Congratulations to our 2023 Winners and Finalists

These passionate, driven women are impacting change for the benefit of Queenslanders in a wide range of areas from:

  • co-creating and delivering a community-led sleep health program synergising traditional knowledge and sleep science to educate and support people in Indigenous communities improve their sleep health and overall wellbeing whilst also opening up new employment pathways for people in these communities to become sleep coaches;
  • leveraging AI to protect communities from air pollution;
  • combining big data with cutting edge innovations to rescue species and protect our reefs and oceans from climate change;
  • igniting the curiosity of young minds in regional Queensland through real-world, innovative STEM education initiatives and immersive learning experiences;
  • using digital solutions to empower millions of Australians with actionable insights they can apply to enhance their brain health to contribute to changing societal perceptions and attitudes around mental health and the importance of wellbeing on a large-scale;
  • protecting the data of millions of Australians and safeguarding businesses from threats to cyber-security;
  • creating local innovations hubs and community networks to support and empower change-makers from all walks of life to bring their ideas & ventures to life;
  • contributing to world peace by employing state-of-the-art technology for nuclear safeguarding.


The outstanding contributions these passionate women make to their workplace, industry and wider community is also having a knock on effect to lift up and inspire their peers and the next generation of young minds – particularly women, girls and underrepresented groups within our society – to be the change and unlock the potential of STEM and create their own ripple effects towards a more equitable and thriving future for people and our planet.

2023 Public Sector Excellence Award - Finalists

23WINNER_Cynthia Cliff

Dr Cynthia Cliff

Growing up in rural Western Australia with limited access to essential services such as health care, gave Dr Cynthia Cliff the appreciation for the need for technology and social change. Growing up in an all-girl “girls-can-do-anything” farming family at a time when government policy actively discriminated against farmers without a son empowered her with the belief that anything was possible.

Dr Cliff’s passion and curiosity in how innovation, technology and social change can play in minimising environmental impact whilst empowering regional development and economic transformation has been the driving force in the design, development and delivery of more than 575 successful projects totalling approximately $350 million over the last 30 years.

Dr Cliff has worked with many industry sectors including agricultural processing and a range of technologies widely used in the agriculture sector including remote sensing and laser technology, mining, engineering, marine technology, space sciences and health to deliver outputs that include a seminal Profile of Science & Technology in Queensland, and the establishment of what is now the Spark Lab (Queensland Museum’s interactive STEM space for 6 – 13 year old’s).

Dr Cliff also derives immense satisfaction from the breadth of significant innovative health solutions successfully realised throughout her career through strategic collaboration with health, creative industries, information technology, science, engineering and business researchers to address government, industry and community challenges. She’s mentored and supervised PhD students studying what sparks innovation in rural health service management to improve the provision of outreach allied health services to rural and remote communities, and help realise the potential for co-created online patient communities to improve health outcomes for people with diabetes.

Enduring legacies including a passion for STEM, respect for Indigenous knowledges, and a desire to tread lightly on the earth, have fuelled a wild and wonderful ride – a boundary-spanning, barrier-breaking career at the interface of technology and social change. Dr Cliff hopes that her story will inspire others to love learning, embrace change, and nurture the future generations of Women in Technology.


Carole Licht

Carol has been recognised for her excellence in leadership and outstanding commitment to utilising her strengths and leveraging her project management and technical expertise in service of the Sunshine Coast community.

Throughout her career, Carol has led teams at Sunshine Coast Council to architect and deliver a variety of technical projects and technological innovations that have enhanced the way the Sunshine Coast Council interacts with residents, visitors and businesses across the region. One of these projects was the Sunshine Coast Council Roads Hub, a website leveraging multiple datasets to provide real time traffic updates on all road works, road closures, emergency events and interruptions to traffic in the region – enabling thousands of people each day to plan their routes and get around the region more seamlessly.

Carol was awarded the WIT Technical Woman of the year award in 2001, and is a firm believer in the power of recognizing your own accomplishments to give others permission and encouragement to recognize theirs.

PublicSector23_Rosie Atwell

Rosie Attwell

Rosie Atwell is being recognised for the global impact of her work in robotics and leading teams to build cutting-edge solutions for nuclear safeguards, space, humanitarian and wildfire research.

