QLDState RecipientAustralian of the Year2009
When Bronwyn Sheehan realised that foster children were not being given the same opportunities in life as other children she decided to do something about it. Statistics show that only eight per cent of foster children achieve average literacy levels by age seven and 75 per cent do not finish school. Bronwyn developed a simple idea that has had huge benefits. Launched as the Pyjama Foundation in 2004, the organisation focuses on building literacy skills. Volunteers spend an hour a week simply reading with a foster child. They visit the child in their home and follow the child if they move house. They read with them, play games and act as the child’s own angel. The organisation’s motto, ‘every child needs an angel’ underlines Bronwyn’s basic tenet that children’s lives can be improved by helping them to read. The one-on-one focus also makes the child feel special, developing their confidence and self-belief, and providing them with a positive role model.
Bronwyn has inspired more than 500 volunteers to give their time every week to a foster child and her program is backed by literacy experts such as author Mem Fox. Bronwyn is making a real difference in the lives of our most vulnerable children.