Outstanding Achievement Award Winner: Lisa Woolley, VisionWest Community Trust (NZ)

From a field of 121 nominees, 14 very special individuals, teams and projects got to stand tall as winners and highly commended recipients at the 2015 AHI Professional Excellence in Housing Awards. HousingWORKS got the lowdown on their individual responses to these triumphs.

Winner: Lisa Woolley | VisionWest Community Trust (NZ)

What the judges said:
“Lisa has helped grow VisionWest to what it is today while also achieving an honours degree, being involved in the social services committee and other chairing responsibilities. The judges felt her hard work and notable achievements deserved this award.”

Having invested so much time and energy into a career in an industry where her heart and soul lies, it is no surprise receiving the Outstanding Achievement Award has special pride of place for Lisa Woolley, CEO of VisionWest in New Zealand.

“It’s quite a special award,” Lisa tells HousingWORKS. “It’s an award recognising individuals that have made a contribution to housing, and I’m so passionate about housing and the difference that it makes in people’s lives.”

It was Lisa’s work with at-risk people over 30 years ago that first opened her eyes to the importance of a home in changing the course of people’s lives.

“My husband and I started by doing emergency housing on the streets of Hollywood in the ‘80s,” says Lisa. “We were working in emergency housing, finding really young girls who had ended up in prostitution with drug addictions and so on, and providing them with emergency housing to get them off the streets. That was the beginning of my journey in this industry.”

Lisa’s surprise at winning the award was evident on the night. I wasn’t quite sure how the awards would work,” she laughs. “I had won the award for New Zealand so I thought, at the dinner, it was just going to be an acknowledgement of that. It totally caught me by surprise! To win the award was just a really lovely honour.”

When asked what she believed swayed the judges in her favour, Lisa said she’d like to think it was her dedication: “I would hope what they saw was my passion for housing and for transformation in people’s lives. That’s what drives me. I can see that, if you get the housing right and the right supports for people, that can enable a totally different pathway for them.”