Community Impact Award

Evangeline Wood

Evie Wood

A volunteer firefighter with the Rural Fire Service, a law graduate, and the president and co-founder of Coolamon Community, Evie wants to connect more First Nations mums with culturally safe health services, and ensure better outcomes for both mothers and babies.

It’s a project that is close to her heart for many reasons. Her own family has been affected by the intergenerational trauma of Aboriginal child removal and she wants to help other families avoid the same painful experience.

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are over ten times more likely to be removed than non-indigenous children, even in this day and age,” says Evie. “If we can stop even one of those cases happening by connecting mums with better support, it’s worth it.”

The idea for Coolamon Community came about when Evie was a new mother herself. A chance conversation with fellow graduate and entrepreneur Pam Brook, as well as the contribution and support from her mother saw the idea take flight.

The beautiful woven cribs contain a safe sleeping space, essential items, cultural celebration, and breastfeeding support, with the ultimate goal of encouraging new mums to connect with Aboriginal Health Services.

"The benefit of Aboriginal Health Services is that they are a holistic healthcare service. Because of our complex history with removal in this country and the Stolen Generations, there is still a lot of apprehension among mothers engaging with health services, this is why cultural safety is so important.”

“We know there are such significantly better outcomes for First Nations mothers when they engage with Aboriginal Health Services.”

Coolamon community has delivered over 400 cribs in an area that stretches from Tweed to Coffs Harbour and in toward Casino, and soon beyond.

Now working part-time at a law firm in Murwillumbah, Evie hopes to pursue a career that aligns with her strong social impact values.

“Going back to study law many years after my initial attempt, and with a three-month-old baby, it was like a reawakening for me.”

“I saw its place, and I saw the importance of learning law, not because you necessarily agree with it, but because if you don't understand how it functions, how can you possibly see how you can deliver your idea of justice within that system?”

2023 Alumni Impact Award Recipients

Alumnus of the Year, Ben Newton OAM

After graduating from Southern Cross in 2010 with a Bachelor of Psychological Science with Honours, Ben went on to win a gold medal at the 2012 summer Paralympics and was honoured with an Order of Australia Medal in 2014. Ben now works as the Queensland Paralympics High Performance & Development Coach (Wheelchair Rugby) where nurtures talent and inclusivity within the sport.

Learn more about Ben
Ben Newton

Young Alumnus of the Year, Miranda Luby (dual recipient)

Nominated as an award-winning author, journalist, and copywriter, Miranda’s work spans renowned publications to inspiring novels, showcasing her passion for mental health and conservation issues. A role model for young adults, she inspires and empowers through her talks and workshops where her dedication to community service and impactful storytelling shines through.

Learn more about Miranda
Miranda Luby

Young Alumnus of the Year, Dr Cooper Schouten (dual recipient)

Cooper has completed three degrees including a PhD at Southern Cross. He is the Director of Bees for Sustainable Livelihoods research group and oversees several programs promoting education, research and capacity-building within beekeeping industries in Pacific Island partner countries and Australia. He also teaches into the Regenerative Agriculture program at the University.

Learn more about Cooper
Man with bee honeycomb

International Alumnus of the Year, Dr Sara Shashaani

Completing her Bachelor of Applied Computing at Southern Cross in 2010, Sara is an esteemed researcher in climate-induced learning and prediction. As Assistant Professor of Industrial and Systems Engineering at North Carolina State University, she aims to contribute to sustainable solutions and support vulnerable communities.

Learn more about Sara
Sara Shashaani

Early Career Alumnus of the Year, Mitch Lavelle

Mitch is a mechanical engineer at Gilmour Space Technologies, leading provider of Australian-made launch vehicles and satellite platforms. The company is on track to launch its Eris rockets and G-class satellite platforms into Low Earth Orbits soon and Mitch is the responsible engineer for the first stage main tank, as well as the entire second stage of the Eris Block 1 vehicle.

Learn more about Mitch

Community Impact Alumnus of the Year, Evangeline Wood

Evangeline recently completed a Bachelor of Laws with Honours and is also a volunteer firefighter and Founder and President of Coolamon Community, a group dedicated to connecting Aboriginal mothers with culturally safe healthcare.​ Evie started Coolamon Community in 2021 and the group has since delivered more than 400 Coolamon cribs to First Nations mothers.

Learn more about Evangeline
Evangeline Wood

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