Sydney-born Donna Carson was a schoolteacher in Dubbo for fifteen years before she became a victim of domestic violence. During an argument in 1994, her then partner doused her with petrol and set her alight.
Donna spent nearly six months in a hospital burns unit and fifteen months in rehabilitation before rebuilding her life as a volunteer advocate for victims of violent crime, doing what she could to eliminate violence from homes, schools and communities.
She established a safe waiting room at the Taree Court House, providing guidance and support to women and children during court proceedings. Donna had the personal experience necessary to know what victims needed and her background in education meant she was able to communicate these needs to the relevant authorities.
20 YEARS OF AUSTRALIA'S LOCAL HERO AWARD
“Prior to winning the award, I was volunteering in three main areas: domestic violence campaigning; support for victims of crime and those going through the legal system; and working with burns survivors. Afterwards my profile was lifted and I was able to reach more people through training and education: schools, magistrates, conferences, police, nurses… it truly opened doors.
“Some of the incredible opportunities that I was given I never expected. In 2007, I co-wrote my story called Judas Kisses: A True Story of Betrayal and Survival, which is basically a help manual disguised as a story. And in 2009, artist Dave Thomas did a life-size painting of me as an entry into the Archibald Prize. It toured and started many conversations about my experience.
“My advice to future Local Heroes? You will be working a lot harder – but it’s thrilling work. You’re making a difference and that’s what counts.”