For 25 years, the Telstra Business Women’s Awards have celebrated the success of Australia’s female leaders and entrepreneurs. We’re proud to continue to recognise the exceptional work of women in leadership, to advocate for women in business, to help promote gender equality in the workplace, and to applaud the women who are paving the way for future generations. 

While we had to stop our state and national events due to COVID-19, we’re pleased to be able to introduce you to the Telstra Business Women’s Awards winners for 2020. Every woman on this list has achieved extraordinary results in their field of work and they are all inspiring examples of leaders challenging the status quo within and beyond their industries. Congratulations to our incredible winners. 

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New South Wales 

Dr Sarah Pearce, Deputy Director, Astronomy and Space Science at CSIRO is the 2020 Telstra New South Wales Business Woman of the Year. 

Dr Pearce is a pioneering and internationally recognised physicist, and leads a team of more than 250 astronomers, engineers, technicians, administrative and outreach staff. Dr Pearce also won the Public Sector and Academia award, which recognises women who have dedicated themselves to making an impact in education or public service. 

We commend Dr Pearce for her innovative space programs; she is committed to collaboration, and instead of being out to win, she is dedicated to ensuring she and her team produce the best work possible. 

Also recognised as winners of the 2020 Telstra NSW Business Women’s Awards were: 

  • Small Business Award: Dr. Majeda Awawdeh, Founder and Managing Director, Global Education Academy, a learning centre modeled on her PhD research into cognitive load theory and mathematics education. 
  • Medium and Large Business Award: Katherine McConnell, Chief Executive Officer and Founder, Brighte Katherine McConnell is Chief Executive Officer and Founder of Brighte, a rapidly growing financial services company with a predominantly female C-level executive team. 
  • Emerging Leader Award: Courtney Bowie, Founder, Her Lawyer. Breaking away from the common models and stereotypes of law, Ms Bowie has built this legal practice dedicated to empowering ambitious women in business and providing a space for a team of female lawyers to thrive. 
  • For Purpose & Social Enterprise Award: Sarah Hosking, Chief Executive Officer, National Breast Cancer FoundationBreast cancer is the most diagnosed cancer in Australia and Sarah Hosking is sharing her passion for finding a cure and delivering the National Breast Cancer Foundation’s strategy for change. 

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Queensland 

Jo Thomas, Chief Executive Officer and Creative Director of contemporary art house Metro Arts, is the 2020 Telstra Queensland Business Woman of the Year. 

Ms Thomas supports and mentors artists to help them realise their creative potential, present their work to audiences and build their careers. Ms Thomas is also the winner of the For Purpose & Social Enterprise Award, which celebrates leaders and employees of organisations making a positive difference to the world around them. 

The arts are a powerful medium to bring about change and influence access, inclusion, participation and outcomes for all. Ms Thomas is a clear and visionary leader who has much to give, not only to the arts sector, but to the future of advancing women in leadership. 

Also recognised as winners of the 2020 Telstra Queensland Business Women’s Awards were: 

  • Small Business Award: Julie Verner-Mackay, Founder and Human Success Director, aXcelerate, a cloud-based student management system. She is passionate about establishing a flexible and positive workplace culture. 
  • Medium & Large Business Award: Yinzhu Quan, Pioneer Lab member, Rio Tinto. Joining Rio Tinto as an engineer, Yinzhu Quan was selected to be one of just six members on its Pioneer Lab – a panel working on 10-20 year-long strategies and new visions for the company. 
  • Public Sector & Academia Award: Jeanette Allom-Hill, Group Executive Business Performance, Sunshine Coast Regional Council. Ms Allom-Hill is responsible for a portfolio including finance, IT, human resources, procurement and property management. She is a values-based leader who is committed, accountable and delivers measurable results. 
  • Emerging Leader: Onica Mhaka, Project Coordinator, Height Dynamics. Ms Mhaka’s passion, vision and leadership has seen Height Dynamics, a safety equipment supplier, achieve great success. 

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Victoria 

Julie Hirsch, Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer of Eloments Natural Vitamin Tea, is the 2020 Telstra Victorian Business Woman of the Year. 

After becoming deputy director of a climate action organisation, Ms Hirsch co-founded Eloments, one of the world’s first natural vitamin teas. Ms Hirsch sources Fairtrade ingredients from around the world, which are blended with nutrient-rich fruit and herbal extracts so that every cup of tea contains nine essential nutrients – a world-first innovation. 

Ms Hirsch has shown the real value of leadership and a strong moral compass through disruption and product innovation. Ms Hirsch also received the Emerging Leader Award, which recognises the up-and-coming talent of tomorrow. Entrants in this category may only just be starting out, but they have the capability, commitment and vision to become our future leaders. 

