On the night: Ruby Ball speech


The Ruby Ball

The Ruby Ball

As most people know, I am a Carer. I care for my son, Jono, who was hit by a speeding car when just 12. Of all my various roles, it is the most important one. There’s nothing more important than enhancing the health and happiness of someone you love.

My public role and community work adds meaning and purpose to my life. I am humbled to be an ambassador to some great programs and organisations. Yet as an ambassador for Sutherland Shire Carer Support Service, and Carers NSW, I feel the most passionate. Advocating for my neighbours and community, who have supported me so strongly is the spirit of my endeavour.

– Did you know that Carers fall into the highest demographic of people who suffer from chronic illness/pain? Well, my 5th book – In My Blood – is being published (June 2019). It is a very personal memoir about what happens to ‘caring-families’ when the primary carer is faced with a life-threatening illness; it is also about perseverance, resilience, or what some might call bloody-stubborn-mindedness! and, of course, familial love. All qualities that are the definition of Carers!

-The book will be launched on Friday 21st June 2019, at Club Menai, as a fundraiser for the Sutherland Shire Carer Support Service (CSS).

– ‘The Ruby Ball’  is proudly sponsored by the NAB. Everyone is welcome! I sincerely hope you will be able to attend and show your support for Carers.

Cheryl Koenig


About Cheryl

Cheryl Koenig was born, and still resides, in the southern suburbs of Sydney. She met her soul mate, Rob, whilst still in school and married at the age of just nineteen. More than forty years later she is still very happily married and has two treasured sons.

Cheryl volunteers much of her free time assisting in development of government policy and services in the health care arena, as well as speaking at various Medical Conferences; Rotary and other Community Groups; Carer Support Groups and/or Disability Groups; including training days for clinical networks or those who work in the disability arena.

Through tireless fundraising efforts, she has helped raise over $300,000 for various health care services and non-government support groups, and she is passionate about advocating for carers to be validated for the important role they play in society.


  • 2008 Sassy Literary Award
  • 2009 NSW Woman of the Year
  • 2014 OAM (The Medal of the Order of Australia)
  • 2014 Lifetime Member for Brain Injury Assn of NSW
  • 2016 Lifetime Member for Sutherland Shire Carer Support Services Inc.
  • Carer Representative for Carers NSW

And is an Ambassador for:

  • The Australia Day Program
  • Ambassador for ACTIVUS Transport
  • The Friendship Foundation

About Cheryl and Jono’


“Thank you for being my eyes when I couldn’t see, for being my voice when I couldn’t speak, for giving me strength when I couldn’t walk. Thank you for loving me.” Jono’s Poem – Good Weekend, SMH, 2014

At the age of just 12 years old, Cheryl’s son Jonathan was involved in a horrific car accident and suffered an extremely severe traumatic brain injury. Jonathan was in a coma for six weeks and was given very little chance of survival. Doctors predicted that if he did survive, he would be unable to walk, talk or even eat again.

Cheryl refused to accept this prognosis and set out on a relentless quest to save her son. Her fervent hope that he would one day be well again was poignantly expressed by his many school friends, who filled their school prayer room with hundreds of handmade paper cranes – symbols of hope and healing.

The journey from that horrible day has been long and difficult, with road blocks at every turn. Not only has she had to fight to save her son, she’s faced many struggles in her role as his carer.

Jonathan has since completed his HSC, a TAFE course and is currently learning to drive. He can walk well, and has just begun to run; he can snow ski; swim laps; play tennis and astounds many with his piano playing skills. All this as well as working five days a week in four part-time jobs.

Cheryl has written about her remarkable son in ‘Paper Cranes: A Mother’s Story of Hope, Courage and Determination’ and chronicles her family’s journey through despair, denial and anger, to eventual acceptance and healing. This is her third book, having already written two books in a voluntary capacity for NSW Health Agency for Clinical Innovation.

In 2006 she helped raise $160,000 for a new wheel-chair modified bus for Liverpool Hospital, and through proceeds from the book launch of ‘Paper Cranes’, she raised over $26,000 for services in the area of brain injury. She has also donated a significant amount from proceeds of sales of ‘Paper Cranes’ to various hospital foundations and non-government service providers.


Cheryl speaking



For enquires regarding Cheryl’s availability please use the Professional Speakers Bureau contact form. Go to Form page

Cheryl is well known for her community work and as a motivational speaker. Her stories are inspirational journeys of life and the importance of hope, resilience and family. 

