Marion Wands

Meet Marion Wands, our new TACSI colleague and 2021 Westpac Social Change Scholar recipient

We’re thrilled to announce that Marion Wands, who joined the TACSI team in January 2021, has been named as one of ten 2021 Westpac Social Change Fellows.

Each year, the Westpac Scholars Trust recognises 10 outstanding individuals from across the country who are tackling social issues from youth homelessness and suicide to disability and regional disadvantage. 

We’re over the moon to announce that Marion Wands, who joined TACSI in January 2021 to lead the Our Town initiative, has been named as one of ten Westpac Social Change Fellows for 2021. The fellowship gives recipients $50,000 to spend 12 months focused on their own personal and professional development to enhance their leadership capabilities, strengthen their networks and help them become more adaptive leaders.

Marion is a social entrepreneur with an unwavering focus on improving the mental health and wellbeing of all Australians. Previously, she was the CEO of social enterprise ConNetica, where she lead mental health and suicide prevention related projects across Australia. 

She joined TACSI in January 2021 to lead the Our Town initiative, a 10-year mental health initiative which aims to empower rural and regional South Australian communities to improve their mental health for the long-term. She believes the pursuit of good mental health is everyone’s business, and is passionate about linking communities with relevant resources and support to build their capacity to lead and sustain their own mental health initiatives.

“This fellowship gives me a platform to promote wholistic early suicide prevention approaches and helping raise awareness of what we can do as individuals, as well as at a community and government level,” says Marion. “It will open doors for me to influence systems – at an organizational level that means helping workplaces to codesign effective workplace mental health initiatives, at a community level it means working with communities to support them to identify and address their needs, and at government and funding body level it means implementing placed based policies and providing funding that address the social determinants of health and underlying causes of despair.  All of those things together, and us working together, is what we can do to reduce suicide.”

This fellowship gives me a platform for really promoting true early suicide prevention.

Marion Wands, 2021 Westpac Social Change Fellow

Marion’s aim is to use the fellowship to continue to promote place-based programs, and articulate what needs to be done to make them work. “I’m also really interested in working with First Nations people and spending time with Aboriginal people on Country, learning from them,” she says. “The question I’ll be asking myself is: ‘How do you create a space for their voice to be heard, and as a non-Indigenous woman to be guided by them, and then to promote that more broadly?’”

She also plans to launch a study school across Australia, where she’ll meet leading people in the mental health and social policy setting. “Ultimately, the fellowship will provide me with an opportunity to meet people who are in influential positions and who are wanting to do something about suicide prevention, but not quite sure how,” she says.