Citizen of the Year – Liz Roberts is Empowering Her Community

Cardinia Mayor Jack Kowarzik with Citizen of the Year Liz Roberts.

Liz Roberts (Lillis, Class of 1992) exemplifies the power of service and resilience. Liz’s unwavering commitment to her local community recently earned her the prestigious Citizen of the Year Award by Cardinia Shire, Victoria, setting an example for all in our community. Join us in celebrating her commitment to positive change and community spirit as we share her story below.

Building on the Principles of a Mercy Education

After leaving Santa Maria College, Liz found herself on a diverse professional and personal pathway. With roles that ranged from social planning to journalism, each step paved the way for the community interaction that would soon become a large part of her life. Her education at Santa Maria shaped the underlying values that steer Liz’s initiatives today – empathy, justice, and a profound drive to create positive change. It was during an assembly in Year 9 that Liz heard then Principal Sister Sheila Sawle say the words “If it’s going to be, it’s up to me,” which have steered Liz throughout her life.

Rekindling a Community Spirit through Service

Post-Covid Liz was approached by some other mums in her neighbourhood who were keen to re-open the local toy library, which dormant after all the lockdowns in Victoria. Liz explains, “It was a massive task to conduct safety audits of around 2,000 toys and set up new systems to enable the library to re-open. We also had to re-establish relationships with the local council and learn very quickly, how to run the library. With the committee applying widely we attracted approximately $18,000 in grant support from various governments and philanthropic organisations to get the toy library up and running again. Our borrowing is now up to pre-covid levels and membership continues to grow.”

Fuelled by a passion for environmental responsibility and the economic wellbeing of the families in her neighbourhood, Liz’s efforts were not just restorative but forward-thinking, promoting shared play over unsustainable toy consumption. “In Australia 51% of toys end up in landfill within 12 months of purchase. A toy library is a circuit breaker for that”, Liz said.

Today, the library’s success is a testament to the impact of community-led initiatives that understand local needs and values.

Advice to the Ambitious

We all have much to learn from Liz’s approach to service. Her advice echoes through the corridors of Santa Maria College – be attuned to the needs of society and understand that even the smallest acts of help can have a large impact. Liz’s leadership is not about grand gestures but the consistency of service, a trait undeniably imparted by a Mercy education at Santa Maria.

“This latest honour is like history repeating itself. I am using the same approach I learned at the College more than 30 years later! It’s a ‘Mercy girl’ trait not to like injustice, so if there is something to be fixed to make things fairer, I’ll strongly advocate for it. Again, my attitude to community leadership is about meeting people where they are at and asking them to contribute to a team effort at the level they can.” Liz said.

Legacy Continues

Liz’s story showcases the power of community and the impact we as individuals can have. Her legacy, rooted in Santa Maria College principles, urges others to follow suit for a better world. Liz’s ethos invites collective action, addressing overlooked needs and uniting citizens.

Congratulations, Liz on your very well-earned award and thank you for sharing your story with us and inspiring us to act.

What A Term! So Many Opportunities – Jennifer Oaten

As I look back on the past nine weeks, I am so grateful for who we are as a community and what we have achieved. Through the dedication of our staff and the enthusiasm of our students, we have established new connections, immersed ourselves in opportunities and worked through challenges.

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