Cheryl was named 2009 NSW Woman of the Year, and in 2014 received the Medal of the Order of Australia for services to people with disabilities, their families and carers. Her involvement with disability services arose out of caring and advocacy for her son who was severely injured in a vehicle accident. That story was captured in her earlier book, Paper Cranes. Cheryl continues to volunteer her time to improve health care services, which she combines with her passion for writing.

Cheryl takes immense pride in taking part in celebrations on Australia Day as an Ambassador (2011-present). She travels to regional areas each year to give an address about her thoughts on Australia and what it means to be be Australian.

In 2009, Cheryl was named the “NSW WOMAN OF THE YEAR.” Then NSW Premier Nathan Rees said:
Cheryl Koenig has displayed remarkable compassion, courage and commitment following her son’s brain injury in a tragic car accident. Her story is an inspiration to all of us, delivering hope and strength to people with traumatic brain injury, their families and anyone who has experienced a tragic event. Not only has she cared for her son Jonathan for the past 11 years, she has tirelessly campaigned to raise awareness of brain injury by writing books and volunteering much of her free time to improving brain injury services.”

The Hon.Verity Firth, former NSW Minister for Women, said of Cheryl:
“Ms Koenig’s devotion to the cause of brain injury awareness is one of the finest examples of selfless citizenship I have ever seen. The Woman of the Year Award recognises the achievements of women and the leadership they provide as positive role models, particularly to younger women.”

Robert Hillman, Australian Author June 2015:
Cheryl Koenig’s embrace of life shines through in earlier books, such as Paper Cranes. ‘With Just One Suitcase’ is the backstory to her achievements. Where do those with great courage and wherewithal get it from? From those who raised them, loved them, willed them to open their hearts to life. This story of the struggle of grandparents and parents in war-torn Europe leads us movingly to trials of a different sort in Australia. Cheryl Koenig’s message is that we are always more than one person. We are ourselves, and also the dreams and hopes of those who have loved us. Yo!

The Hon John Ajaka, NSW Minister for Ageing, Disability Services & Multiculturalism launched WITH JUST ONE SUITCASE as a Fundaiser for Sutherland Shire Carer Support Service (for whom she is an Ambassador) at a Gala Dinner on Friday,19th June 2015.

Cheryl is doing a number of speaking engagements and is proud to announce proceeds from her book launch, with the dedicated support from SSCSS team, raised $18,500.00 that will directly benefit Carers in the Sutherland Shire.

Cheryl would like to take this opportunity to thank all those who attended and bought raffle tickets. As well, sincere gratitude to our major sponsors: CarersNSW; Kincare Health Services; Commercial Property Bankstown; Agency for Clinical Innovation; AusRealty; J.B. Metropolitan Distributors; Slater + Gordon Solicitors; iPac Financial Services; SpecSaver Southgate.



Caring for Carers



Care for Carers. This video was produced by the NSW Family and Community Services Department and features Jono’ Koenig and some of his friends with a cameo by Cheryl.

To view in fullscreen mode click the icon on the right of the player.


You can change the world


You can change your world by just caring for one person. Cheryl’s keynote address at the Macquarie University Graduation Ceremony on April the 12th 2016.(Video courtesy of Macquarie University)

To view in fullscreen mode click the icon on the right of the player.

Women NSW


Cheryl’s journey continues…

Women N.S.W.

“I’m very humbled to be asked to submit my journey in a short 2.5 min video to ‘Women NSW’ – as a State Govt initiative to inspire and/or empower women and girls.”

To view in fullscreen mode click the icon on the right of the player.


With Just One Suitcase



Cheryl’s fourth book, ‘With Just One Suitcase’ is the true story of two boys, Frici & Istvan – one Jewish, one Catholic – living two kilometres but worlds apart in Timisoara, Romania, when WW2 shatters their innocence and their lives. Spanning two continents and three generations of two families whose lives unexpectedly intersect in their adopted country, this book beautifullly captures the loss and dislocation wrought by war; and the struggles and challenges of starting anew in another country. ‘With Just One Suitcase’ is a tribute to the courage and resilience of two men who bear the scars of war, who faced and overcame adversity while never surrendering their optimism for the future. It is Cheryl’s homage to her father, Frici, and her father-in-law, Istvan; and her belief in the importance of history to understanding ourselves.)

To view in fullscreen mode click the icon on the right of the player.




With Just One Suitcase


  • Our richness as a migrant nation endures through the stories of our forebears, told and retold to new generations. This is one such story among many that make us who we are today.”