Her current project at CSIRO plays a pivotal role in contributing to world peace by employing state-of-the-art technology for nuclear safeguarding.

Rosie is also being recognised for her ongoing contributions to driving cultural change and improving the representation of female scientists and engineers at CSIRO through her commitment to fostering a safe working environment and taking an innovative, data-driven approach towards devising, evaluating and refining solutions or initiatives that create meaningful, long-term changes across the employee lifecycle.

Rosie loves working in the bush and collaborating with ambitious female colleagues who also aspire to break glass ceilings and make a difference. Her vision is to empower and encourage more women in STEM to strive for and embrace leadership roles – bringing their unique perspectives and contributing to the development of innovative ideas and improved solutions.

2023 Inspiring Excellence in Research & Education Award - Finalists


Dr Ekta Sharma

Dr Ekta Sharma is being recognised for work on leveraging fair, inclusive AI systems to protect our communities against air pollution.

Through her AI-Clean air project, Dr Sharma develops novel artificial intelligence (AI) architecture for effective early warning for the environment using next-generation satellites. This innovation has the potential to minimise the critical effects that extreme air pollution episodes have on the community, including lowering the risk of chronic respiratory illnesses, and in turn, reducing the burden on our healthcare system.

Dr Sharma is being recognised for the ripple effects of leveraging her extensive network – both locally and worldwide – to share her journey of resilience in the face of adversities to inspire others, to extend her advocacy and influence to encourage more girls and women from all walks of life to engage in STEMM, as well as open up or create new pathways and opportunities for women to participate in research or advance into leadership opportunities.

Dr Ekta Sharma is a Vice-Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Research Fellow for Women in STEMM at the University of Southern Queensland and the Office of National Intelligence.


Dr Jessica Korte

Dr Jessica Korte is being recognised for her impact on ensuring new technologies embody a true understanding of user needs, abilities and culture – especially groups of people within our communities who are typically excluded or marginalised.

She is currently leading an assistive technology project that has the potential to empower Deaf people with greater independence and enhance their wellbeing in a majority hearing world.
Dr Korte is developing an Auslan-capable personal assistant that has been co-designed by a diverse team of technical experts and native signers, an advisory panel of Deaf people, and student researchers. Together they are tackling technical, ethical and cultural issues to develop cutting-edge machine learning models that have been trained on ethically sourced data to recognise Auslan smart home commands.

She also founded and leads “Pushing the Boundaries of Participatory Design”, an international, majority-female collaboration of technology co-design researchers from Australia, USA and Europe, focused on expanding best practice to support greater inclusion of typically excluded user groups in the design of technology solutions, with a particular focus on children.

A researcher, lecturer and course coordinator at The University of Queensland, Dr Korte is also being recognised for her impact as a thought-leader, educator, mentor and role model who inspires the next generation of leaders and technologists to embed ethical thinking in their solutions and embrace equity and diversity in all they do.


Wonder of Science Team

The Wonder of Science team have been recognised for their invaluable impact their program has had on igniting curiosity and passion for STEM through the delivery of engaging and innovative real-world STEM learning initiatives for students across Queensland in years 4-9 and empowering teachers to enact change within their schools.

Since Wonder of Science launched in 2012, the program has reached more than 95,000 people across Queensland – including students, teachers, parents and members from across the community.

The all-female team Dr Kaylene Cooper, Alexandra McKelvey and Lenore Irvine inspire excellence in STEM education by co-ordinating more than 140 young science ambassadors – PhD students in various STEM disciplines – to visit participating schools across Queensland and support students to undertake a term-long, curriculum aligned research project and then present their findings at a conference in their region as part of the Challenge Task initiative. Regional winners then present their findings at a State-wide conference held in Brisbane.

The team are passionate about fostering a STEM culture and recognize the pivotal role that teachers play in shaping students’ STEM education. The team work closely with teachers to develop and refine innovative, engaging and practical curriculum aligned resources for their students, ensuring teachers are equipped with the tools and resources needed to empowering their students to engage and thrive in the challenging nature of STEM in an exciting and engaging environment. Throughout the term teachers from participating schools receive ongoing guidance and support from the team, including specialised professional development opportunities to support and enhance their own learning and growth.

