FOUNDING director and chief executive officer of the BRAVE Foundation Bernadette Black, pictured, hopes to inspire young women across the country after winning the Tasmanian Award for Excellence in Women’s Leadership.
The Hobart local established the BRAVE Foundation in 2009 to help support and create pathways for expecting and parenting teens from across Australia.
“I want to help connect them to their goals, dreams, aspirations and what they would like to do as far as a career,” Mrs Black said.
“I also want to help reposition them for education and teach them how to become good parents.”
The foundation offers an online directory of services and mentors to help provide young parents with resources and referral.
“The work that our mentors do is tremendous – it impacts the mum, the dad, their child, as well as the broader community,” Mrs Black said.
“We want to be able to support an expecting or parenting teen before they meet crisis or before they might become totally disengaged from education or going back to work.”
Mrs Black said she was inspired to start the BRAVE Foundation after her own pregnancy at 16 years of age, and the subsequent stigma she experienced firsthand.
“I remembered making myself three promises – the first was to be a good mum, the second was to complete my education and the third was to write a book to help other young people in the same situation,” she said.
“No matter how hard I tried, no matter how presentable my baby and I looked, the stigma was too great.”
Mrs Black completed her book ‘Brave Little Bear’ in 2006 and continues to provide inspiration to people experiencing unexpected pregnancy and parenthood.
“I didn’t realise I was changing culture and bringing people on the journey to understand how they can help someone that might be disadvantaged or actually needs our support,” she said.
“To be recognised with this award by Women & Leadership Australia is amazing because it recognises the influence and the different type of leadership we bring to our communities – that type of leadership actually means something and is lasting.”
Previous recipients of the Tasmanian award include former Premier Lara Giddings, former Tasmanian Senator Christine Milne, past Women’s Legal Service Tasmania chief executive officer Susan Fahey, Glenview Community Services chief executive officer Lucy O’Flaherty and women in technology advocate Marita Cheng.
Women & Leadership Australia director of leadership and advocacy Suzi Finkelstein said she was honoured to present Mrs Black with the award.
“Bernadette’s work as an advocate and support for young pregnant mums has changed the lives of so many,” she said.
“These young women can feel marginalised and judged by society, and the BRAVE Foundation helps them in so many ways.
“This prestigious award is designed to recognise women who work hard to climb to the top of their industry, and then make every effort to bring other women up with them.”
Mrs Black will receive the award at the Australian Women’s Leadership Symposium in Sydney on 30 August.