Previous Recipients

2018 Cath Leary Social Justice Award

The winner of the Cath Leary Social Justice Award for 2018 is 50 Lives 50 Homes Perth, the Housing First collaboration that has brought together more than 30 agencies and organisations in Perth, led by Ruah.

The award acknowledges the significant progress the collaboration has made to ending homelessness in Perth. The 50 Lives 50 Homes project works to ensure that people who are street homeless are provided with permanent housing and the required support to ensure they sustain their housing.

The project began in 2016 and has housed more than 200 people.

Leah Watkins from Ruah accepted the award on behalf of the 50 Lives 50 Homes team.

2017 Cath Leary Social Justice Award

Anti-Slavery Australia

Congratulations to Anti-Slavery Australia, the recipient of the 2017 Cath Leary Social Justice Award. This award recognises Anti-Slavery Australia’s contribution to the better understanding of and response to the injustice that is modern slavery. It recognises the advocacy, educational and legal work carried out by Anti-Slavery Australia to respond effectively to and help bring an end to human trafficking and slavery in our country.

Find out more about the work of Anti-Slavery Australia here.

Professor Jennifer Burn, Director of Anti-Slavery Australia was formally given the award by Deputy Chair of the Mercy Foundation, Mr Richard Jarjoura.

L – R: Mr Richard Jarjoura, Deputy Chair Mercy Foundation, Prof Jennifer Burn, Director Anti-Slavery Australia, Sr Loreto Conroy, Congregation Leader, Sisters of Mercy North Sydney, Ms Felicity Reynolds, CEO Mercy Foundation

2016 Cath Leary Social Justice Award

Bronwyn Penrith

The Cath Leary Social Justice Award for 2016 was awarded to Bronwyn Penrith, for her significant contribution to social justice. This award recognises Bronwyn’s long and ongoing contribution to equality and justice for Indigenous Australians over many years. The Mercy Foundation Board noted Bronwyn’s generosity in sharing of knowledge and for her commitment to the community through the many campaigns and organisations she has actively and energetically contributed to and supported.

Bronwyn is a Wiradjuri woman who has worked all her life for equality and the recognition of Aboriginal people and their rights. She is the Chair of Moreton Consulting’s Board of Directors. She is Chair of the Mudgin-gal Aboriginal Women’s Corporation near the Block in Redfern and a Director of the Redfern Foundation Ltd. She is also a recent past member of the Redfern/Waterloo Aboriginal Justice Group and the City of Sydney Aboriginal Advisory Committee. Bronwyn delivers mentoring training, cultural awareness and community education workshops. She is also a highly skilled mediator and is a registered Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner with the Australian Government Department of the Attorney General. Many of her roles have and continue to be carried out in an unpaid voluntary capacity.

Most recently, Bronwyn has performed a leadership role in educating and leading women in the Aboriginal community about lateral violence.

The Mercy Foundation Board awards the Cath Leary Social Justice Award each year to an outstanding individual or organisation that has made a substantial contribution to social justice in Australia. The Award is named in honor of the late Cath Leary, long term Board member of the Mercy Foundation who worked tirelessly for social justice in her lifetime.

We congratulate Bronwyn on this significant achievement.

2015 Cath Leary Social Justice Award

Sr Carmel McDonough RSM

The 2015 winner of the Cath Leary Social Justice Award is Sr Carmel McDonough RSM. This award recognises the significant contribution Sr Carmel has made to a range of social justice issues over a great many years. It also recognises her leadership in providing education on social justice issues to young women. Sr Carmel has made a long and valuable contribution to the Mercy Foundation as a Board member, retiring from the board this year, and as a member of the Grants Committee.

This award recognises the significant personal contribution Sr Carmel has given to issues as diverse as asylum seekers and refugees, indigenous Australians, people living in poverty and people experiencing homelessness. She is recognized as an outstanding educator and role model for young women who are learning about the need to take action on issues of social inequality and social justice.

This award is named after Cath Leary, former board member, long term member of the grants committee and passionate social justice advocate. Cath gave generously of her time and worked tirelessly for people and communities who needed a voice. Cath lived her life in a manner that exemplified the values of the Mercy Foundation. Cath was a dear friend of the Foundation and Sr Carmel. Cath passed away in 2014 and the Social Justice Award was renamed in her honour.