The Wonder of Science team are also finalists in The Raising the Regions and Lifting Communities categories at the 2023 WiT Awards.

2023 Excellence in Industry Leadership Award - Finalists


Sharon Hunneybell

Sharon Hunneybell is being recognised for the impact of her work to nurture and grow the Gold Coast startup community, encouraging youth and women to more actively participate in technology as well as being a thought leader in fostering excellence in technology and entrepreneurship.

When Sharon moved to the Gold Coast in 2009 as a technology professional, she was taken aback by the inactive state and lack of connectivity in the city’s technology sector. This realisation ignited a deep calling within her to drive the growth of this important economic pillar for the city.

Driven by a passion for innovation and nurturing the entrepreneurial spirit, she co-created Australia’s first in-school technology accelerator on the Gold Coast in 2013.

During this time, she also embarked on her own entrepreneurial journey, joining an early-stage technology startup in a key leadership role and scaling the business into 130 countries worldwide. This experience became the driver behind a new initiative: co-founding The Gold Coast Innovation Hub.

Since launching in 2018, Sharon has built over 60 partnerships with various stakeholders, enabling access to resources, expertise, and funding for technology businesses. This has supported more than 10,000 digital and technology business founders in the city to grow their vision, capability and global footprint. Through the power of STEM, they have revolutionised industries, optimised operations, and increased productivity.

She has been recognised by the Australian Financial Review as one of Australia’s 100 Women of Influence, and in 2020 was invited to join the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet’s Digital Technology Taskforce which led to the development of the Digital Economy Strategy.

Sharon is passionate about continually sharing her knowledge and observations to drive better future outcomes by contributing to advisory boards and committees such as the Gold Coast Angels, Google Women Techmakers and her recent appointment as an Adjunct Industry Fellow for Griffith University’s Inclusive Futures Initiative.

In addition to her role as CEO at Gold Coast Innovation Hub, Sharon volunteers her time to engage in speaking engagements and play an instrumental role in developing workshops and mentoring programs in high schools and universities throughout the Gold Coast.

By inspiring and empowering individuals on both local and global scales, Sharon believes we can shape a future where creativity thrives, challenges are embraced, and transformative ideas reshape the world.


Fiona Holmstrom

Fiona Holmstrom is an award-winning business leader and co-founder of STEM Punks who is being recognised for her outstanding leadership contributions to enable greater equity in education by giving thousands of children across Queensland and world-wide access to contemporary, real-world STEM education that embeds a mindset of Innovation, Creativity, and Entrepreneurship and opens up their futures to careers they never imagined possible.

Attracting more girls and women to fearlessly pursue STEM careers is Fiona’s ultimate goal.

By actively engaging and working with local councils, industry bodies, member associations, and regional development authorities and using her networks of government, industry, universities and schools, Fiona played an instrumental role in supporting STEM Punks to pivot to a funding model where industry partners funded the delivery of STEM Punks’ innovative, curriculum-aligned and industry-linked contemporary programs into more schools across Queensland.

Fiona also led the team to form partnerships with global giant Deloitte and UNESCO which have enabled STEM Punks to reach a wider network of young minds globally.

STEM Punks’ hybrid model with immersive online classes, school incursions, and teacher Professional Development supports broad engagement giving students and teachers in remote and lower socio-economic areas equal opportunity for participation enabling equity in education.


Sarah-Jane Peterschlingmann

Sarah-Jane Peterschlingmann is an award-winning female tech leader and start-up founder being recognised for the impact of the everyday ripple effects she creates as an innovator, disruptor, business leader, mentor and role model whose approach to wholehearted leadership has inspired many individuals and businesses to think differently about what is possible.

Starting as a web developer, over the past 16 years Sarah-Jane helped to grow ATech from humble beginnings to multi-million-dollar revenues with a vision that web technology and cloud hosting was the way of the future.

