01 July 2020

Twins receive dual Public Service Medals for dedication to community

: Gerrie Mitra PSM and Jacqueline Costanzo PSM

Jacqueline Costanzo PSM

Ceduna Service Reform Manager, Department of Human Services, South Australian Government
Bachelor of Teaching (Junior Primary)

Gerrie Mitra PSM

General Manager, Provider and Markets Division, National Disability Insurance Agency
Graduate Diploma of Business (Administrative Management)
Bachelor of Accountancy

Earlier this month, the Queen’s Birthday Honours were announced recognising the diverse achievements and contributions made by Australians each year from all walks of life. Among them were many of our own University of South Australia (UniSA) graduates and wider community. Including none other than a set of twins that, despite studying vastly different courses at university, have both been honoured for their work – one after the other.

Both Gerrie Mitra PSM and Jacqueline Costanzo PSM have been key in the implementation of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) with the Australian Government – one of the largest and most intensive social reforms of our generation – earning them both Public Service Medals in 2019 and 2020 respectively.

Jacky was honoured this year for outstanding public service to the communities of the APY Lands in South Australia through her work with Aboriginal Place Based Projects and Community Services as the Ceduna Service Reform Manager with the South Australian Government’s Department of Human Services.

Here she has supported the implementation of initiatives such as Street Beat, an active outreach program promoting safety and wellbeing in and around Ceduna, a no-cost community bus service, a Mothers’ and Babies’ House for young Aboriginal women, and a Vulnerable Person’s Framework for individual’s at risk of harm.

Even before her role as Service Reform Manager, Jacky’s career trajectory has taken her and her family to some of the most remote and fascinating places in the world – from Titjikala in the Northern Territory, Vanuatu, and now to Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands in regional north South Australia – where she put her education and talents to work in building community capacity.

Jacky at Amata, one of the Aboriginal communities that make up the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands in South Australia, right on the northern border.
Jacky at Amata, one of the Aboriginal communities that make up the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands in South Australia, right on the northern border.

“I’ve spent many years working in remote communities and believe it is important community members receive the support they need to navigate the systems to receive the service they need,” she says.

“My work in the APY Lands initially involved providing youth, aged and disability programs to the communities. Currently the work is focused on transitioning the disability clients to the NDIS.”

“Having a teaching degree led me to my first teaching job on a remote community. Good teachers build relationships, and this has been the key to all the work I have been involved in.”

Similarly, as the Group Executive Director for Disability Services at South Australia’s Department of Human Services, Gerrie was honoured for outstanding public service through the implementation of the NDIS when faced with the impending upheaval of the existing disability support structure, affecting some of the most vulnerable communities in our country.

Armed with years of business experience in both interstate and international markets, Gerrie devised the idea to establish a new type of organisation – owned and operated by the current disability therapists – to deliver services under the NDIS.

Now with her new role as the General Manager, Provider and Markets Division at the National Disability Insurance Agency, she is continuing her work leading the development and implementation of a comprehensive strategic plan for the stewardship of the market of NDIA providers.

Gerrie Mitra PSM, General ManagerCeduna Community Hub
Gerrie Mitra PSM is now General Manager, Provider and Markets Division at the NDIA (left) and the Ceduna Community Hub that houses Street Beat. Credit: unisabusiness magazine and facebook.

When news hit her twin sister would be receiving a Public Service Medal, just a year after her own honour as well, she could not contain her pride.

“I was very excited when Jacky was awarded the PSM. I think I said I was really proud, and she really deserved it, as she has made such an enormous impact in her work over many years,” Gerrie says.

“Her focus has always been on building capacity in local communities and she does that with such compassion and consideration for people.”

In addition to excelling in their respective careers and making a real difference in some of the most vulnerable communities, both sisters are similarly humble – this must run in the family as well – making sure to communicate the awards were also thanks to the great team behind them and acknowledging their upbringing played a factor.

Jacky echoed Gerrie’s sentiment and pride for her twin’s achievements too.

“It was great to see Gerrie recognised for the work she did in disability last year. Even though we are twins there has never really been any competition between us – we have quite different skills that are complimentary,” Jacky says.

“We have very different education backgrounds, and up until now worked in different areas, so it is amazing that we have both ended up in the same area of work now.”

“It is testament to our mum that we have both ended up in social justice work.”

For the full list of 2020 Queen’s Birthday Honours in our University of South Australia Community announced earlier this month, visit our website here.

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