    TANYA PLIBERSEK, Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Development
  • “Cheryl Koenig’s embrace of life shines through. Her message is that we are always more than one person. We are ourselves, and also the dreams and hopes of those who have loved us.”

    Robert Hillman - Melbourne, Australia

  • “The sacrifices your family made to emigrate to Australia are worth recounting to others so that they can realise just what a lucky country we are fortunate to live in.”

    Mike B - Melbourne, Australia
  • “I have just finished reading this book and have to say it is an amazing story. I was captivated by the story and moved with deep emotion when I read about the suffering of Steven’s and Fred’s families and the hardships both men encountered in their journey to survive the war and seek out a better life after the war. I fell in love with Anna and Katarina.”

    Michelle Small - Sydney, Australia
  • “I have just read With Just One Suitcase. Thank u for such a wonderful experience.”

    Nigel and Laya R - Melbourne, Australia
  • “Just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed your book. When you hear the stories of what some people had to endure during those who horrible times of war and yet still manage to go on to achieve so much out of life, in a new country, with virtually nothing, is inspirational.  Thank you for sharing their/your story with us :)”

    Jenny King - Sydney, Australia
  • ” My parents came from Romania. Both ended up in Germany and after the war my parents, my sister and I were classed as displaced persons, and were sent to Australia.  Your story and your family touched me so very very much,you are an  amazing person. Thank you.”

  • Hi Cheryl,I’ve just finished your wonderful book ‘With Just One Suitcase’ and I hope you don’t mind me contactng you. I found your book just so profoundly moving and just a wonderful book to read that I ended up finishing it overnight. It reminded me of how much we take for granted here in Australia, how lucky we are (I am) not to have experienced the dislocation of war and loss, and how profoundly resilient so many from migrant families are.
    My family (several generations back) were migrants and it reinforced to me how much so many from migrant backgrounds work hard and seem to value hard work and the opportunities we have here in Australia. Thank you for sharing your family’s story in such a beautiful, moving book.

    Kathy Rowan-Australia



Latest News

12 December 2015: SMH Goodweekend -Two Of Us Feature.  


“We are very close; I love him to bits”: Cheryl Koenig with her father Fred Loew. Photo: Josh Robenstone

For all latest news about Cheryl’s ongoing campaign to raise awareness of the important role of Carers in our community, advocacy for people with disability (in particular acquired brain injury) in Australia and her latest books visit Cheryl’s facebook page: 

Cheryl’s first book Paper Cranes (Exisle Publishing, 2008) has raised $26,000 for brain injury services from the book launch alone, and Cheryl has since raised close to $200,000 for various health care services and non-government community support groups through her fundraising efforts.

News items documenting Cheryl’s ongoing campaign to raise awareness of the role of Carers and people with disability (in particular acquired brain injury) in Australia.

Latest news highlights

June 2015: ABC Radio National Margaret Throsby interviews Cheryl Koenig an Australian author, motivational speaker and disability advocate. She is best known for her 2008 book Paper Cranes, which details her journey with her son Jonathan after a car accident that left him brain damaged. Her latest book, With Just One Suitcase (Wild Dingo Press, 2015), is a homage to her father Frici and father-in-law Istvan. It recounts the true story of how the pair met in Romania in the 1930s as teenage boys, before they were separated by WWII. They were reunited decades later in Australia upon discovering that their children, by sheer coincidence, had fallen in love. Listen here:

May 2015: St George & Sutherland Shire Leader promotes the upcoming launch of With Just One Suitcase at a gala fundraiser at The Grand Roxy, Brighton-Le-Sands NSW Minister for Ageing and Disability, John Ajaka. Cheryl talks about unpaid Carers in the community – and how her whole family have at some point throughout their lives have played this important role – supporting loved ones physically and as their advocates in the community.

