Martha Jabour – 2018 Women of the West Community Award Winner

As part of Women in Business' International Women's Day forum, Coleman Greig Lawyers once again joined forces with Western Sydney University to host the 2018 Women of the West award presentations.  This year's list of nominees made hard work for the team of judges, with an eclectic list of incredible women coming from all corners of Western Sydney to represent a wide range of industries, from real estate to nursing and beyond.

The 2018 Women of the West awards were split into two categories: Community and Business. Martha Jabour took home the 2018 award for Community thanks to her awe inspiring work with the Homicide Victim's Support Group (HVSG), and through the HVSG, her involvement in the planning of Grace's Place, a world first residential trauma recovery centre designed for children living with the aftermath of homicide.

The Homicide Victim's Support Group was initially founded thanks to the efforts of the parents of murder victims Anita Cobby and Ebony Simpson, and Martha has both coordinated and developed the activities which have taken place under the HVSG banner since the group's inception in 1993.  Sadly, in 1986, Martha faced her own personal devastation when one of her two infant sons fell victim to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.  

Incredibly, in response to her experience of having to comfort the distraught young constable who had attended her son's death, Martha began badgering the Police Training College at Goulburn into letting her speak to officers in training about how to handle this type of situation sensitively.  In line with this, Martha also wanted to make sure that police officers had the training and associated knowledge to effectively look after themselves, as well as families suffering in times of distress.  Since 1994, Martha has run an advanced education program for the senior investigators and homicide detectives of the NSW Police Force, which has seen her present lectures to every single detective in NSW – an amazing achievement.

At this time, Martha began to volunteer for the SIDS Foundation, eventually being stationed at Glebe Morgue to help deal with the families who were brought there to see their infant children.  She would help families with tasks simply too distressing for a parent to think about, such as dressing their babies for burial and even taking imprints of the tiny hands and feet that would become precious memories for grieving parents in the future.

Martha's touching and selfless work was recognised by the Coroners and councillors at the Morgue, which led her to beginning her work with the HVSG alongside Gary and Grace Lynch, and Peter and Christine Simpson.  The group began their work with three primary objectives in mind – support, education and reform.  Growth since the group's first meeting involving nine families who had been affected by homicide has been exponential, with HVSG now having approximately 4,200 families on its database.

To support grieving families, HVSG has developed a program that delivers counselling in the home, at the office or over the phone.  Similarly, support meetings are held all over the state, and there is a 24 hour telephone support line.  Therapy weekends are held 5 times a year, and the group provides court support at trials, inquests, mental health hearings and parole hearings.  Martha has also championed a monthly newsletter which provides further support for members, and friends of the group.

Martha's vision for the HVSG has not diminished over the years, with her passion and drive evident in everything that she does for the group.  Alongside her outstanding work with the HVSG, Martha has been invited to serve on a wide range of committees and advisory boards, including The Serious Offenders Review Council, The Victims Advisory Board, The Judicial Review Committee and The State Parole Authority.  She has also had notable involvement in bringing about change to legislation surrounding issues such as mandatory life sentences, victims compensation, increasing police powers and double jeopardy – amongst a long list of others.

Today, in 2018, Martha is continuing to push for the construction of Grace's Place, set to be built in Doonside, NSW, on land made available by Blacktown City Council and Western Sydney Parklands Trust.  The Centre will be named in honour of Grace Lynch, mother of Anita Cobby, and will include residential and counselling facilities to assist those dealing with the horrific aftermath of murder. 

Grace's Place is set to serve as the new Head Office of the Homicide Victims Support Group, and on completion will be the world's first residential trauma centre for victims of homicide.  

It can often be difficult to find words to describe a person like Martha Jabour, who has found strength through her own traumatic experience and used this in turn to help others dealing with similar circumstances.  Coleman Greig Lawyers' Women in Business forum would like to thank Martha for the selflessly inspiring work that she has continued to undertake throughout her time with the Homicide Victims Support Group.  This year's Women of the West award selection committee could not have found a more outstanding candidate to receive such recognition – and both Coleman Greig and Western Sydney University are honoured to have the opportunity to celebrate the achievements of such a fantastic role model.

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