On 11 October 2021, Lifebridge lost one of its greatest Champions with the passing of Milena Morrow. Milena was a Lifebridge Director for 11 years, 10 of those as Chairperson. On first meeting many would consider Milena a softly spoken, empathetic, reserved yet keen listener with an excellent understanding of the issues. But she was also a powerhouse in her own right!
Milena was a strong, outspoken advocate for people with a disability and the elderly. Fighting for their rights was her specialty making Lifebridge a perfect match for her passion and advocacy work. Although Milena was born with a severe physical disability, she never let it define who she was or stop her from chasing her dreams and goals. Rather she used it to build her determination, courage and resilience.
Milena began her association with Lifebridge when we were Tweed Valley Respite Service. Through her administration business, she was initially engaged as the board minute taker and then to backfill as bookkeeper when staff were on extended leave. Eventually, Milena was asked to join the board.
As a Director, Milena not only brought an insight into the lived experience of a person with a disability, but she also brought a wealth of knowledge around Corporate Governance. As she led the Board through the process of becoming a Company Limited by Guarantee, she also recruited new directors. She ensured there was the right mix of expertise and skill that would serve the company then and into the future.
It was Milena who led the interview team that appointed me as CEO. The relationship that develops between a Chair and CEO is quite special – especially if it works!
Both roles carry enormous responsibility and accountability, so it is important that they work together and support one another. I am honored to say that this was the case between Milena and I. Together we worked through difficult decisions as the organisation experienced the historical and unprecedented changes initiated through the introduction of the NDIS. As a newly appointed CEO I often looked to Milena for guidance and mentorship, and she never failed me.
Lifebridge was not the only Board that Milena sat on. She was Chairperson of another company based in Sydney and a key member of the Tweed Shire Access Committee. In between committee meetings she also found the time to write and self-publish her memoir “Sipping Champagne Through a Straw”. The title says it all. Milena achieved more in her short lifetime than many of us dream of doing.
Milena’s husband Rob is a quiet achiever but integral to her success. He would work alongside Milena giving her the physical support that she needed to enable her work to continue. Rob became as much a part of the Lifebridge family as Milena. And of course, many of us came to know and love her beautiful dogs who were always by her side for companionship as well as official duties.
The best way I know to honor someone like Milena is to ensure that her legacy lives on. Everyday when we turn up to work with an attitude that says “I can” and with the positive intention of supporting someone to achieve their goals and aspirations, we are supporting her vision of creating a truly inclusive world.
Bronwyn Mitchell, CEO