If you or someone you know has benefited from a womenï¿½s health
service in Victoria, New South Wales or the ACT, chances are you have Sister Helen Monkivitch to thank for it.
Reading her litany of achievements, it
seems implausible one person could
contribute so much to Australian
womenï¿½s health. But the evidence is all around us, not only in
the state-of-the-art facilities that house, heal
and nurture thousands of Australian women
every year, but in the compassion, purpose
and respect that inform the care Mercy
Health staff deliver.
So the only surprise in Sr Helenï¿½s induction
into the 2014 Victorian Honour Roll of
Women, held to coincide with International
Womenï¿½s Day in March, is that it has taken
fifty years of remarkable service to the
community to find its way to her.
This yearï¿½s International Womenï¿½s Day
theme, Inspiring Change, perfectly
encapsulates Sr Helenï¿½s towering
achievements in helping reshape the
landscape of womenï¿½s health services.
Mercy Health Chief Executive Officer
Stephen Cornelissen is delighted with
Sr Helenï¿½s recognition. ï¿½The
Honour Roll recognises and
celebrates the contributions,
leadership and excellence
of inspirational women and
their work in the Victorian
community. In her fifty years of
all-encompassing commitment to
the health and care of Victorians, I cannot think of a more worthy
recipient than Sr Helen.
ï¿½From her roles as a nurse, midwife, Chief Executive and
Director, Helen has been a
trailblazer for Catholic health care
services across Australia. She
has been instrumental in shaping
Mercy Health through her
compassionate and thoughtful
leadership, delivered with grace
and spirit of which our foundress
Catherine McAuley herself would
be proud. We are so fortunate
and I am personally grateful to
have such an inspiring woman
still giving her time and wisdom
so generously to us today.ï¿½
Typically, Sr Helen attributes her
powerhouse career and latest
award to the generosity and
support of others: most notably
to the Sisters of Mercy.
ï¿½In many ways the freedom Iï¿½ve
had to pursue my dreams has
been because Iï¿½m a Sister of
Mercy. Through them Iï¿½ve been
given so many opportunities,
and Iï¿½ve seized them and run
with them. I think the Sisters
gave me a freedom that
perhaps others donï¿½t have.
ï¿½If you go back to my early
days with the Sisters, I was
very well educated. I became
a triple certificate nurse, I was
supported to do an arts degree
after Iï¿½d finished nursing, then
was encouraged to do my
Masterï¿½s degree, when I didnï¿½t
want to! All those things were
essentially given to me.ï¿½
Armed with her education
and encouragement from the
Sisters of Mercy, Sr Helen quickly
proved herself a natural leader
in each area she entered.
But perhaps the achievement
of which she is most proud is
the formation of Mercy Health
ï¿½I think that was the biggest
thing I did in terms of ensuring
we have a future,ï¿½ says Sr
Helen. ï¿½It has meant that
instead of a whole lot of
disparate pieces of Mercy
work going on, there was
a much more strategic and
unified direction for us.ï¿½
Sister Helen Monkivitch
Offering a culture that rewards
women for driving change,
Mercy Health has never lost
sight of its origins as a vehicle
for compassionate visionaries
like Catherine McAuley to
succeed on their own terms.
ï¿½Through Mercy Health, Iï¿½ve b
een able to exercise my
leadership very freely,ï¿½ says
Sr Helen. ï¿½Itï¿½s enabled me to
realise my absolute passion for
and love of serving those in need,
enriching my life immeasurably.ï¿½
Always focused on the next
challenge, Sr Helen hopes her
work continues to inspire change
in key areas of womenï¿½s health.
ï¿½I think thereï¿½s still a lot of work
to be done in multicultural
services, womenï¿½s health, mental
health, and Aboriginal health
in acute care,ï¿½ she says. ï¿½Our
ageing population will also
bring challenges, predominantly
for older women. If you go
to an aged care facility itï¿½s pretty much 90% women. Itï¿½s
something we have to think
If thereï¿½s one clear message
Sr Helen would like women ï¿½
especially those just starting
out in life ï¿½ to draw from her
own inspiring example, itï¿½s to
seize the day without fear.
ï¿½I think thatï¿½s the key, that
women feel free to have a
go,ï¿½ says Sr Helen.
ï¿½Weï¿½ve got to let them fly.ï¿½
Sister Helen Monkivitch:
timeline of achievements
begins training in midwifery
at Mercy Private Hospital.
after taking vows, rejoins
Mercy Private Hospital.
joins Mercy Maternity Hospital
as charge nurse in postnatal ward
before running the delivery suites.
becomes Deputy Director
of Nursing Services.
completes Masters of Health
Administration and gains experience
in general and finance administration.
returns to Mercy Maternity
Hospital as Sister Administrator.
Is appointed as CEO
of Mercy Hospital for Women,
joins the leadership group
for the Sisters of Mercy and
becomes Director of Catholic
Leads in the development
of Werribee Mercy Hospital.
Chisholm Centre for Health Ethics.
In conjunction with the
leadership group, steers the
formation of Mercy Health and
Aged Care as Director, Mercy
Becomes Mercy Health
Executive Director, Leadership
Jennings Centre in Werribee.
is inducted into the
Victorian Honour Roll of Women.