Creative Award

Creative Award

This category aims to celebrate stroke survivors’ contribution to creative industries, including writing, photography, music and fine art. The award is open to stroke survivors in the community who are actively pursuing creative achievements. The only requirements to apply for this award are that you are a stroke survivor and you have a specific creative project to share. 

Emma Gee – a Creative winner

Woman with glasses

East Melbourne resident Emma Gee was just 24 years’ old when her life was turned upside down. A massive stroke caused by a congenital defect in her brain left her struggling to speak, see, walk and swallow. 

Despite its enormous impact, Emma didn’t let her stroke stop her. After many years of extensive rehabilitation, the former occupational therapist now uses her own harrowing experience to improve the lives of stroke survivors and their carers around the country. 

Drawing on her occupational therapy knowledge and the insight gained from her own stroke, Emma has written a memoir Reinventing Emma detailing her own stroke journey. Emma’s story shows how, with love, support and a positive mindset, a life can still be incredible, even though not to the plan previously imagined. 

Emma also helped established an online peer support forum for stroke survivors. Emma is a regular public speaker, sharing her story to raise awareness of stroke and the need to support young stroke survivors.

Although Emma’s vision is gradually deteriorating, the opportunity to write and capture her own experience as a stroke survivor has been extremely therapeutic and very worthwhile.

Read our interview with Emma Gee

Ade Djajamihardja – a Creative finalist

man with glasses

At just 42 years of age, Ade Djajamihardja, suffered a massive stroke, which required life-saving brain surgery and weeks in an induced coma. Many did not expect him to survive, let alone speak or eat again. His career as a film and TV professional seemed over.

During the seven months Ade was in hospital, he had to learn how to sit upright, feed himself, read and speak. Ade soon realised the battle to recovery is won and lost in the mind.

Now Ade, together with his wife Kate, has written his first book, The Little Book of Hope. Launched in May 2016 at Brighton Baths restaurant, the book is now available through book stores and BIG W stores Australia wide. 

Ade wishes this book will inspire, motivate and give hope to stroke survivors and carers as well as anyone else who may be struggling. Told with Ade’s signature positivity, humour and empathy, The Little Book of Hope is full of fascinating insights and practical tools designed to help anyone facing tough times. 

Facing his own next challenge, Ade is currently studying the Master of Screen Arts and Business at the Australian Film Television and Radio School. Although Ade was told that he would never work again, he is determined to contribute and turn his adversity into something that can help others. 

Read our interview with Ade Djajamihardja


Kate Ryan – a Creative finalist

Kate Ryan

At just 10 years of age, Kate Ryan suffered a stroke which left her permanently paralysed on her left side. 
For an active, sporty young woman with lots of friends, it was devastating. She also had to give up her ballet, which was particularly tough. Post-stroke, Kate became depressed, was in denial and had trouble maintaining friendships.

Throughout her teen years, Kate regained some physical strength but her emotional health really suffered. She experienced epilepsy and regular falls, breaking her arm and leg multiple times.

But Kate rebuilt her life in her twenties when she travelled overseas by herself for the first time. She gained control over her epilepsy with medication and began making friends again. An interest in photography led her to study a Postgraduate Diploma in Fine Arts (Photo Media) at the College of Fine Arts NSW. 

When Kate had a chance to work with contemporary dance company Accesssible Arts, she jumped at it. Kate said it really made her feel alive again, just like it was when she danced ballet before her stroke. 

In 2016, Kate published a book called ‘Beyond Stroke: Living independently with one arm’  to help stroke survivors complete activities using one hand. Kate also runs a Beyond Stroke Facebook page to help other stroke survivors and gives regular talks to offer hope and raise awareness of stroke. 

Now Kate is a mother of three children - three year old twins and a four year old. Kate says it has taken her a long time to gain acceptance of her stroke, but when she did, lots of good things came from it. 

Read our interview with Kate Ryan

Marion Melrose – a Creative finalist

Marion Melrose

For Geelong songbird and professional entertainer, Marion Melrose, a devastating haemorrhagic stroke in 2013 nearly silenced the music. 

Marion suffered from right side paralysis, extreme fatigue, memory loss and sustained vocal damage that restricted her from performing professionally.

Struggling to find meaning in her life post stroke, Marion started a choir for stroke survivors called Stroke a Note Choir. She sought funding from a local hospital and found a meeting hall to regularly rehearse in. Stewart, her partner on and off the stage, accompanies the choir on guitar. 

As her own recovery progressed, Marion is not wheelchair-bound anymore, but she still finds it takes some concentration to walk without falling.

Now three years on, the choir averages about 14 people and they meet almost every Monday. Stroke a Note Choir regularly performs at aged care facilities, men’s sheds, rehab wards and at the annual Point Lonsdale Christmas Tree lighting event. 

As choir leader, Marion chooses suitable music with simple arrangements and transposes it to make it easier for members to sing. Her success has seen people with aphasia being able to speak again through singing in the choir.

Marion’s enthusiasm and commitment has encouraged other stroke survivors to regain their voice and confidence, while having a laugh. Singing really is the best medicine!

Read our interview with Marion Melrose

Shelagh Brennand – a Creative finalist

Shelagh standing in a bookshop

Shelagh Brennand, a former police officer and private investigator, found an unlikely source of support to help rebuild her life after stroke.

A busy mum and wife, juggling a career and home responsibilities, Shelagh lived a fast paced life until she was suddenly struck by stroke in 2013. 

After her stroke, Shelagh found she could no longer work. Suffering from post-stroke depression, Shelagh discovered writing poetry helped her to express herself and communicate how she was feeling to family and friends.

When someone suggested she publish her poems, Shelagh found a new challenge to help her rebuild her confidence. Despite suffering fatigue and finding computer work taxing, Shelagh successfully self-published her book, A Stroke of Poetry and to date it has sold more than 200 copies.
Following the publication, Shelagh launched a website, writes a blog and regularly talks at local events, spreading positive messages and encouraging greater awareness of stroke.

Shelagh is rightly proud of her achievement. After feeling that she could not return to her previous professional career following her stroke, Shelagh regained a lot of her confidence through the publication and success of her book.

Read our interview with Shelagh Brennand

Tony Finneran – a Creative finalist

Tony in the garden

Tony Finneran has always loved buses. But it wasn’t until the bus industry veteran was recovering from a devastating stroke in 2013 that inspiration took hold. 

Tony was in the stroke rehabilitation ward one night, when he decided writing a book on the history of Sydney’s buses could help him re-learn how to use the computer with his left hand, aiding his return to work.

Since the age of 15 years, Tony had taken photos of Sydney’s public and private buses but in compiling the book, he also reached out to other bus enthusiasts. Tony created an amazing record of Sydney public transport since 1945 called Gone But Not Forgotten which features over 170 different bus companies. Keen to raise awareness of stroke, Tony donated $10 from the sale of each book to the Stroke Foundation. 

In November 2015, Tony released his second book in the Gone But Not Forgotten series which detailed another element of the bus industry, all over advertising on buses and coaches. 

His creativity doesn’t stop with just writing and publishing his own book. Tony is a passionate advocate for stroke survivors. He met with politicians in Canberra as part of the Stroke Foundation’s Stroke Survivor delegation in 2014; he is secretary of the Bankstown Stroke Recovery Club; and has promoted stroke awareness in the media.

Not only is Tony is still working with Scania Australia, flying around the country for his job, he is now writing his third book on Australian Coaches - their Heyday.