Through carving out a niche strategy of ‘mission critical’ services, Sarah-Jane has demonstrated that by choosing to innovate and do things differently, it is possible for a female owned and led, Brisbane based company to compete with global giants like Amazon, Microsoft and Google. Now, every Australian relies on ATech even though they don’t know it. Their systems ensure the safety of over 11% of the world’s airspace, and hold sensitive data records for millions of Australians. Their systems are so critical that they are covered by the Security of Critical Infrastructure Act 2018.

Sarah-Jane understands the critical importance of role models and access to professional development and volunteers her time to mentor and speak at events career to inspire girls and women from all walks of life to ignite their curiosity in tech innovation and unleash their unique power for positive impact in the world.

As a business leader, she is also dedicated to proactively supporting women and young people to gain work experience and help open up pathways for a career in STEM through the delivery of internships and job roles for women trying to break into the tech industry as well as establishing the ATech Sunshine Women in Business Program with support from the Queensland Government.

2023 Future Focused Business Achiever Award - Finalists


Dr Jeni Wellington

Dr Jeni Wellington is being recognised for her future-focused, large-scale, innovative approach to tackling Australia’s healthcare crisis which has the potential to impact the lives of millions of Australians.

Dr Jeni Wellington never set out to be a software company owner or to build a business. She was a doctor who saw a critical problem that couldn’t be fixed by simply filling the seats in her consultation room. With less than 50,000 specialists and more 11.8 million people in Australia living with chronic diseases, a 12% increase in the last 7 years alone, Dr Wellington could see no feasible way to support the vast amounts of people in the community struggling with one of the biggest burdens on the Australian healthcare system.

Dr Wellington designed Annuo with the vision of it being a digital healthcare platform for doctors, patients and allied health professionals that would ensure truly collaborative care. By providing a mechanism that allows healthcare providers to easily share information and create effective treatment plans that a person can access at any time, Annuo will ensure better management of chronic conditions.

Additionally, the efficiency savings offered by Annuo have the potential impact to eliminate more than $3 billion p.a. of unbudgeted costs to the health system. This means that health care budgets focus on investing more resources into services and initiatives that enable more people who are falling through the current gaps to get access to the care they need.

Annuo provides an avenue to addressing the care gaps that currently exist for Queenslanders in regional and rural areas. By creating digital networks, Annuo aims to connect rural clinicians to a larger ecosystem of healthcare providers, and help to bridge the current workforce gaps that exist in rural and regional Queensland. It will also provide vital support to in-person services, allowing people living in remote areas to stay in contact with specialists, reduce their need for travel to receive support and stay engaged with their treatment plan.


The Akkodis Future Tech Talent Program

The Akkodis Future Tech Talent Program is being recognised for its future-focused approach to bridging the Tech industries gender gap in tech by addressing the tech skill shortage in Australia and supporting the underutilized female workforce.

Led by Gemma Marshall, Head of Tech Talent Programs, the Akkodis team has been instrumental developing new and emerging female talent, as well as upskilling career shifters to diversifying tech across Australia since the start of 2023. The creation of a nation-wide Future Tech Talent Program builds on the initial success of a female-only upskilling program that Akkodis delivered in South Australia in-conjunction with Microsoft.

The program provides upskilling work placements for women in underutilized workforces such as Indigenous communities, Neurodiverse Talent, Veterans & First Responders. The Akkodis Team journey alongside participants for the 12 months of their transition into the tech workforce and provide support through coaching, mentoring and tailored learning experiences via the Microsoft and AWS accredited Akkodis Tech Academy. They also host regular events where women on the program can come together to share their experiences, learn from each other and feel a sense of belonging.

The Akkodis team aspire to contribute to shaping large-scale industry change to bridge the gender, equity and skills gap Australia’s Technology and STEM industries are facing. They are constantly trying new ways to encourage more start-ups, businesses and large organizations to embrace the program as well as plant the seeds for positive workplace culture change and inspire leaders to not to only concentrate on what their workforce gender mix is now, concentrate on how it could look in 3-5 years if they started investing in female talent now, growing their female future leaders and moulding their diverse workforce.


Helena Austin

Helena Austin is being as recognised for impact on empowering Gold Coast women to excel and make a significant impact in the tech sector.

