the Award, and we are excited to continue supporting her leadership development.”
Laura has also been the recipient of many other prestigious awards including 2011 NSW Young Carer of the Year, and Medal of the Order of Australia in 2021.
Published 28 November 2023