Speaking on behalf of the Board, Chairperson Brooke Young says: “Jessica is the ideal person to step into the role of Patron. She is one of Aussie Hands most loved members and an inspiration to people of all ages. Her writing and speaking about positive body image, setting goals and celebrating difference is powerful and uplifting. We are certain that Aussie Hands will benefit greatly from having someone of Jessica’s profile and energy as Patron.”
Jessica brings a rich and varied background to the position. She was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) in last year’s Queen’s Birthday 2019 Honours List. Jessica is well known to members of Aussie Hands because of her book Little Miss Jessica Goes to School. What you might not know is that Jessica represented Australia in swimming, from the age of 13 to 20, travelling overseas every year that culminated in her participation in the Paralympic Games in 2004. Jessica retired from swimming when she was 21 and went on to study a Bachelor of Science in Public Health. From her own personal challenges with health and body image she has become a passionate advocate and activist for positive body image and diversity.
Taking on the role of Patron, Jessica reflected: “For the past few years I have watched in awe as my predecessor, Kate Doughty contributed to the growth and expansion of Aussie Hands. Kate will be sorely missed as Patron, but I’m sure I speak on behalf of all members in wishing Kate every success in her future personal and professional endeavours, and of course, I will be joining members as we cheer loudly while she commits herself to making the Australian Paralympic Team to compete in Tokyo later this year.
“I am delighted to join an organisation that continually strives to enrich the lives of people living with a hand difference and their families. I hope that I can help members by sharing my personal journey and highlighting the wonderful opportunities and success I’ve had thanks to my hand difference. Bringing more awareness to the organisation will be one of my immediate goals, and I hope to use media and social media platforms to do this. Building social awareness is crucial to the longevity of Aussie Hands, as it will enable more members of the wider community to understand and appreciate the importance of our work.”
Jessica says that she aims to expand the organisation’s membership, volunteer and donor base and support the wonderful work being done around Australia through an active social media campaign.
She is experienced with the power of social media. Jessica began the ‘Join the Revolution’ campaign to help inspire people to accept themselves as they are and to support and unite people from all around the world. The success of the campaign has led her to become a motivational speaker and she now educates others about positive body image, diversity and mental health. She has stood on many stages including: UN events, schools, universities, businesses and communities sharing her story and in-depth analysis of these issues. Her dedication has included working with not for profit organisations and as an Ambassador for various foundations in Australia. Jessica has received many awards for her work as an advocate in the community and recently achieved one of the highest recognitions as an Australian.
On 24 October 2019, Jessica received an OAM for service to the community through a range of roles. The OAM was presented to her at the Australian Ambassador’s residence in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), conducted by His Excellency Mr Arthur Spyrou, where Jessica is currently living with her husband and three children. An OAM is presented to Australian citizens in recognition of outstanding achievement or meritorious service that she has reached on both levels.
Jessica will travel back to Australia regularly and thanks to the wonders of social media will be able to keep up to date with Aussie Hands members and activities. She has invited members to follow her on Instagram @jessicasmith27.