2017 Celebrity Ambassadors and Judges
Barnardos Mother of the Year is generously supported by some of the most recognisable and well-respected personalities in Australia. Our valued ambassadors are:
Dr Ginni Mansberg
Professor Kerryn Phelps
Ellia Green was one of the break-out stars of the gold medal-winning Women’s Rugby 7s team form the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.
Green was a national-level sprinter through her school years, representing Australia at the World School Games in Qatar in 2009. She was recruited into Rugby in 2012 and swiftly set about cementing her spot in the Australian Women’s Rugby 7s side.
Ellia Green was a standout performer as part of the sides’ victory in the 2015/2016 Rugby World Series. Expectations were high for Rio and Ellia and her teammates delivered, winning the inaugural Olympic gold medal in Women’s Rugby 7s.
"I have agreed to become an Ambassador for Barnardos because I believe that mothers are the creators of greatness and in the case of my own mother, she is the reason why I continue to dream big."
Jacinta Tynan is a News Presenter with Sky News, Columnist for Sunday Life, Author and Mother. With more than twenty years experience as a journalist, she’s regarded as a commentator for her generation with her popular and candid columns about contemporary life, love and motherhood. Jacinta has just published her third book, Mother Zen (described as a manifesto of modern motherhood), and manages a website of the same name.
Jacinta is also the proud patron of SISTER2Sister, a mentor program for teenage girls and is on the board of Monkey Baa kids theatre bringing quality theatre to young people across the country.
She regards her greatest achievement, and highest joy, as being a mother to two young boys, Jasper and Otis.
"As mothers we don't just raise children but shape them. The Barnardos Mother of The Year awards recognise women who defy limits of love and care to change the course of the next generation, giving children the gifts of love, security and hope. I am continually inspired by and in awe of the women who are brought to the forefront, as these awards recognise the critical role mothers play in helping children reach their full potential”.
We know her from Channel Ten’s Shark Tank as the ‘Red Shark’ and the best-selling author of Live What You Love. However Naomi Simson has many labels: Entrepreneur, Speaker, Blogger and most importantly Mother.
As an entrepreneur she founded one of Australia’s tech success stories, RedBalloon, in 2001 which has now served close to 3.5 million customers. Recently recognised as the 7th most followed woman on LinkedIn with some 1.5million followers, Naomi uses the platform to share her insights, experience and observations about business, innovation and success.
Her personal motto is “If it is meant to be it is up to me.” Naomi is passionate about great workplaces and her entrepreneurial energy is focused on redii.com, a leadership tool that drives the alignment of teams to the overall purpose and shared values of the business. Naomi came on board as an ambassador for Barnardos as she shares the strong family values that Barnardos champions.
She is author of two books, Live What You Love and Ready to Soar and has written over 1000 blogs appearing on naomisimson.com since 2006. She encourages people to share their insights with her on Twitter @naomisimson.
Lisa Wilkinson, co-host of the Nine Network’s Today Show is one of Australia’s most admired and respected journalists and corporate presenters. For the past two decades, she has successfully applied her journalistic talents to magazine publishing, television and radio. Her communication skills have also made her one of the country’s most sought-after corporate presenters and conference and event facilitators.
Lisa was lured away from Weekend Sunrise and joined the Today Show and her relaxed and informative style has won her a legion of fans. Together with co-host Karl Stefanovic, they have taken the show to new ratings heights and their popularity now sees them hosting many of the Nine Network’s flagship programs and specials.
Lisa’s media career got off to an astonishing start when she was appointed editor of the national women’s magazine Dolly at age 21. Four years later she was head-hunted by the late Kerry Packer who appointed her as editor of Cleo magazine. Lisa and her husband, journalist, author and former Wallaby, Peter FitzSimons have three children.
Lisa says, “I am committed to doing whatever I can to help spread the Barnardos message. It’s an organisation that literally changes the lives of children who would otherwise be lost to an uncaring system. And the number of smiles they generate on a daily basis, probably says it all.”
Natarsha Belling is one of the most recognised and popular news presenters on Australian television. Natarsha has more than a decade of experience reporting and breaking some of the nation’s biggest stories. Her passion for news, warmth and sincerity has seen Natarsha enjoy a meteoric rise in a highly competitive industry.
