AM honour for women’s shelter chief

Shannon BeattieNorth West Telegraph
Maggie Lewis was also a finalist in the 2018 Community Services Excellence Awards.
Camera IconMaggie Lewis was also a finalist in the 2018 Community Services Excellence Awards. Credit: Supplied

Seeing a woman dragged behind the back of a car until her skin was shredded was Teresa Lewis’ introduction to the job in her first week as the manager of Newman Women’s Shelter in 2002.

Sixteen years later, Ms Lewis, better known as Maggie, has been honoured with an Order of Australia.

Ms Lewis has been made a Member of the Order of Australia in the 2018 Queen’s Birthday Honours for significant service to the indigenous communities of the East Pilbara, particularly to women and children affected by domestic violence.

The woman from Ms Lewis’ first week is the reason she stayed in Newman and why she gets out of bed every morning.

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“I could not believe or ignore the level of brutality of the acts of violence that existed in the community,” she said.

“The injustice burned into me and from that moment, I haven’t stopped.”

In her time at the shelter, Ms Lewis has helped relocate three families internationally to save their lives from violence.

She has helped launch a variety of education programs, realising that ending, or at least limiting, domestic violence starts with teaching why it’s not acceptable.

“We spend every weekend talking with people about the difficult topics,” she said. “From that we have developed really great relationships with the community and no longer witness the level of violence that I did in that first week.”

The award came as both an honour and a shock to Ms Lewis, with the normally private woman saying she had not achieved anything by herself.

“The success of the shelter is due to the staff, the board, the sponsors and, most importantly, the amazing resilience of the inspirational women that I have had the pleasure of working with,” she said.

“The women I have met are women who are victims of domestic violence but who remain strong for the sake of their children — women who, in the face of adversity, have the courage to get up each day and carry on. Those women are the whole reason I do this.”

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