Date: 7th March 2024

In recognition of International Women’s Day, we delve into the key roles played by some of the women within the Stawell Athletic Club (SAC) committee, whose dedicated efforts have been instrumental in shaping the Powercor Stawell Gift carnival.

Shev Healy: Leading with Experience and Dedication

Shevahn “Shev” Healy took on the role of Vice President of the SAC last year after joining the committee in October 2021, bringing with her a wealth of experience and dedication to the position. Shev’s journey with the SAC began with supporting various sub-committees, including playing a significant role in negotiating the Service Level Agreement (SLA) for last year’s event. 

Her commitment to community involvement is evident through her previous role as the first female president of the Stawell and Ararat Cross Country Club. Shev’s passion for running aligns seamlessly with her dedication to local community engagement, as seen in her active involvement in organizing the Easter Sunday Fun Run.

Reflecting on her role within the SAC, Shev remarked, “I really enjoy the volunteering aspect of joining the SAC. My kids are grown up now, so I have more time to give to local committees. Joining my love for running and volunteering for a local club, becoming a committee member for the SAC was a natural progression.”

Shev was instrumental in supporting the Women’s Gift finalists’ names included on the scoreboard prior to the Change Our Game Women’s Gift final in recent years.

She values the history and tradition synonymous with the event, so important to the local community. “It is important for my family as my husband has been going to the event since he was eight years old. He loves the historical aspect, and he can tell me so many stories from the past. 

I have seen the climb back from COVID years, with more and more entries as times go on. This is promising for the sport. I can’t see it going away soon. For the community this event is very important. Not only does it put our name in history but all over the world people are aware of ‘the Stawell Gift’. Even when I travelled to San Francisco a few years ago, when asked where I lived people connected it to the Gift. 

“I hope the future of athletics in Australia is nurtured by government officials for many years.  It is important to live an active and healthy lifestyle, and with pro-runners to look up to, this will reflect in our youth. 

Shev is a Registered Nurse with a background in Critical Care nursing. “I currently work for Grampians Health Stawell campus as a nurse educator. I support nurses to learn and achieve their best.” 

Sue MacPherson: A Family Tradition and Community Connection

For Sue MacPherson the Stawell Gift is more than just a sporting event; it’s a cherished family legacy that spans over five decades. From her childhood days as a Colour/Block Kid to her current role as a Committee Member, Sue’s journey is intertwined with the very fabric of the Stawell Gift. 

“My family has been involved in the Stawell Gift for 51 years, my father, Murray MacPherson, joined in 1973, he has held many committee positions and was a starter for many years. Mum, Joan, has organised Fashions at Central Park since its inception over 20 years ago.”

Sue’s active participation in the SAC for the second year serves as a testament to her dedication to ensuring the continued success and relevance of the Stawell Gift.

“There are many enjoyable aspects to being involved in the SAC.  There is so much energy and excitement around the three days of the Stawell Gift Carnival.  I love being in the thick of it, being on the oval and involved in making the Stawell Gift memorable for athletes and spectators,” Sue remarked when asked about her role within the SAC.

“The committee has some wonderful people on it with an enormous amount of experience, they work extremely hard to make the event successful, I am learning a lot from working with them. 

“I also love that I am working alongside my dad. The Stawell Gift has been a huge part of my parents’ life for so many years and I am quite honoured to be continuing our family connection to this prestigious event.”

Sue firmly believes that times have changed, and women are being recognised for their contribution to sports events.

“Women have long been integral to the functioning of sporting clubs and events, albeit often behind the scenes. Fortunately, we are now recognized and appreciated as leaders and decision-makers, rather than being relegated to the side-lines as mere spectators. (Yes, I’ve been called a ‘glorified spectator’ as a committee member of a different sports club – just to clarify, not at SAC!) 

“Hopefully, future generations won’t need to have these conversations, as gender should not be a factor in determining one’s role. SAC fosters a welcoming, inclusive environment that encourages the participation and contributions of all its members.”

Sue is the Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) Hub leader at Marian College in Ararat, teaching VCE Biology and Science.

Sarah Baker-Goldsmith: Advocating for Equality and Inclusion

Sarah Baker-Goldsmith brings a unique blend of legal expertise and passion for women’s sport to her role within the SAC. Raised in Ballarat, Sarah’s admiration for the Stawell Gift’s equal prize money underscores its historical significance in promoting gender equality within athletics. She is a barrister practicing in the ACT.

Beyond her committee responsibilities, Sarah actively participates in various sports leagues, embodying the values of teamwork and inclusivity that lie at the heart of the Stawell Gift’s ethos. 

Her advocacy for gender equality and inclusion within athletics reflects the event’s ongoing commitment to fostering a welcoming and equitable environment for all participants.

“The Stawell Gift was one of the great traditions of my childhood. I used to watch it with my grandfather,” Sarah reminisced, highlighting the event’s deep personal significance to her.

Sarah is an amateur participant in social cricket, AFL and currently plays Masters football (soccer).

Wendy Hopwood: Preserving Heritage and Embracing Innovation

Wendy has been the welcoming presence at the Stawell Gift office and the iconic Hall of Fame at Central Park for the past decade. If you visit throughout the year, she’s the one you’ll meet! She joined the organisation in 2012 as Office Manager and plays an integral role in preserving the event’s rich heritage and traditions. 

Since joining the SAC in 2012, Wendy has been instrumental in providing visitors with insights into the Stawell Gift’s storied history. Her involvement extends beyond her role in the office, as she also serves as the SAC Member elected Director on the Stawell Gift Event Management (SGEM) Board. 

Wendy’s dedication to striking a balance between tradition and innovation ensures that the event continues to evolve while staying true to its roots.

“SGEM has bought new ideas to the event as well as keeping the some of the traditions that make our event unique,” she said.

Reflecting on her time with the SAC, Wendy remarked, “I have seen many changes, including the introduction of prize parity for the Women’s Gift. Our event was one of the first Australian events to do this, which is fantastic and has led to an increase in the participation of women in the Strickland Family Women’s Gift.”

There isn’t much about the Stawell Gift that local resident Wendy doesn’t know. “I believe I have the best job!”

Mia Bell: Longstanding family legacy and race sponsor

Mia’s connection to the Stawell Gift runs deep. She joined the SAC committee in 2022 but her ties stretch back generations. Mia attended the Centenary Gift when she was just three weeks old.

“My great-grandfather W H Carter was twice President of the SAC. His father helped to set up the SAC – the Carter family owned the boot shop in Stawell, and it was in the basement of this shop that the meeting was held where it was decided to start the Stawell Gift,” Mia recounted.

 Mia’s family has sponsored the W H Carter Memorial trophy since 1947, a testament to their enduring commitment to the sport. Named the Victory Mile, this coveted trophy celebrates novice runners over 1600m. 

 When she’s not immersed in the world of athletics, Mia serves as a Principal Advisor at ReturnToWorkSA in Adelaide. But come Easter, you’ll find her and her sister, Helen Carter, at the Stawell Gift weekend where they started as volunteer timekeepers. 

 For Mia and her family, this annual pilgrimage to Stawell is more than just tradition – it’s a highlight they eagerly anticipate each year.

Photos clockwise from top left: Sue MacPherson, Shev Healy, Mia Bell, Sarah Baker-Goldsmith, Wendy Hopwood

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