Sarah Kelly joined the Karinya Committee during 2003/04 following attendance at the 2003 Karinya Gala Ball (as it was then known!). Sarah brought her signature warmth, passion for purpose and style to Karinya and quickly became a wonderful champion of all that is Karinya House. Sarah stepped into the Committee Vice-President role in November 2004, then stepped up again to Committee President in November 2006.

Now in 2023, with Sarah living in beautiful Brisbane, the time has come for Sarah to step off the Karinya Committee. We have no doubt Sarah will remain a Friend and Champion for Karinya House and the women we walk alongside. The legacy of Sarah’s commitment to Karinya is well known across the Canberra Region, and we remain forever grateful for the two decades of service provided by Sarah, supporting women in our community, through Karinya House.

Karinya Founder Margaret O’Donovan gave this small presentation at the 2023 Gala Dinner (on 8 September 2023) in recognition of Sarah’s 20 years of service for Karinya House.

“As one of the Founders of Karinya House, it is a pleasure to give a special vote of thanks to Sarah Kelly, our Karinya House Committee President, who is leaving our Committee later this year. Sarah has been on the Committee since 2003 and has been President since 2006 – 20 years of Community service – truly amazing.

Sarah has shown such loyalty and commitment to the original vision for Karinya and has been instrumental in the many transitions the House has undergone over the last 20 years.

Her grace and ability to involve a wide variety of organisations, groups and individuals from our Canberra Community has ensured that Karinya House is the highly respected, financially secure and unique service we have today.

It has been the amazing long-term commitment of Sarah as President together with our recently retired Executive Director Marie-Louise Corkhill, that has provided such stable leadership and allowed Karinya House to flourish.

We thank Sarah for her outstanding contribution to the Canberra Community by working tirelessly to support vulnerable women and their children – speaking at Community Functions and Fundraising Events too numerous to mention.

Sarah has always provided a glamorous touch to all our events and functions which we have enjoyed, and which we thank Sarah for.

Combined with her fashion sense she has brought sound oversight and skill to the deliberations of the Committee.

We wish Sarah well in her move to Brisbane and hope to see her in the future when she visits Canberra. With our love and gratitude for her great work for Karinya House.”

Sarah also shared these reflections:

“It is truly hard to comprehend that I have been speaking of the work of Karinya House for nearly 20 years!

The influence of Karinya House, its staff and many volunteers, the Committee members I have had the privilege to serve with, has had a profound impact on my life.  As I said in my words for the recent Annual report, as much as I may have shaped a small part of the story of Karinya House, it is me that has been shaped by this incredible organisation and all those that have supported me in my various roles for these many years.

I know I am part of a community that strives with an understanding of the need to do what we do.  No one can underestimate, and I certainly don’t, the incredible impact and power we hold in our collective hands – the power to support change in the life of another woman, another mother for the change she seeks.  Is there no greater power?  This is what has driven me for these many years to keep being a force for change.

At Karinya House we support the change in lives – I have witnessed this change in thousands of women during these years – it would always surprise me of how emotional I would become, when I would speak to a stranger who would tell me how Karinya House supported so significantly their daughter or sister, or a friend would tell me of someone they knew that had relied on Karinya for support.

I would then be reminded once again of the selflessness and compassion shown by our staff – for every woman that walks through our door.  But may we take a moment to reflect on the incredible strength of each individual woman – that has come to us at probably one, if not the most difficult times of her life.

I am always in awe of every woman – in her moment of need, her courage and her desire for change, for herself and for the safety of her baby.  At times, it is overwhelming to comprehend that the demand for our support, not only remains but grows greater every year.  Karinya will grow and keep adapting, I am sure of that – but we can also hope for a world where it is not so greatly needed.

I have seen Karinya House grow and bloom in the very capable hands of our past Executive Director Marie- Louise Corkhill, who over these 20 years, also carried me many times, and I will be forever grateful.

And I have so enjoyed working with our new CEO Lavinia Tyrell and for what Lavinia’s leadership will mean for the Karinya story going forward.  I have seen Karinya House become a charity known well within Canberra and I always enjoy those moments when someone will say “aren’t you with Karinya House” and I proudly say “yes I am.”

Thank you Karinya – to the incredible Committee both past and present for your support and continued vision and passion for what we are achieving and to our very unique staff – so often not seen doing such affirming and difficult work each and every day.

To the Senior Staff – Belinda Munn, Catherine O’Halloran, Jo Saccasan, Sarah Kirkpatrick and Luisa Lopes that have journeyed with me the longest through these 20 years – for your loving friendship, patience and encouragement. Throughout the staff team, I have been fortunate to meet amazing women of compassion, resilience, care and commitment. I thank you all.

Thank you also to my precious children Edwina, William and Ambrose who have had the Karinya story also for their entire lives (I joined the Committee while pregnant with William!). The schools they attended also continue to keep Karinya and the women we support as part of their social justice giving endeavours, continuing to make a difference.

The women we care for would not experience the sense of safety, dignity, joy and essentially hope that Karinya so often brings, without you, our community.  One last time – may I thank you with all my heart. I say farewell but never goodbye, as I will continue to support Karinya House in other ways from my new home in Brisbane.

It has been a wild and beautiful ride of humility, love, identity and purpose.  How grateful and very blest am I to have been given this opportunity to be a part of such a wonderful story and a charity that leaves a legacy like no other.

Thank you.”

“A woman is the full circle. Within her is the power to create, nurture and transform”.  ~ Diane Mariechild ~

Sarah’s term as President of the Committee ended at the Annual General Meeting on 13 November 2023. Marie-Louise Corkhill, Committee Member and former Executive Director, presented this vote of thanks:

I have been asked to give a short vote of thanks to our dear Sarah Kelly, retiring President of Karinya House.

As many of you would know, Sarah has been a Committee member since 2003. She stepped into the vice-president position in 2004 and President in 2006. A position she has faithfully and generously held for 17 years.

I have been so privileged to work with Sarah for over 20 years. In that time Karinya has grown from a small organisation to a dynamic and much-loved charity serving the needs of pregnant and parenting women in Canberra and surrounding regions. Sarah’s contribution and leadership has been instrumental in this change, growth and development.

On behalf of the staff, volunteers and committee members, and indeed the women we journey with, I sincerely thank Sarah today.

Leadership is never easy. Sarah has undertaken her role faithfully, with a sense of loyalty and loving witness to Karinya’s ethos and vision. She has always faced the challenges her role has encompassed with such grace, respect for each person and at times with great personal cost. Sarah has a great gift of empathy for all who have worked alongside her and for the women Karinya represents.

We remain grateful for your untiring service, leadership, availability and dedication. Always given with a great sense of style! We give you our love, sincere gratitude and every good wish.

With thanks to Missing Bits Productions, we present this video of Sarah, speaking about Karinya House, as part of the 25-year anniversary celebrations in 2022.