June 2015: ABC Life Matters – Reunited by Love. Natasha Mitchell hears the incredible story of With Just One Suitcase interviewing with Cheryl Koenig, her husband Robert, father-in-law Istvan (Stephen) Koenig and father Fred (Fritzi) Loew.  Read the interview transcript or listen to the audio here: 

June 2015: Sydney Morning Herald Tim Barlass interviews Cheryl and Robert Koenig about their shared history captured in With Just One Suitcase. The book recounts a young couple’s love that reunites two refugees a quarter of a century later living just kilometres apart again… a remarkable story. Read more: 

Jan 2014: Cheryl was awarded the prestigious Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) in the General Division within the Australian Honours System “for service to people with disabilities, their families and carers.” Read the News here:  
August 2014: Cheryl & Jono proudly become Brain Injury Australia’s Ambassadors for ‘SIDETEMBER’. When ‘Sidetember’ – an initiative to create more awareness around ABI – started a couple of years ago, it was focused around Sideburns – which pretty much excluded the best part of the population! So in the last 2 years steps have been taken to better engage female and whiskerly-challenged supporters. Jewellery is now available for SideGirls, which can be worn throughout the month. Also, this year an initiative was introduced with the idea of people doing something ‘On the Side’. So challenge yourself for the month – growing sideburns or wearing their jewellery may be your challenge! – or it could be something as simple as going for a walk each day, giving up chocolate or anything else that is a personal challenge. Sidetember is all about making the invisible disability visible. For more info go to Sidetember on Facebook  and

May 2014: Cheryl is appointed as the NSW Representative to Slater + Gordon Health Projects and Research Fund. This initiative works to help improve the lives of people in the community who suffer from serious illness or live with significant disability.

Jan 2014: Appointed Ambassador for Sutherland Shire Carer Support Service (SSCSS) Cheryl said:  “‘Caring for Carers’ is their motto and is exactly what they do; they provide an invaluable support service to Carers in the Shire.”

Visit www.sscss.org.au for more information about the important community support this organization provides.

Dec 2014:Cheryl is reappointed to NSW Government Carer’s Advisory Council for a further two years. The NSW Carers Advisory Council provides advice on legislation, policy and other matters that have a significant impact on Carers. Cheryl was first appointed to the ‘Inaugural NSW Government Carer’s Advisory Council’ in December 2010 for a four year term.The re-appointment recognises Cheryl’s efforts to raise community awareness, have Carers recognised and respected within society and be a voice for their issues at a government level. In 2013, Cheryl was made a member of the NSW Carer’s Strategy Project Management Group – which is a co-design NSW Govt initiative with the aim of improving the lives of unpaid Carers in five focus areas: employment & education; health & wellbeing; information & community awareness; carers engagement; and improving evidence base.

Jan 2011-2015: As an Australia Day Ambassador, Cheryl takes immense pride in taking part in celebrations in Sydney and regional NSW:

2011, 2012 and 2013: Cheryl & Jono named Ambassadors for ‘Bang On A Beanie’ campaign. ‘Bang On A Beanie’ is a joint effort between Synapse and the consortium of Brain Injury Associations across Australia. Cheryl and her son, Jonathan as joint Ambassadors for the campaign to raise awareness of brain injury disability and raise funds to help support the more than 1.6 million Australian families affected by Acquired Brain Injury.

Buy and wear a blue beanie and show your support for those affected, their family and friends.  All money raised helps fund accommodation for young people and educational resources for families.
For more info visit BANGONABEANIE.

May 2011: Hope Channel: ‘Defying the Odds’. Rochelle Fraser interviews Cheryl and Jonathon Koenig about making a difference in other people’s lives.

Jan 2011:Cheryl named a Life Member ofBrain Injury Australia, NSW (BIANSW) in recognition of her outstanding contribution in raising awareness of ABI.

24 Aug 2010:Cheryl helps raise $8,800 for Brain Injury Australia (BIA) at Canberra Raiders charity match.
At a Canberra Raiders charity match on 24 July, Cheryl Koenig organised a campaign to raise awareness and support for Brain Injury Australia (BIA).
Her son, Jonathan, ran on to the field with the team, wearing a specially designed jersey with the ‘Brain Injury Australia’ Logo.
The signed jerseys were then auctioned off, with proceeds of $8,800 being donated to BIA.

Aug 2010: ABC Radio – Conversations with Richard Fidler: Cheryl Koenig talks about traumatic brain injury.

March 2009:Cheryl is awarded ‘Woman of the Year by NSW Premier Nathan Rees. Announcing the award the Minister for Women, Verity Firth MP said: “Ms Koenig’s devotion to the cause of brain injury awareness is one of the finest examples of selfless citizenship I have ever seen.”, “Cheryl] is an inspiration to all of us, delivering hope and strength to people with traumatic brain injury, their families and anyone who has experienced a tragic event.…“Not only has she cared for her son Jonathon for the past 11 years, she has tirelessly campaigned to raise awareness of brain injury by writing books and volunteering much of her free time to improving brain injury services.”