Through her work as a tech founder and her active involvement with Gold Coast Ladies in Tech (which she co-founded), Helena is leading the way to inspire other women (particularly younger women) to pursue careers in technology by highlighting the importance of diversity and inclusion in the tech sector and fostering a supportive community for women in the field.

Helena embodies an innovation mindset by harnessing the power of emerging technologies to devise new solutions that deliver value, drive progress and meet unmet needs. This mindset underpins the creation of her two tech-based businesses (NuVo Accounts and RelyHQ) and led her to co-found the Gold Coast Ladies in Tech community.

Through Gold Coast Ladies in Tech, Helena connects aspiring technologists with seasoned professionals, creating opportunities for mentorship, career advice, and skill-building. The community comes together via monthly events which provide a supportive forum for community members to share their knowledge and experiences to inspire and empower each other to overcome the unique challenges they face.

Marissa Shipley

Marissa Shipley

Marissa Shipley is being recognised for her impact as a leader in Emerging Technologies and using her influence and global network to be evangelist for women in STEM.

Marissa is the CEO and Founding Partner of two businesses – CERPASS and CompliantERP who are at the forefront of harnessing the potential of emerging technologies to help businesses transform their operations, reduce risk and keep people’s data safe froms cyber security threats.

Underpinning her passion for addressing gender bias in STEM, is a future-focus that Marissa cannot ignore. By 2027 the STEM skills shortage will top 1.2 million. Marissa sees a powerful generation of women to address this skills gap.

Leveraging her partnership with SAP, Marissa influences the narrative to re-shape perceptions of Women in STEM to a global audience through her active involvement on initiatives such as the SAP Global Diversity program, the SAP Sprint Program as well presenting at SAP conferences, webinars and events.

Marissa Shipley joined the Australian Computer Society (ACS) as a board member to encourage girls to pursue STEM careers. Through ACS, Marissa mentors young women and recently addressed an ACS leadership conference. She’s also a mentor on the Australian Academy of Science STEM Women Program and in QUT’s STEM Mentoring Programs. She is actively involved in the Girls in IT Schools Program and presented at their 2023 International Women’s Day event.

Through her businesses, she sponsored the Queensland and Torres Strait Islander Foundation, providing educational scholarships for First Nations scholars.

2023 Emerging Tech Star Award - Finalists


Dr Kate Quigley

Dr Kate Quigley is being recognised for her impact on pioneering cutting-edge innovations to protect oceans from the critical effects of climate change and her contributions to addressing STEM’s leaky pipeline that leads to women leaving the industry.

The ripple effects of Dr Quigley’s work is being felt by the people, local communities and industries whose wellbeing, cultural connections and livelihood depends on healthy oceans to thrive.

She represents a new wave of conversation scientists and ecologists using big data and innovation to rescue species and fuel demand for data-driven insights to get marine conservation priorities on the agenda for protection of Australia’s unique marine environment.

A scientist at James Cook University and Minderoo Foundation, Dr Quigley is a thought leader in reef conservation and works at the interface of ecology and genetics to translate data for proactive conservation decision-making to protect coral reefs under increasingly uncertain future conditions. Her work has the potential to optimize marine protected management by using novel technologies and AI image classification pipelines to find resilient reefs and restore vulnerable locations.

Alongside her work in science and innovation, Kate is passionate about gender equity and is proactively working to dismantle the obstacles that lead to the “leaky pipeline” that lead to the loss of women in science and hold back women from greater science leadership.

She is currently leading a national Agreement to support greater collaboration and investment in creating inclusive, family friendly marine research stations so field researchers with families don’t have to choose between their research or caregiving commitments. She is also leading the way to secure childcare services at upcoming conferences to enable more female researchers with children the opportunity to attend to present their research and connect or collaborate with the peers.


Dr Ezgi Kaya

Dr Ezgi Kaya is being recognised for her impact as a role model to her peers and aspiring female engineers through her contributions towards enhancing and re-shaping perceptions around sustainability within the mining and metals equipment industry.

It was Ezgi’s childhood dream to become a structural engineer. Fast forward to 2023 and she’s leading a team of engineers and designers at Hatch to design the world’s largest nickel furnace (the source for lithium batteries) and overcome the challenges of moving a furnace structure under extreme thermal loading conditions.