She currently co-hosts Network Ten’s breakfast show Wake Up, she previously co-presented Network Ten’s National Weekend News at Five and regularly appears on The Circle and The Project. Natarsha uses her invaluable skills as an award winning journalist to interview the news makers and breakers. In 2011, Natarsha fulfilled a life-long dream to host a wildlife documentary, Delivering the Pandas.
Passionate about helping those in need, Natarsha joins Barnardos as an ambassador in 2011. “Children are our future and every child deserves the chance to be loved and grow up in a safe, nurturing environment. Barnardos ensures children in need receive that life saving support and have the chance to chase their dreams. As a mother of two young sons, I can’t imagine a greater organisation that protects the innocent and guarantees our future generation has a chance to be loved and nurtured.” Natarsha cites her biggest achievement to date as the births of her two sons. This life changing role now gives her invaluable insight into many of the issues confronting Australian families and the constant challenge of the work/life juggle.
Dr Ginni Mansberg
Australia’s best known and most trusted TV doctor, Dr Ginni is the resident doctor on Channel 7’s Sunrise, Morning Show, Live Well and Daily Edition as well as presenter of Embarrassing Bodies Down Under on Foxtel Lifestyle You.
With a Post Graduate Diploma in Journalism, Ginni is also the resident health expert for Women’s Health, Australia magazine as well as Practical Parenting and That’s Life! magazines. She is also a contributor to Woolworths Baby and Toddler Club. Dr Ginni is the author of three books; “Why am I so Tired?”, “How to Get your Mojo Back” and her latest book, “How to Handle your Hormones”.
In her general practice in Sydney’s Sans Souci, Ginni has a special interest in women’s health and paediatrics. She teaches at the Medical Faculty of the University of Notre Dame in the Discipline of General Practice.
She is a sought after key note speaker, talking about health and wellbeing. Not to be stranded in the dark ages, Ginni has a popular blog and is a prolific tweeter @dr_ginni and has a facebook page.
Despite such a busy career, life for Ginni doesn’t end as she leaves the surgery. She is a wife and mum in a blended family of eight. She is also a proud ambassador for Barnardos Mother of the Year, General Practice Registrars Association, Australia and sits on the Advisory Board of the Australian Cervical Cancer Foundation.
James Mathison is a experienced and successful MC, TV presenter, radio host and part-time film critic. He has hosted local and international events. James shot to fame on Australian television as the co-host of the first series of the talent show Australia Idol in 2003, going on to co-host the record-breaking series for another six seasons.
During the Australian Idol years, James hosted three ARIA Awards. He became known for his quick wit, charm, comedic abilities and talent at chatting to people, and this, along with countless hours of live television, saw him gain a reputation for his ability to think on his feet.
James began his successful media career after entering (and winning) Channel [V]'s reporter search in 2000. In the following years James combined his Australian Idol and Channel [V] commitments, co-hosting the ARIAS. In April of 2006, James was awarded an ASTRA award for Favourite Male Personality.
In 2009, James decided to explore other pastures and landed his own new music show, Launch Pad, on Nova 96.9FM and a correspondent role on The 7PM Project. He also co-hosted The League Lounge on Fox Sports and reviewed films on The FOXTEL Movie Show and Seven's Weekend Sunrise. He filled in for Chrissie Swan on Can Of Worms and so impressed Network executives that a short time later he was offered the co-hosting role on TEN's breakfast show, Wake Up.
In September 2015 James joined the cast of Celebrity Apprentice, choosing Barnardos Australia as his charity.
Graduating with a Bachelor of Dramatic Art, from N.I.D.A. in 1977, Debra’s acting career has covered television, theatre and film. She has worked with acclaimed international actors such as Meryl Streep (Evil Angels) and Tom Conti (Two Brothers Running).
One of her most memorable TV roles was as ‘Pippa’ on ‘Home and Away’. On ‘Home and Away’ Debra met Dennis Coard, her on-screen husband and a year after they married on-screen, Debra and Dennis married in real life!
When Debra is not working in the acting arena, she enjoys rural life on the outskirts of Melbourne with Dennis and their two children. Playing adoptive parents on ‘Home and Away’ Debra and Dennis had an understanding and empathy with the work of Barnardos Australia.
For over 20 years Debra has actively supported Barnardos and advocated for vulnerable Australian children and young people.
“As part of a close-knit family, I am aware that our children are fortunate to lead a very secure and happy life. Supporting the wonderful, caring work that Barnardos does, via my role as an ambassador is my way of giving back. Every child needs to be nurtured in order to grow into a caring adult. Barnardos supports disadvantaged children through to young adulthood and this work is a constant inspiration to me” Debra says of her role as an Ambassador.
