HESTA nurses and midwives awards — winners announced

Monday, 23 May, 2022

HESTA nurses and midwives awards — winners announced

Winners of the 2022 HESTA Australian Nursing & Midwifery Awards have been announced, with Nurse practitioner Sue Hegarty revealed as the 2022 Nurse of the Year.

Hegarty received the award for her exceptional advocacy and support for women with ovarian cancer, including her leadership in developing Australia’s first ovarian cancer telehealth program.

Melanie Briggs, a descendant of Dharawal and Gumbaynggirr peoples, was awarded Midwife of the Year for her work to improve First Nations’ maternal and infant health. Briggs is the director and founder of Binjilaanii, the first Aboriginal-led maternity model of care in Australia.

Beaudesert Hospital Maternity received the Outstanding Organisation Award for its maternity services, demonstrating incredible commitment to improving the health and wellbeing of women and babies in rural Queensland.

HESTA CEO Debby Blakey congratulated this year’s winners and finalists. “No matter the hour, no matter the situation, our nurses and midwives are there to answer the call. They have made an immeasurable difference to the health and wellbeing of so many people and it’s so clear why they are the backbone of our healthcare system,” Blakey said.

Now in their 16th year, the national awards recognise Australia’s nurses, midwives, nurse educators, researchers and personal care workers for their contributions to improving health outcomes.

The three winners each received $10,000, courtesy of ME – the bank for you, for professional development or to improve services or processes in the workplace.

The 2022 winners are:


Sue Hegarty, Ovarian Cancer Australia (OCA), Melbourne, Vic

Sue Hegarty is recognised for her exceptional advocacy and support for women with ovarian cancer. Hegarty said she was delighted to be named 2022 Nurse of the Year, calling it a “great honour” to represent her colleagues.

“I work with a team of devoted ovarian cancer nurses, counsellors, psychologists and allied health professionals who have helped women and their families through the toughest times of their lives,” she said.

“I accept this award for all the nurses and the team I work with at OCA. To be a winner is recognition of the essential work we have done and will continue to do to ensure no woman with ovarian cancer walks alone.”

With a 26-year career dedicated to cancer nursing, Hegarty has worked tirelessly to support women with ovarian cancer and their families. She has been instrumental in the development of programs offered through OCA, attracting millions of dollars in funding. This includes spearheading the development of Australia’s first ovarian cancer telehealth program, which provides women with access to dedicated ovarian cancer nurses.

“A low incidence cancer like ovarian cancer can be difficult to get the funding it needs. Having a platform like the HESTA Awards where we can raise awareness and advocate for women impacted by this rare but deadly disease is so incredibly valuable,” she said.

Hegarty said she would use the prize money to enhance the OCA team’s communication skills.

“Effective communication is an essential skill for the team delivering OCA’s support programs as our nurses are having to have incredibly difficult conversations. It is well documented that the more confident health professionals feel in their communication skills, the less at risk they are of burnout,” Hegarty said.


Melanie Briggs, Waminda South Coast Women's Health & Welfare Aboriginal Corporation, Binjilaanii Maternity Services, Nowra, NSW

Melanie Briggs is recognised for her tireless work to improve First Nations’ maternal and infant health.

A descendant of the Dharawal and Gumbaynggirr peoples, Melanie is the Director and Founder of Binjilaanii, the first Aboriginal-led maternity model of care in Australia. She is also a Senior Midwife at Waminda South Coast Women’s Health and Welfare Aboriginal Corporation.

Briggs said she was honoured to hear she had been named Midwife of the Year.

“Being recognised and being an Aboriginal midwife and caring for women on Country is a privilege and I feel incredibly proud,” she said.

“My team should be here standing here with me. This award is in recognition of the amazing work our team and organisation do in the community to ensure that our First Nations mums and bubs receive the best start to life.”

Briggs is renowned for her strong advocacy, implementing the Waminda Birthing on Country Model. The model incorporates culture into maternity care to improve outcomes for First Nations women and babies. Her vision is to see Aboriginal women birthing on their homelands, practising traditional lore and continuing cultural connections to Country for their baby and their families.

“Practising culture and working with First Nations mothers and supporting women on that journey during pregnancy is so important for us; it is empowering for our women as it brings incredible outcomes — seeing that is the most rewarding part of my job,” she said.

Briggs plans to use the prize money to conduct further research and embed cultural practices into the Birthing on Country model of care.


Beaudesert Hospital Maternity, Beaudesert, Qld

Beaudesert Hospital Maternity is recognised for its commitment to improving the health and wellbeing of women and babies in rural Queensland by providing high-quality maternity services to the local community.

Jacquie Smith, Beaudesert Hospital’s Nursing & Midwifery Director and Facility Manager, said the win was exciting for the maternity unit and a welcome opportunity for the team to celebrate their hard work and commitment to providing maternity care to the community.

“I’m privileged to lead my team and it’s also fitting to acknowledge and appreciate the contributions of the wider hospital team who support our maternity service and without whom we would not be able to provide our service.”

The organisation has enhanced health care for local women and babies, including expanding its Midwifery Group Practice, which provides individualised continuity of care during pregnancy, labour and birth, and in the provision of postnatal care.

Smith said it was rewarding to realise how much the community values the local maternity services. “It’s not like a hospital, it’s like a second home. A true testament of this is when we had three generations of family members born at Beaudesert Hospital, with the last two generations being cared for by the same midwife,” she said.

Beaudesert Hospital Maternity has also increased access to culturally appropriate midwifery and health care to First Nations mothers. The service has engaged with community members to offer safe, sustainable and integrated care. They are working to further enhance culturally appropriate care in the future through a Birthing in Our Community (BiOC) model of care.

Beaudesert Maternity hopes to use the prize money to introduce a waterbirth option and develop an onsite lactation clinic for the maternity ward.

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