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Russell Renhard Scholarship 2021 recipients announced

QIP Chair, Gary Smith recently announced at an online morning tea the recipients of the 2021 Russell Renhard Scholarship.

From a pool of 11 exceptional finalists, and in front of more than 120 virtual guests beaming in from across Australia, Gary was delighted to award the $10,000 quality improvement grant to Zoe Support Australia.

Zoe Support Australia is a not-for-profit, community-based organisation for young mothers aged 13-25 – supporting them on their journey into motherhood and continuing education.

The Scholarship will support their quality improvement project Client-centred Service Engagement Strategy, which is using client voice to enhance program engagement strategies in response to attendance issues and mental health concerns resulting from COVID-19.

The Strategy will enable Zoe Support to understand how the pandemic has impacted clients and trial new ways of engaging to improve outcomes in education, social programs, and employment in what is an ever-changing context.

The judging panel saw terrific linkages with this project and Russell Renhard’s vision for ‘continual improvement in health and community service organisations in a manner that reflects social justice’ and were particularly impressed with Zoe Support Australia’s plans to bring the project to life and that it is responding to challenges thrown up by the pandemic.

In accepting the Scholarship, Zoe Support Australia CEO, Merinda Robertson said she was so impressed with the work of all the 11 finalists and was both surprised and delighted to be named the winner!

Merinda Robertson, CEO Zoe Support Australia in a screenshot taken during the online morning tea



“Everyone in the human and community services sector throughout Australia is doing amazing work in supporting those who most need it – I congratulate all the finalists.

 This $10,000 Scholarship from QIP will support our client-led engagement strategies during the first half of 2022. We view our client voice program as vital for continual quality improvements in the services we provide for young mothers to support them in their education and parenting life journey, and to create opportunities for their families as well – particularly post-COVID. 

A big thank you to all of Zoe Support Australia’s staff and volunteers. Thank you all here today for your support. We are absolutely thrilled to receive this Scholarship.”

In selecting the 2021 Scholarship recipient, the judging panel used a rigorous systematic scoring system. With an incredibly high standard of submissions, the panel was, however, hard-pressed to single out just one Scholarship recipient. And so, during the final decision phase, the panel requested an allowance for a runner-up $5,000 award.

It was then a great pleasure for Gary Smith to also announce a runner-up Scholarship recipient and award it to The Victorian Foundation for Survivors of Torture (VFST). Also known as ‘Foundation House’ – their mission is to advance the health, wellbeing and human rights of people from refugee backgrounds who have experienced torture or other traumatic events.

Their winning submission – SPEC Pathways (safe, person-centred, effective and connected) – reflects the goals of the Victorian Government Community Services Quality Governance Framework, which is being embedded across the organisation.

SPEC Pathways aims to change Foundation House’s current service model that relies on waiting lists to instead provide clients with greater certainty much earlier in their interaction with VFST about services they can access. Outcomes are expected to positively impact the client experience as well that for Foundation House employees.

The judging panel viewed this program as a wonderful exemplar of a quality improvement project with social justice at its core by aiming to increase access to services for those who need it most while maintaining quality and effectiveness of services across the board.

Foundation House General Manager Direct Services, Kylie Scoullar was honoured and humbled to accept the runner-up Scholarship.

Kylie Scoullar, General Manager Direct Services (left), pictured with Rebecca Cole, Manager Quality Improvement (right) in a screenshot taken during the online morning tea

“We are incredibly honoured and humbled, as well as delighted to receive this recognition and support – thank you! And congratulations to Zoe Support Australia and all finalists for the important work you are doing with vulnerable people across the nation.  

This $5,000 Scholarship from QIP will strengthen our capacity to co-design and re-imagine with our clients the way in which we work with them.

Despite the high and ever-increasing demand for our services, the SPEC Pathways project is helping us improve by providing clients with a much earlier understanding of what we can offer them and when … to achieve safe, person-centred, effective and connected care for every client, every time.”

QIP was honoured to also have join the morning tea two special guests who each engaged and inspired with storytelling based on personal narratives.

Uncle Alex Davidson – a Gubbi Gubbi Elder with a traditional connection to the Turrbal people of the North Brisbane Area – officially opened the event with a Welcome to Country and shared several memorable stories highlighting the value of community and how acts of kindness can reverberate across generations.

Our second guest speaker, Mariam Issa, shared stories from her life of how she cultivated resilience and found within in herself, her family and community ‘reservoirs of creative resources’. Her journey of empowerment took place over many years following her move with her husband, four children and a fifth on the way, to Melbourne, Australia from her Somali homeland and she found herself in a country, culture and among language that was completely foreign to her.

Uncle Alex’s and Miriam’s stories were a generous and powerful way to convey messages about how to overcome challenges and grow through human connection. For it is in our human ‘oneness’ where our greatest strengths lie.

Scholarship finalists and projects submitted

The following QIP clients and their projects were each finalists in the 2021 Russell Renhard Scholarship program:

About the Russell Renhard Scholarship

The Russell Renhard Scholarship supports a QIP human service client organisation to implement a quality improvement project that aligns with Russell Renhard’s vision for ‘continual improvement in health and community service organisations in a manner that reflects social justice’.

Gary Smith explained that to be considered for the Scholarship, clients told us via a formal submission process how their quality improvement project responds to a social justice issue to enable those who need it most to access high-quality health or community services.

The Scholarship supports organisations that embody the spirit of Australia’s quality improvement pioneers in the human services sector – passionate, assertive, visionary, and persistent.

About Russell Renhard

Russell Renhard was a pioneer in the development of quality improvement and capacity-building approaches within health and community organisations across Australia.

Russell was a co-founder and inaugural director of the Quality Improvement and Community Services Accreditation, and a contributor for many years to the work of the Quality Improvement Council (QIC).  QIC was a non-profit independent Australasian accreditation body that, through a company merge process in 2012, became the company that is now QIP. In essence, he is a ‘founding father’ of the work that QIP does to support the community sector and enable access to services for those that need it most.

Throughout his career, Russell Renhard dedicated his efforts and expertise to addressing social justice, supporting systems-based approaches, and promoting access to quality services for all. He was a pioneer in the development of quality improvement and capacity-building within health and community organisations across Australia.

Russell never stopped believing that change was possible and that a more equitable society could be achieved. It was this belief that sustained his efforts and underpinned his vision.

The Russell Renhard Scholarship honours the significant contribution made by Russell to health and social services, accreditation, and continuous quality improvement. This Scholarship allows a legacy to be created in memory of Russell’s life as well as encouraging and recognising contributions to causes he felt so passionately about.

QIP once again congratulates the 2021 Russell Renhard Scholarship recipients, Zoe Support Australia for the $10,000 award, and the Victorian Foundation for Survivors of Torture for the runner-up $5,000 award.

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