We congratulate Sr Carmel on her significant contribution to social justice and social justice education in Australia.

2014 Cath Leary Social Justice Award

Asylum Seeker Resource Centre

Congratulations to the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, Melbourne on being the recipient of the 2014 Mercy Foundation Social Justice Award – now known as the Cath Leary Social Justice Award.

This award recognises the significant contribution that the ASRC has made to providing asylum seekers with a range of practical and other assistance. The Mercy Foundation is particularly impressed by the way in which the ASRC uses professional volunteers to provide translation, interpreting and legal assistance.

The Mercy Foundation also recognises and congratulates the ASRC on their other programs which assist asylum seekers with casework, access to technology and education and which help provide a sense of community connectedness. Such help is provided by the ASRC in a spirit of compassion, to people who have fled untenable situations in their country of origin, and their work represents the very essence of social justice.

CEO of the ASRC, Kon Karapanagiotidis, was presented with the award by Sr Loreto Conroy, Leader of the North Sydney Sisters of Mercy, at a special forum on asylum seekers held at the Mercy Foundation on Thursday 28 August 2014.

2012/13 Mercy Foundation Social Justice Award

Stephanie Brennan

This award recognises the significant contribution Stephanie has made to address homelessness in Western Sydney. Stephanie’s initiative, leadership and enthusiasm helped bring together over 80 organisations to address homelessness in Western Sydney through Project 40. A resulting decrease in homelessness in the region was a direct result of this campaign.

This award also recognises Stephanie’s significant personal contribution to the goal of ending homelessness. Stephanie was a founding member in establishing both the Nepean Campaign Against Homelessness and the Nepean/Blacktown Regional Taskforce on Homelessness. Stephanie regularly contributed to the sector through speaking engagements and sector events.

Stephanie is an outstanding role model for other service providers in helping to end homelessness for many vulnerable Australians.

 2011 Mercy Foundation Social Justice Award

 Micah Projects

Congratulations to MICAH PROJECTS Queensland, recipients of the Mercy Foundation’s 2011 Social Justice Award. The award was given in recognition of the outstanding contribution Micah Projects makes to ending homelessness.

In June last year, Micah Projects launched the 50 Lives 50 Homes campaign. Micah Projects was the first NGO to coordinate Registry Week, where they interviewed people sleeping rough in the inner city of Brisbane. Using the Vulnerability Index, the information they collected was used to produce a register of the most vulnerable people sleeping rough in Brisbane. They have exceeded their initial targets of housing 50 vulnerable people, with nearly 90 people housed as a result of this campaign.

During the Queensland flood disaster earlier this year, the team worked tirelessly to ensure homeless and marginally housed people were provided with emergency housing, food and support.

Micah Projects led the implementation of the Common Ground initiative in Brisbane and they have been chosen by the Queensland government as support providers to people living in the building. It opened in July 2012.

The mission of Micah Projects is to respond to people experiencing poverty, injustice and social isolation so that they may experience inclusion, economic well-being, justice and connection within their community of choice. Congratulations to Karyn Walsh, Micah Projects Coordinator and her team on their outstanding contribution to ending homelessness.

2010 Social Justice Award


On May 18, 2010, Grocon, an Australian construction company, was awarded the Mercy Foundation’s social justice award for its corporate leadership and its financial and practical support for Common Ground permanent supportive housing projects throughout Australia.

In 2007 Grocon made an initial commitment to build the new Common Ground development in Elizabeth St, Melbourne ‘at cost’. This pledge was worth some millions of dollars to this project. Grocon has built the Elizabeth St Common Ground project as a Design and Construct contract on a zero profit, zero margin basis and with a 100 per cent return of net savings to the client.

This building, which will very soon open, will permanently end the homelessness of approximately 65 people. It will also provide about 66 additional low cost and affordable housing units for people in low wage jobs.

Since that initial commitment, Grocon has gone on to pledge the same support to all capital cities and they are currently involved in building, without profit, Common Ground buildings in Sydney and Brisbane. They have also made commitments to offer a number of positions to homeless and formerly homeless people to work on each of these construction projects.

They are the first private company to be awarded the Mercy Foundation Social Justice Award. Jane Wilson accepted the award on behalf of Grocon CEO, Daniel Grollo.