How a program to support Indigenous Australians originated from a journey through women’s networks around the world

We’re so excited to announce that we are supporting the new Hawthorn Football Club Indigenous Program (HIP) through Epic Good.

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Details of the program can be found here, but I wanted to share with you some of the back story as to how this came about. The common thread weaving through the story is the connections and opportunities that choosing to hang out with other strong, passionate women delivers, and that not only can these contribute to business success but they can help to deliver change for good.

This story started back in 2012, when Emma Isaacs from Business Chicks got in touch and asked if I’d be interested in going to India for Dell’s global female entrepreneurs conference, DWEN. Naturally I jumped at the chance, and while I was there I met the fabulous Tina Wells , and we bonded over a mutual love of shoes.


With Tina in India

We both returned to DWEN the following year in Istanbul, where Tina spoke about Girl Up, the United Nations foundation adolescent girl campaign which aims to unite girls to change the world. I returned home and talked to my daughter about Girl Up, and after she and her friends started the first club in Australia we worked with Melissa Hilbrenner and the team from Girl Up to create a broader awareness of the campaign in Australia.

girl up

Sascha and some of her fellow club members

Emma and Zoe from Business Chicks, make another appearance, introducing me to Catherine O’Sullivan, Pro-Vice Chancellor of Partnerships and Pathways at Bond University, as they knew of the work she was doing with the Alliance of Girls Schools. Catherine immediately invited me to join an upcoming trip to the Lockhart River community in far North Queensland, where I would have the opportunity to both introduce Girl Up to the heads of schools attending and see first hand the issues and challenges faced by the people of that region.

While in Lockhart River, not only did we talk about Girl Up (and some of those schools have since gone on to establish their own clubs) but it also provided a very confronting insight into the challenges faced by Indigenous Australians, and I, along with many of the other women present, came away with a real desire to try and find a way to make a difference to the disparity that exists. Just sitting back and continuing to let this be someone else’s problem was not an option, but we all grappled with how best to find appropriate pathways forward. As the post trip emails circulated, Lois Peeler from Worawa Aboriginal College in Victoria reached out and, knowing Stuart had close ties into the Hawthorn Football Club, asked if I could provide an introduction for her to talk to them about the Eastern Eaglehawks Indigenous team.


Lois & I in Lockhart River

At that point we had no idea that this would trigger what has now become the HIP, but as the saying goes ‘from little things big things grow.’

Just in case you thought my other fave business womens’ community was MIA in this story, I’m very happy to report that Commonwealth Bank Women in Focus also has a role to play.  Firstly, it’s important to  remember that many of the doors to these networks opened after my success in the Telstra Business Women’s Awards, which Women in Focus has been a long term supporter and sponsor of. 

The second link stems from their conference in Port Douglas in 2013 where I met Anita Heiss for the first time, and while again our initial bond may have come through a shared love of shoes (anyone sensing a theme here??) a deeper friendship formed, and now Anita is working with us at Epic, not only using her outstanding writing talents to help tell our business stories, but also acting as a wonderful source of guidance and inspiration as we get serious about working with not only HIP but other programs aimed at bridging the gap for Indigenous Australians.

Stuart & I introducing Anita to the excitement of a Firebirds match!

Stuart and I introducing Anita to the excitement of a Firebirds match!

We don’t profess to be experts on the challenges faced by Indigenous Australians or hold the solutions to the broader problems that exist, but what we do know is that we were no longer comfortable with a view that it wasn’t our problem.

This lengthy thread that has wound through women’s networks around the world has led us to a place where we are in a position to work with those who can make a difference, and as the old saying ‘How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time’ goes, we’ve taken our first bite and want to encourage others to sit down at the table too.



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7 Responses

  1. Thanks so much Cathie for sharing the invaluable thread weaved through your backstory! I had no idea of your trail of incredible connections through women’s networks and programs that exist to connect and celebrate – it matters.
    Congratulations on the launch of Hawthorn Football Club Indigenous Program. It’s so interesting that you share “We don’t profess to be experts on the challenges faced by Indigenous Australians or hold the solutions to the broader problems that exist, but what we do know is that we were no longer comfortable with a view that it wasn’t our problem” because I so clearly the amazing Epic Pharmacy Group team constantly strive to improve the quality of people’s lives where it’s most needed – for those in hospital, experiencing oncology treatment and relying on aged care services. Your personal and caring services and being uncomfortable with ‘the way things are’ will continue innovating the medical industry. I feel you are now doing exactly the same with HIP – improving the lives of even more Australians through awareness, employment opportunities, care, community and innovation! Nik

  2. Cathie, you continue to set the benchmark for aspirational leadership. What an extraordinary contribution you make to the communities you touch and the legacy you are leading for the next generation. Congratulations on the launch of Epic Good and your partnership with Hawthorn Football Club Indigenous Program! No EPIC things will come from this partnership and the future partnerships of Epic Good.

  3. Flora

    This is just great, Cathie. I am in admiration on a daily basis due to the amount of time and energy you spend giving back. I spent a few formative years in remote FNQ and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander inequality is a focus in my teaching landscape. Thank you.

    1. Cathie Reid

      Thanks so much Mel, I know you do an amazing job educating your students far and above the standard curriculum! xx

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