At age 35 Dennis gave away a secure 20-year career with Telstra and became a first-year drama student. He graduated in 1988 with a Diploma in Dramatic Art and there the start of an acting career that has spanned television, film and theatre.
On television Dennis has appeared in most TV dramas, including six years with the award-winning ‘Home and Away’ – where he met his wife Debra Lawrance. Film projects have included the lead role in the critically acclaimed feature Return Home. He has written and appeared in his autobiographical one man show, The Fall of the Roman Umpire which has been performed nationally since 1999.
Dennis and Debra have two children and live in rural Victoria. They are among the longest standing ambassadors of Barnardos Australia having supported many of Barnardos’ events and fundraising initiatives for over 20 years. They have been actively involved with Barnardos Mother of the Year since their inception in 1996, hosting state and territory announcements, doing media and publicity appearances, attending the national announcements and judging the Awards.
“Each and every year of the Awards, I am humbled and inspired by the wonderful mothers who are nominated by their loved ones – these mothers all share the wondrous quality of ‘unconditional love’ that every child needs” says Dennis.
Mara Lee’s career in magazines is a chronological journey through the key life stages of many Australian women – marriage, children and homemaking. The adventure started for Mara in 2000 when she was appointed editor of Bride to Be. Then, in 2001, while raising a family of her own, Mara moved on to edit Australia’s favourite parenting magazine, Practical Parenting. She continued to edit PP for nine years, including two years based in London as editor of the UK version.
During her Australian editorship, Mara was a regular parenting presenter on Mornings With Kerri-Anne. In 2008, Mara joined the Sunrise and Morning Show panel of experts and frequently appeared on both shows as a parenting commentator. Mara’s passion for parenting is evident throughout her two book publications – Baby’s First Year for Dummies (Wiley) published in 2001 and Staying Mum: What your mum forgot to tell you and your best friends never dared (Wiley), which was re-released in April 2010. In 2011, Mara was appointed acting editor of Home Beautiful magazine before moving across to Family Circle magazine. Currently she is the editor of Diabetic Living magazine.
A Barnardos Mother of the Year judge since 2008, Mara lives in Sydney with her husband of 20 years, 18-year-old daughter, 16-year-old son and two dogs (mother and son!).
Samantha Harris is an Australian fashion model. January 2011, Harris was named a "young women's fashion ambassador" for Australian department store, David Jones along with Miranda Kerr and Megan Gale. Her Australian indigenous heritage struck a chord with the general public and the media at large. It was the platform that allowed Samantha to realise her modelling dream at a very young age.
Born in Tweed Heads, New South Wales, she currently lives in Sydney. Samantha has a strong following with the youth market and is one of Australia’s leading celebrity models supporting causes close to her heart.
Renae Smith is a dedicated mother of two daughters, Kyah (13) and Paris (12).
After encouragement from her children, Renae entered Masterchef Australia and placed 8th. Not wanting to pursue a full time career in the kitchen, Renae has followed her passion of teaching healthy food around the world and has worked with both adults and children in India, Sri Lanka, Singapore and Johannesburg teaching the basic skills of a healthy diet.
Specialising in vegan and vegetarian food, Renae is also consulted in Australia for menu creation. When not in the kitchen, Renae works as director of her PR and brand development agency, The Atticism, which is a specialised firm based out of Newtown, Sydney.
Professor Kerryn Phelps
Professor Kerryn Phelps AM is Adjunct Professor at Sydney University in the Faculty of Medicine in the School of General Practice and Con Joint Professor at the University of New South Wales in the faculty of Public Health and Community Services.
Professor Kerryn Phelps AM has been a familiar face to many Australians over the last twenty years during which time she has appeared regularly on television, radio and the print media informing the Australian public on health issues. She has been the health writer for the Australian Women’s Weekly for 20 years and writes political commentary for Medical Observer Magazine. She is a regular commentator on general practice, public health, medical politics and human rights issues. She is a mother of three.
In May 2000 Prof Phelps was elected Federal President of the Australian Medical Association, becoming the first woman to head this organisation and serving a maximum term of three years.