June 2008:Cheryl represents  Australia in Brazil at the 5th Satellite Symposium on Neuropsychological Rehabilitation is being held in Brazil in July 2008. Cheryl was asked to submit an abstract to speak at the Symposium and her abstract was accepted by the Worldwide Neurospychological Selection Panel. Cheryl will represent Australia at the international event.

Minister, Winner and Premier







  • Cheryl with the Minister for Women, Verity Firth and the NSW Premier Nathan Rees.

Nov 2008: Cheryl is presented the Sassy Award by Juanita Phillips, ABC News Presenter:”The winner of the Sassy Award for Strength of Purpose has written a wonderful book that is full of love, hope and proving that a mother’s love can move mountains. The book is ‘Paper Cranes’.  “… Cheryl Koenig, you are an inspiration!” Australian author management agency, Selwa Anthony hosted their annual Sassy Awards (Selwa’s Authors’ Success Stories of the Year). 









  • Juanita Phillips from ABC News presented Cheryl with the Sassy Award for Strength of Purpose for her latest book, ‘Paper Cranes’.

April 2008:‘Paper Cranes’ book launch raises over $25,000.

The official launch of ‘Paper Cranes’ was held on Thursday 3 April 2008 at The Grand Roxy in Brighton Le Sands. Hosted by Glenn Wheeler (The Morning Show / 2UE) and attended by nearly 300 guests. The event was held as a fundraiser for brain injury services and was a phenomenal success with the support of local businesses that donated prizes and the generosity of guests on the night, over $20,000 was raised to help two organisations that provide essential services and support in the area of brain injury.

All proceeds from the event were donated to:

  • ‘The Friendship Foundation’, a not-for-profit organisation set up to assist Carers and people who are socially disadvantaged due to chronic illness or injury.
  • … and,’Head2Work’ (02 9602 4922), a specialised vocational training provider servicing people with Traumatic Brain Injury in southern and south-west Sydney.

A heartfelt thanks goes out to everyone who supported and attended the event, making it such a success.



This page contains information about groups that might be of assistance to Carers and those with brain related injuries or disabilities.

Cheryl is proud to be named a ‘Lifetime Member of Brain Injury Association of NSW’ (see below for contact details).

Jono and Cheryl are also ambassadors for “Sidetember” – a creative project run each year in September that challenges you to do your bit ‘On the Side’ to help raise awareness and support for the 1-in-12 Aussies living with brain injury. For more information or to arrange media interviews with Brain Injury Australia, Sidetember or a Sidetember Ambassadors contact John Hanrahan at Lighthouse Communications Group on 02 8262 8999 or 0411 212 965.

Cheryl is a representative for Carers NSW Inc.
Level 10 / 213 Miller Street
North Sydney NSW 2060
Ph: 02 9280 4744
Fax: 02 9280 4755
Carers can call 1800 242 636 (free call except from mobiles)

  • contact@carersnsw.org.au
  • www.carersnsw.org.au
  • www.youngcarersnsw.org.au

Brain Injury Associations are the leading advocacy body for people with acquired brain injury, their families, carers and other interested organisations. They represent the needs of these people to government, service providers, the broader community and the media.


With any kind of brain injury, it is important never to give up hope and to be prepared to pursue alternative arrangements if you do not feel that every effort is being made to promote recovery. It is also important to realise that there is not one ‘magic bullet’ or overnight cure — recovery from traumatic brain injury takes years of hard work and determination.

I can highly recommend:

A/Prof Gavin Williams PhD
Senior Physiotherapist
ABI Unit

Epworth Hospital and Rehabilitation Centre
89 Bridge Road
Richmond VIC  3121
T. (03) 9426 8727
F. (03) 9426 8734

In my opinion, this is the best specialised rehabilitation hospital in Australia, and statistics seem to support this with 97% of all Traumatic Brain Injury patients achieving independent walking (as reported by the physiotherapy journal, ‘inmotion’ in April 2005).

Brain Injury Australia
Phone: 02 9808 9390 Freecall: 1800 BRAIN1

Brain Injury Association of New South Wales – Synapse
1800 673 074

Brain Injury Association of Tasmania
(03) 6230 9800

Brain Injury Network of South Australia
(08) 8217 7600

BrainLink Services Victoria
1800 677 579

1800 626 370

Synapse (formerly Brain Injury Association of Queensland)
(07) 3137 7400

Somerville Community Services (Northern Territory)
(08) 8935 1500
 8920 41008920 4100