Also recognised as winners of the 2020 Telstra Victorian Business Women’s Awards were: 

  • Small Business Award: Hannah Spilva, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, LVLY, an online flower gifting company. This all-female team has grown significantly since 2015 and gives back by supporting community initiatives. 
  • Medium & Large Business Award: Leanne Healey, Founder and Director, Everyday Independence. Occupational therapist Leanne Healey founded Everyday Independence in 1997, aiming to help people with disabilities live everyday lives. 
  • Public Sector & Academia Award: Professor Belinda Tynan, Deputy Vice-Chancellor Education and Vice-President, RMIT University. Professor Tynan leads a team responsible for implementing strategies that impact more than 90,000 students. Throughout her career she has advanced the application of educational technologies and distance education, with initiatives including RMIT Online and RMIT’s Digital Credentials program.  
  • For Purpose & Social Enterprise Award: Kate Fazio, Head of Innovation and Engagement, Justice Connect. Through her work at Justice Connect, Ms Fazio has been pivotal to designing and implementing radically new and successful approaches to better connect individuals and community organisations with free legal services and a network of 10,000 pro bono lawyers. 

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ACT 

Heidi Prowse, Chief Executive Officer at Mental Illness Education ACT (MIEACT), is the 2020 Telstra Australian Capital Territory Business Woman of the Year. 

Ms Prowse has transformed MIEACT since joining the organisation two years ago. She has developed and implemented a new website and database management system; co-designed program development, volunteer engagement and evaluation frameworks; and significantly increased the organisation’s capacity to reach a greater audience. 

Ms Prowse also received the For Purpose and Social Enterprise Award, which celebrates leaders and employees of organisations making a positive difference to the world around them, from social missions to environmental change. This award recognises Ms Prowse’s work to commercialise programs to drive revenue, and using this to subsidise other not-for-profit programs. She thinks disruptively, but backs all her decisions with concept testing, data and insights. 

Also recognised as winners of the 2020 Telstra ACT Business Women’s Awards were: 

  • Small Business Award: Rhiannon Beach, Owner and Managing Director, Pups4Fun. Ms Beach’s unique approach to pet care is driven by investing in people and collaboration. Her dog daycare business, Pups4Fun, has grown from caring for a few pups per day to more than 400 dogs per week. 
  • Medium & Large Business Award: Hannah Gill, Managing Director, Independent Property Management. Ms Gill is a highly regarded professional and advocate for the property industry. She joined Independent at age 21 and rose to the position of Managing Director. 
  • Public Sector & Academia Award: Bree Hills, School Principal, Canberra Christian School. Ms Hills is making a positive impact through education and is influencing and shaping the lives of tomorrow’s leaders. Through hard work, passion and a belief that education is the most powerful tool, she has transformed Canberra Christian School into a diverse, nurturing and inspiring place of education. 
  • Emerging Leader Award: Samantha Truscott, Founding Partner, Allegro Education. This early intervention service provider uses music to help children with disabilities. Ms Truscott’s work aims to dispel the myth that children with disabilities are less capable than typically developing children. 

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South Australia 

Kerrie Campbell, Chief Information Officer at Flinders University, is the 2020 Telstra South Australian Business Woman of the Year. 

Responsible for all IT systems and passionate about staff culture and development, Ms Campbell’s mission is to connect all departments within the university to IT systems that streamline processes and procedures. 

Ms Campbell also won the Public Sector and Academia Award, which recognises women who’ve dedicated themselves to making an impact in education or the public service. We commend Kerrie for her passionate approach to driving transformation. She is a courageous, focused leader, and has the ability to complement her drive with a keen eye for innovation and balanced risk-taking. 

Also recognised as winners of the 2020 Telstra South Australian Business Women’s Awards were: 

  • Small Business Award: Mellissa Larkin, Founder and Managing Director, Peripheral Blue. In founding Peripheral Blue in 2016, Ms Larkin’s vision was of a legal and consulting firm with a difference. She has embraced innovation, providing a dynamic new style of legal services to benefit her clients and team. 
  • Medium and Large Business Award: Gabrielle Iwanow, General Manager Prominent Hill, OZ Minerals. Ms Iwanow is responsible for mining, processing and associated infrastructure and brings extensive experience from across the globe to her role. 
  • Emerging Leader Award: Rebecca Clare, Operations Manager and Co-Owner, PhysioWest, an Adelaide healthcare and wellbeing service. She has a vision to make a lasting impact in the healthcare industry and create better health outcomes for all. 
  • For Purpose & Social Enterprise Award: Liz Cohen, Chief Executive, Cara. In this role Ms Cohen aims to provide high quality, value for money services for people with disabilities. 

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Tasmania 

Margaret Williams, CEO of St Helen residential care facility Medea Park, is the 2020 Telstra Tasmanian Business Woman of the Year. 

Ms Williams began her nursing career at age 18, finding her passion in the aged care industry and dedicating her time to caring for community members. As CEO of Medea Park, Ms Williams is responsible for the management and maintenance of care for more than 50 residents. 

Ms Williams also won the For Purpose & Social Enterprise Award, which celebrates leaders and employees of organisations making a positive difference to the world around them. Ms Williams has made a huge impact, delivering positive outcomes and creating an exciting future for Medea Park, its employees and residents. Her strategic, considered approach to business is balanced with her passion and empathy for her community. 

