Karen Fehring is the Stella Prize’s longest-standing monthly donor. Monthly donors are the lifeblood of our organisation; pledges provide us with an ongoing secure income stream, one that demonstrates a long-term commitment to Stella’s vision and goals.
Karen tells us why she donates to the Stella Prize:
‘I’m told I could read before I went to school. This I have no memory of, but I do remember not being able to go anywhere without a book in my possession. I felt completely adrift without one. No one else in my family read, and I was not read to so I have no idea where this passion came from but I am eternally grateful for it. Growing up on a farm, books took me out into the world, fired my imagination and nurtured my love of learning.
‘It was not until I was doing a postgraduate course in Women’s Studies that I became acutely and shamefully aware that I knew very little about Australian women writers or artists (my other great love). I had studied art and literature in secondary school and university, but these extraordinary women were completely neglected in the curriculum. Invisible! Supporting the Stella Prize is my way of giving recognition and a voice to these exceptional Australian women writers and, hopefully, encourages and empowers other rising talent to put pen to paper.’
The Stella Prize welcomes donations which recognise someone else’s life and passions. Anne Coombs generously donated from the Estate of Barbara Coombs, and says:
‘My mother, Barbara Coombs, lived for reading and writing. And she was a born feminist, always impatient with a public discourse that excluded female voices. When the Stella Prize was inaugurated she was in the last couple of years of her life. But she knew of the prize and applauded it. So it was a natural fit to make a donation to the prize from her estate, to help the Stella Prize team continue their wonderful work. My mother would be proud and humbled.’
Chips Mackinolty: Stella Champion and Monthly Giver
Chips Mackinolty is a Darwin-based visual artist and writer. He was a central figure in Australia’s radical poster movement in the 1970s, producing the cheap, powerful poster art and punchy sloganeering that was used to such great effect in the campaign against the Vietnam War.
Chips has lived in the Northern Territory since 1981. He exhibits his art in Darwin and interstate, and his work is held in public and private collections in Australia and overseas.
Chips is one of Stella’s valued monthly pledgers. He explains why:
‘Across 40 years of involvement in cultural activities, I can only remember rare occasions in which the ‘team’ didn’t include a majority of women: visual artists, crafters, performing artists, writers … the list is endless. Yet, as Stella has shown, the dice are well and truly loaded against women—in this case writers—in terms of access and recognition.
‘My late mother, Judy, was an avid reader of Australian literature, and would always buy whatever was going, and she had a special passion for Australian women writers, whether fiction or nonfiction. So my support for the Stella is as much as anything a tribute to her as an educator, historian, writer, and feminist.
‘I read perhaps a dozen books a month. So it seems that for the price of a couple of extra books a month that a regular donation to the Stella Prize is a no-brainer. This is particularly so during a period when support to the arts generally is precarious, and technology is changing the ways we access and experience the arts. The key is to establish a long-term trust fund that will be able to weather the powers that be; seize the changes in technology; and embrace the work of Australian women writers.’
Cassy Liberman: Stella Star
Cassy Liberman is a writer, businesswoman and philanthropist who is devoted to education, child welfare, and the creation of a rich, representative Australian culture.
A voracious reader since childhood, Cassy inherently understands the power of the written word. As the mother of three beautiful boys, she knows that as parents, and as a society, we lead by example. What we read, what we buy and what we support convey to our children and their peers what we consider important and valuable.
As Cassy notes:
‘Not everything needs to be constantly viewed through a gender lens, but there is a time and place to assess and adjust the balance or imbalance in all fields of inquiry and expression, with that gender lens firmly in place.
‘In Australia, the level of support and promotion for our women writers, leaders and change makers – both historical and contemporary – has been disappointing. Now we have the opportunity to redress this imbalance: to support the stories written by and about our remarkable abundance of wonderful Australian women. To me, supporting the Stella Prize is a way to stand up and express what is important to us as society. It is a timely vehicle to challenge an outmoded status quo and really make a difference.’
Cassy and her mother Lee are among Stella’s earliest supporters and champions. Cassy’s ready grasp of all that Stella seeks to achieve affirmed us in those early days especially; her generosity continues to inspire, enable and spur us on.
Ellen Koshland: Founding Patron
‘All countries have a public imagination, a set of stories by which they know themselves. In Australia these stories have been largely male, for a raft of reasons. The Stella Prize is an opportunity to add to and fill out this picture, and create a fuller, richer, more accurate Australian story – one that represents us all.’
Ellen Koshland is a passionate supporter of literature and education in Australia, a visionary philanthropist, and driving force behind Stella’s successes so far.
Ellen is a staunch believer in the importance of literature in shaping a national consciousness. For Ellen, the equal inclusion of women’s voices in the literary sphere is simply a matter of commonsense – without it our story is incomplete, our consciousness skewed, and the education we offer our children compromised at its very foundations, for boys as well as girls.
Since arriving in Australia from the USA in 1973, Ellen has devoted her talents and energies to the promotion of Australian literature and public education. She established the Education Foundation in 1989, turning it into a national leader in education research and innovation before its merger with the Foundation for Young Australians, where she remains a director. Ellen has judged the Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards, is an ambassador to the Australian Community Foundation, served as Victorian Co-Chair of Anti-Poverty Week 2007 and is currently the Director of the Poets Voice.
In her capacity as a Stella Prize Founding Patron, Ellen has challenged the Stella Prize to match her donations with those of others, lending authority to our efforts and aiding their success.