Vale Lorraine Orfanidis

The Zonta Club of Sydney is deeply saddened to have this week lost one of our most active and respected members, Lorraine Orfanidis. Lorraine was a member of Zonta Club of Sydney for 28 years and was Club President 2006 – 2009.

Lorraine was a compassionate and sincere person. Lorraine was the Advocacy Chair for the Club for many years and regularly updated club members on the wide range of women’s human rights issues taken up by Zonta International.  In particular her advocacy updates focussed on women affected by the justice system. 

She was the first to engage the Zonta Club of Sydney in matters to do with women affected by the criminal justice system. Lorraine previously had a beauty therapy business and lectured in the “Look Good; Feel Better” Program which provides aid to people undergoing treatment for cancer, with the programs run through oncology centres. She also lectured in TAFE for women who were looking to re-enter the workforce, which took her into many places including into prisons to assist women on their release.

Lorraine became more engaged in issues relating to prison reform and to women in prison.  Her work in social justice led to her undertaking her degree at UTS during which she studied for a semester in The Hague, then worked at the UNSW, and as Executive Officer to Chris Puplick when he was Anti -Discrimination Commissioner. Lorraine was a Board member and Chair of the Women in Prison Advocacy Network (WIPAN) now the Women’s Justice Network.

Lorraine was part of the first collaboration between the Zonta Club of Sydney(ZCS) and The Sydney Community Foundation’s Sydney Women’s Fund(SWF) to hold a breakfast at Parliament House to support WIPAN.   This initiative was the beginning of what is now The Keeping Women out of Prison Coalition (KWOOP). 

The KWOOP Coalition advocates to reduce the number of women in prison in NSW and to minimise the impact on their families and children. Members of the ever-growing Coalition now include Zonta Club of Sydney, Sydney Community Foundation SWF, Community Restorative Centre, Deadly Connections, Success Works within Dress for Success, SHINE for Kids, Women’s Justice Network, Soroptimists NSW, Corrective Services NSW, Justice NSW, Justice Reform Initiative, Soroptimists NSW, Country Women’s Association NSW, National Council of Women NSW and a number of universities and academics. In recent years it was her initiative to approach the Soroptimists, CWA and NCW to join KWOOP which now has wide support across NSW.

Each year (except for 2020 due to COVID19) the KWooP coalition has held the “Empowering Women, Changing Lives” Breakfast at NSW Parliament House which continue as sold-out events, bringing together policy makers, legal experts, senior decision makers of the justice system and service deliverers.  The event raises political and social awareness and leads to action in social change.

Lorraine’s Zonta strategic leadership of the ZCS work with women affected by the criminal justice system evolved to become what is now the Zonta District 24 service project, Women in Prison, and a major focus of the Zonta Club of Sydney’s personal service. Lorraine was the driving force behind this work and was instrumental in having the project endorsed at the Zonta District 24 Conference in 2019. Lorraine was the Chair of the District service project on Women in Prison.

Lorraine was one of the ZCS representatives on the UNIFEM Australia (now UN Women Australia) Sydney IWD Breakfast Committee.  During Lorraine’s 20 years on the Committee, the breakfast grew from 600 attendees to 2000 and raised considerable funds to support women’s economic, political, and human rights in developing countries.

Club President 2006-2009 Lorraine Orfanidis with the 40th birthday celebration cake 2006