Also recognised as winners of the 2020 Telstra Tasmanian Business Women’s Awards were: 

  • Small Business Award: Alison Flakemore, Director, Alison’s Garden and Landscape. Ms Flakemore has led her team to assist the Hobart community Tasmania with all of their garden, landscaping and excavation needs. 
  • Medium & Large Business Award: Lisa McConnon, General Manager, Corporate Services, Enwave Australia. With more than 20 years’ managerial experience, Ms McConnon oversees all HR, IT and marketing functions, helping shape the utility company’s culture and strategy. 
  • Public Sector & Academia Award: Catherine Murdoch, Executive Director Northern Cities, Tasmanian Office of the Coordinator-General. Ms Murdoch leads initiatives that aim to establish Launceston as Australia’s leading regional city. 
  • Emerging Leader Award: Rachel Vasicek, Creative Director, Francesca. Ms Vasicek founded Francesca with her sister in 2013, selling jewellery at Salamanca Market, and has since driven the business’ digital marketing, design and operations as it has expanded across Australia. 

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Northern Territory 

Bec Hammet, General Manager of SH Build, is the 2020 Telstra Northern Territory Business Woman of the Year. 

With a commitment to safety and quality at the heart of her business, Ms Hammet travels to remote building sites to undertake audits, complete safety meetings and support her supervisors. She oversees all day-to-day operations, managing budgets, developing strategic plans, meeting potential clients, and creating opportunities to improve the business. 

Ms Hammet also won the Medium and Large Business Award, which recognises high-achieving and ambitious individuals who define the direction of their business in everything they do, no matter their job title. We commend Ms Hammet for her strong leadership skills and business acumen. She is articulate, resilient and consistent, and has created a highly structured business with impressive cash flow that also gives back to the community. 

Also recognised as winners of this year’s 2020 Telstra Northern Territory Business Women’s Awards were: 

  • Small Business Award: Glenys Tarrant, Business Administrator, Micronised Mineral Solutions. Ms Tarrant co-founded a small engineering company that evolved into Micronised Mineral Solutions. The business helps manage and repair the environmental effects caused by the mining and industrial sectors. 
  • Emerging Leader Award: Emma Kelly, Community Development Program Manager, Arnhem Land Progress Aboriginal Corporation. In this role Ms Kelly helps support Indigenous Australians make self-determined choices about their future. 
  • Public Sector & Academia Award: Anne Walters, Chief Plant Health Officer, Northern Territory Government. Ms Walters is responsible for the strategic direction of plant biosecurity in the Northern Territory and works nationally to drive reform and improvements to the plant biosecurity system. 
  • For Purpose & Social Enterprise Award: Leeanne Caton, Chief Executive Officer, Yilli Rreung Housing Aboriginal Corporation, an Indigenous housing group that services more than 200 properties in the Darwin area. 

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Western Australia 

Jodi Cant has been named the 2020 Telstra Western Australian Business Woman of the Year. 

As the Director General at the Department of Finance, Ms Cant leads more than 1000 staff in her role that oversees the state’s finances. Ms Cant believes a progressive workplace is the key to her leadership approach and she has led her department through several innovation initiatives.

Ms Cant also won the Public Sector and Academia Award, which recognises women who’ve dedicated themselves to making an impact in education or the public service. She has demonstrated insightfulness and maturity, while leading projects that have national and international impact, and emphasises the importance of listening as a leader. 

Also recognised as winners of the 2020 Telstra Western Australian Business Women’s Awards were: 

  • Small Business Award: Adjunct Professor Tracy Westerman, Managing Director, Indigenous Psychological Services. Adjunct Professor Tracy Westerman founded Indigenous Psychological Services in 1998 to address the significant gaps in treatment and intervention into suicide and mental health in Aboriginal populations. 
  • Medium and Large Business Award: Selina Torrance, Executive General Manager, HBF, the largest not-for-profit private health insurer in Western Australia. She oversees all touchpoints with HBF’s member base, from branches to call centres and marketing communications. 
  • Emerging Leader Award: Jordan Foster, Founder, ySafe. A young founder with an all-female executive team, Ms Foster is an expert in the field of cyber safety and a specialist in the treatment of gaming addiction in Australia. 
  • For Purpose & Social Enterprise Award: Kim Marie Smith, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Standing Strong International. Ms Smith has made it her mission to help children build strong minds, strong bodies and strong hearts. She is passionate about being able to build a support network for children and families. 

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Entering a new era for the TBWAs 

We are now in a new era, setting new benchmarks for what it means to be a successful business person, championing inclusion and innovation along the way. 

This is a testing time for us all as we grapple with new ways of working, disruptions to our daily lives and supply chains, and the task of changing the way we do business in a post-pandemic world. The dedication and wherewithal these women have shown has been nothing short of inspiring. 

We’ll be sharing more soon from a unique year of the Telstra Business Women’s Awards, including advice and stories from our winners on how they’ve pivoted their approach to leadership and business in response to the COVID-19 crisis.