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Lesley Elliott named winner of Next Woman of the Year

October 6, 2011

Lesley Elliott named winner of Next Woman of the Year, in association with Pandora

Lesley Elliott, mother of murdered university student Sophie Elliott, has been named Next Woman of the Year for her impassioned efforts to change the country’s attitude towards abuse and violence within relationships.

The judging panel, comprised of Dame Catherine Tizard, Dr Gareth Morgan and Next editor Sarah Henry, felt Lesley encompassed all the traits they were looking for in the Woman of the Year They commented on her unbelievable courage and resilience, adding she is a beacon to us all. They noted Lesley has given something to the women of New Zealand that her late daughter would have been exceptionally proud of.

Since forming the Sophie Elliott Foundation in a bid to address horrific rates of domestic abuse in New Zealand, Lesley has juggled her relentless and unpaid work for the foundation with her nursing job at Dunedin Public Hospital. Every week the 64-year-old travels around the country educating schools and community groups about signs of domestic violence.

In June this year, on what would have been her daughter’s 26th birthday, Lesley released a book, Sophie’s Legacy which she co-wrote with Bill O’Brien. It serves as a tribute to Sophie and a warning to others.

“Lesley has lived through every mother’s worst nightmare,” Next editor Sarah Henry says. “Rather than let that destroy her, she has taken a stand to ensure her daughter’s death was not in vain. That takes extraordinary courage, passion, strength and drive. Her concern for others and determination to educate people on the taboo subject of violence in relationships is to be applauded. Lesley is the epitome of the Next Woman of the Year – a brave visionary who is making a difference.”

Lesley was tonight awarded the Next Woman of the Year award, which is run in association with Pandora, at a star-studded ceremony held at the Auckland Art Gallery.

As well as taking out the supreme Woman of the Year title, Lesley is also the Community category winner.

“I am humbled really because I don’t think I’m that great,” she says. “It’s lovely but I’m only in this position because I lost my daughter. This is not about me; this is about Sophie and all the other Sophies out there who have died. It’s about women and people who are being abused right now.”

The category winners are:
Arts and Culture: Jill Marshall, author and publisher
Business: Mai Chen, lawyer
Health and Science: Sue Johnson, Christchurch coroner
Sport: Jayne Parsons, Paralympian
Community: Lesley Elliott, founder of the Sophie Elliott Foundation


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