Prof Phelps has two medical clinics in Sydney and her particular interest is in the area of Integrative medicine. In December 2009 she was elected President of the Australasian Integrative Medical Association and in 2010 was the author of a textbook on Integrative Medicine which was published by Elsevier. In 2003 she was awarded the Centenary Medal for services to Health and Medicine. In 2011 Prof Phelps was awarded the Order of Australia for services to Medicine. In 2013 Prof Phelps had her book Ultimate Wellness published by Pan McMillan. Prof Phelps works tirelessly for human rights and believes strongly in the rights of a child. She has three children and lives in Sydney with her wife of 16 years, Jackie, her 14 year old daughter and two toy poodles.
Jackie Stricker-Phelps (MEd Sydney University) was born and raised in Sydney. She was a teacher for 23 years and has a Masters Degree in Education graduating with distinction.
In 1998 she left teaching after marrying her partner Prof Kerryn Phelps AM in a religious ceremony in New York. She then ran their medical clinics and their media consultancy company. Jackie helped to raise two step children and in 2009 together with Kerryn she fostered a nine year girl and after lobbying the NSW government to have the laws on same sex adoption changed, Jackie and Kerryn adopted their youngest daughter in 2012.
Jackie works tirelessly for human rights particularly those of same sex couples. She is passionate about the rights of all children to a safe and loving home.
Heidi Middleton (bide) is founder and creative director of sass & bide, an iconic Australian fashion label, recognised globally for its eclectic and bold design aesthetic.
Middleton is one half of the duo behind the label, together with Sarah-Jane Clarke (sass). Their sense of free-spirited confidence and contradiction that defines their own personal sense of style has molded the identity of the label and fuelled its success; evolving from a cult Australian favorite to an international design force.
Passionate about nurturing and protecting children, Middleton has been a long standing ambassador of Barnardos, one of the leading child protection charities in Australia. For over 130 years, Barnardos Australia has been at the forefront of child protection, finding real, permanent solutions for Australian children in desperate need.
Leona Edmiston is the unquestionable doyenne of Australian Fashion design. With 30 years of her effortless style, glamour and sophistication gracing the catwalks, workplace, red carpets and landmarks of the World, Leona’s signature style continues to dazzle.
No women’s wardrobe is complete without a Leona Edmiston ‘Frock’, statement heels, bag or pins - as Elle Macpherson, Dannii Minogue, Jennifer Hawkins and Susan Sarandon (just a few of the loyal fans) will attest.
Each season, Leona scours the globe looking for the next iconic prints to grace the collection, whether it be a vintage scarf, artwork, or handprint dating back to the 18th century - Leona is able to transcend the era’s, colours and designs to make what was once lost, fashion once more. Once printed onto the finest of fibres including merino wools, silk, crisp cottons and Leona’s signature jersey, each print and fabric combine to create perfect harmony in each dress. Celebrating Women, Leona’s careful consideration of all shapes and sizes ensures no ‘body’ misses out on the print they must have.
Whilst Leona rules the creative side of the business the label would not have seen the success and recognition it has today without the strategic management by Leona’s husband and Managing Director Jeremy Ducker, who has been a driving force in building the brand and positioning of the business, including the category extensions ‘Leona Edmiston Ruby’ a diffusion collection, ‘Little Leona’ for the little ladies, Sunglasses, Jewellery, Footwear, Handbags, Sleepwear, Pins, a range of Homewares designed exclusively for Myer and most recently Swimwear.
The Leona Edmiston brand encompasses 30 boutiques - 11 signature boutiques; six Leona Edmiston Vintage Boutiques and 13 Myer Concession stores. In 2014 Leona was awarded the InStyle Australia Magazine Women of Style Fashion award.
Fiona Connolly is the Editor-in-chief of Australia’s biggest selling weekly magazine, Woman’s Day and the nation’s number one fortnightly magazine, Yours, reaching more than 4 million Australian women every week.
Fiona has been at the helm of Woman’s Day for seven years, and follows more than a decade in newspapers. She started her career at the News Ltd National Bureau in the press gallery, Parliament House, Canberra, before moving the Daily Telegraph where she had numerous roles including more than five years as the editor of the Confidential brand and as the paper’s Opinion Editor.
In early 2014 she heralded a new era for the Australian mass magazine market with the most successful new title launch in more than a decade, the 50+ women’s title Yours. Meanwhile, Woman’s Day has remained the nation’s number one selling weekly and combined with the brand’s online and social media audience, Fiona’s titles speak directly to more Australian women every day than any other media.