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Sonia Posenelli OAM

Delivering health services in an inner-urban setting to diverse, vulnerable and marginalised people is challenging. 

For almost 40 years, Sonia Posenelli OAM was a social worker at St Vincent’s Hospital in Melbourne, leading the social work team for over 25 of those years. Working alongside colleagues and patients, she has been integral in developing and implementing innovative and robust psychosocial patient care approaches to meet patient and clinicians’ needs. 

Headshot of Sonia Posenelli OAM

“By developing new models of care we have been able to provide more responsive health care for people who are marginalised, vulnerable and at risk.” 

This included setting up The Cottage, a short stay facility for unwell homeless men and women; partnering with Aboriginal patients, families and organisations to develop culturally informed approaches; and researching ways to strengthen hospital clinicians’ ability to identify and respond to elder abuse. 

 She says patience was vital in her work, but it did pay off. 

“In some instances, improvement and achievements took years – even a decade or so of continuous effort. The motivation comes from wanting to find ways to make a difference where issues are complex and where people ‘fall through the cracks’. This forms the evidence base to implement change. The enjoyment in the work, though, comes from actually solving problems, and the many collaborations that occur along the way, and from getting results!” 

A self-described daughter of working-class Italian immigrants, Ms Posenelli says that the award of the Medal of the Order of Australia was inconceivable to her.   

“In spite of a good education and a very rewarding and meaningful career, such recognition is completely outside of anything I might ever have imagined. But it did feel like a very great honour to have been nominated.” 

“Sincere thanks to my parents, family and friends, those who nominated me and supported the nomination, my many colleagues at St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne and beyond who always supported the work. Particular thanks are owed to the Social Work Department and Aboriginal Liaison Program at St Vincent’s for their commitment to our work and for making change happen.”