Get to know the VHMA judges and their criteria

Entries for the Victorian Homelessness Media Awards are judged by a diverse and representative group of people.

Each award category has its own judging panel comprised of working journalists from a range of news outlets, community leaders and homelessness experts, and people with experience of homelessness.

The Victorian Homelessness Media Awards is overseen by Council to Homeless Persons, but judging is entirely independent. A new judging panel is put together each year.

What the judges look for

The Victorian Homelessness Media Awards judges look for originality, accuracy, quality of journalism, and responsiveness to current news and issues.

Importance is placed on the ability to break stereotypes and enhance understandings of the structural causes of homelessness and, if relevant, the solutions. Judges will consider the inclusion of a variety of voices and other factors such as accompanying images.

Homelessness does not exist in a vacuum. It intersects with mental health, family violence, the justice system, ineffective social policy, and housing affordability. Therefore, the judges are also interested in entries that explore and create awareness of these intersections.

Meet the judges: 2021


Neelima Choahan

Neelima Choahan is currently a digital producer with the ABC’s Melbourne newsroom, where she produces and covers local news. Previously, she was with the ABC’s regional and local team, working with journalists across the country. She was formerly a general and breaking news reporter at The Age, focusing on social affairs and breaking news. Neelima has more than 15 years of experience as a journalist, having worked at various local, regional and metropolitan news organisations. She has also taught at Deakin University.


Summer May Finlay

Dr Summer May Finlay is a Yorta Yorta woman who grew up on Awabakal country. She is a Postdoctoral Fellow on a NHMRC funded project with University of Canberra and is a lecturer at the University of Wollongong. She currently works as a freelancer for Croakey Health Media in a number of capacities, including as a contributing editor, and formally as a member of the #IHMayDay, #JustJustice and #JustClimate projects. Summer has also worked in a variety of capacities with a range of organisations across the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Sector, not-for profit, university and for profit sectors.


Ian Royall

Ian Royall is a senior reporter and the trainee program co-ordinator at the Herald Sun. Ian joined the paper 21 years ago and has worked on the city, education, consumer and aviation rounds, as well as being deputy chief of staff. He started his career 30 years ago at the Toowoomba Chronicle and also worked in England, covering news and sport.


Russell Skelton

Russell Skelton is founding Director of the internationally award winning RMIT ABC Fact Check. Russell is a Walkley award-winning writer and former contributing editor to The Age newspaper and Fairfax Media where he was a deputy editor (with day-to-day responsibilities for the Business & Insight sections), foreign editor and North Asia correspondent. He has held senior editorial positions at Fairfax, News Limited, and the ABC.

People with experience of being without a home

Annie Bracey

Annie is the former Chair of Launch Housing’s LEAG (Lived Experience Advisory Group). She has been involved in the sector since losing her business and home. Annie has contributed to research on older women and homelessness. She has been interviewed a number of times on her experience of homelessness.

Jody Letts

Jody is a single mum who served as a logistics with the Australian Defence Force in East Timor. Due to a variety of health conditions she was unable to work when she returned from service. She lost her home because she couldn’t pay the rent. Today Jody is a homelessness advocate in CHP’s Peer Education and Support Program, working with government and community to help shape and improve homelessness policy, and break down stereotypes.

Phoebe Watson

Phoebe is passionate advocate for homelessness. She is a current member of the Peer Education and Support Program at CHP. She has also used her lived experience of homelessness as Uniting Consumer Consultant and has helped to run a food bank through Merri Outreach Support service for the past 4 years. Phoebe says that media reporting accurately and fairly doesn’t just impact the narrative, it impacts those whose stories are being told.

Community leaders and homelessness experts

Emma King

Emma King joined the Victorian Council of Social Service (VCOSS) as Chief Executive Officer in 2013, providing a strong voice of leadership and advocacy on social justice issues for the community sector. Emma has an extensive background in the public sector and in workforce and education issues, having worked as a Victorian policy adviser, a teacher, and in a range of industrial and training roles at the Victorian Independent Education Union and the Finance Sector Union. Emma represents VCOSS on a range of ministerial advisory groups and committees. She is also the Chair of the Future Social Service Institute, President of the Farnham Street Neighbourhood Learning Centre and Board Member of Mental Health Victoria. Emma is a regular commentator on social affairs and justice issues.


Chris Povey

Chris Povey is the CEO of Justice Connect, leading the team to achieve their vision of a fairer, stronger community. Chris was previously the Head of Policy and Research with the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission. He s has dedicated his career to a stronger, fairer community, having spent more than 15 years making the law and legal systems work for people in times of difficulty and disadvantage, from directly providing legal help to in-depth policy work. His work has been in support of people facing homelessness, disability, mental illness and more.


Jenny Smith

Jenny Smith is the CEO at Council to Homeless Persons. Jenny’s professional life has been dedicated to the public sector. Jenny began her career as a social worker & family therapist, followed by thirty years in leadership and management roles in policy, management, government, in training and service delivery, and in health, mental health, community health and community sectors. Jenny also has considerable experience as a Board director of community sector agencies and she is currently Chair of Homelessness Australia. Jenny is passionate about applying her skills and experience to ending homelessness, working in partnership with those who have had the experience of being without a home, the specialist homelessness sector, community sector, government, philanthropic and private sectors.

Bevan Warner

Bevan Warner is the CEO of Launch Housing, a Victorian secular community agency whose mission is to end homelessness. Bevan was previously the Managing Director at Victorian Legal Aid, having worked his way through a variety of roles in the organisation over 10 years. Bevan describes himself as intensely curious and drawn to people and the problems they are trying to solve.