Passionate about sustainability, Ezgi consistently challenges her clients to adopt sustainable practices and low carbon targets on their projects. She is also leading a green concrete initiative at Hatch across Australia and Asia as well as co-leading climate change mandatory training for workers initiative and investment in technologies and IP partnership for climate change business practise initiative.

As a female engineer within the traditionally male dominated mining and metals equipment industry, Ezgi is trying to build an inspirational example of the new generation of technical female leaders who will be critical to solving the complex challenges of transition to new energy sources. In addition to participating mentoring programs and leading initiatives across Hatch that promote knowledge sharing, foster collaboration and connect early career engineers with senior leaders, Ezgi regularly volunteers her time doing public speaking or participating in STEM outreach events through The University of Queensland that inspire more girls and women to engage in STEM.

2023 Lifting Communities Award - Finalists


Professor Selena Bartlett

Professor Selena Bartlett is being recognised for her transformative research that has revolutionised our understanding of brain health and the profound impact of her work on empowering millions of people in communities across Australia to take control of their brain health and prioritise their well being.

Professor Bartlett’s vision is to make brain health everyone’s business and a high priority for individuals, organisations and governments alike.

Through podcasts, film, lectures, workshops, programs and multi-agency collaborations Professor Bartlett has shared her expertise to educate government organisations, universities, schools, and various institutions on the critical role of brain health in fostering resilience, happiness, and overall wellbeing. She founded the Thriving Schools programs which embrace change and learning opportunities to advance the skills and careers of students and teachers across Australia by integrating brain health education into the curriculum.

Professor Bartlett is deeply committed to supporting and guiding individuals in their journey towards better brain health. She achieves this by translating the science of brain health and neuroplasticity into widely accessible practical tools and actionable insights. She shares her expertise and digital solutions for brain health via her Thriving Mind Podcast, YouTube channel, Instagram as well as through her contributions to documentaries, films, podcasts, radio interviews and media publications. These transformational activities have empowered Professor Bartlett to reach millions of people from communities across Australia and connect with individuals who may not have otherwise been exposed to the importance of brain health.

By combining the power of technology and neuroscience, Professor Bartlett is driving a shift in how we approach mental fitness and embrace preventative measures – empowering individuals and communities to enhance brain health, cultivate resilience and prioritise wellbeing.

Professor Selena Bartlett is a QUT Professor of neuroscience and a research leader at The Translational Research Institute in Brisbane.


Christine Mudavanhu

Christine Mudavanhu is being recognised for her impact on socially and economically empowering women of colour by fostering collaborative partnerships, embracing tech innovation and leveraging digital platforms to promote gender equity and social governance across Queensland’s private sector, academia, government and STEM fields.
Christina is passionate about raising and amplifying the voices of women in particular women of colour. She knows first-hand that migrant women don’t need a hand out to succeed, they need fair and equitable opportunities that truly embrace their diversity.

As the Founding Partner of Utano Global a Diversity, Equity and Incision (DEI) consulting company, Christine embraces innovation by integrating virtual reality (VR) in her leadership and training workshops to foster empathy and openness among leaders and managers to engage them in complex conversations around DEI in a safe and supportive learning environment. Christine also used gamification as a tool for creating empathy and vulnerability with leaders and creating a safe environment to have difficult conversations. By using immersive VR experiences as a cornerstone of her workshops, Christina offers leaders the opportunity to ‘walk in the shoes’ of marginalised and unrepresented groups including women of colour, a group significantly underrepresented in leadership positions.

As the Founding Partner and key advisor for Migrant Women in Business (MWIB) – Christine has developed a culturally sensitive small business program which has been backed by the Queensland Government and the Scanlon Foundation – Christine is empowering and inspiring migrant and refugee women to develop the skills and community network needed to start their own business. Through this program, Christine has joined forces at a national level with Luz Restrepo (VIC) and Corrine Kemp (NSW) to create the national network Migrant Women in Business, which is a business networking platform with two commercial arms that has been developed to harnesses the power of e-commerce and social media to sell products and services and build the community through events which allow the women to share success stories and unleash commercial opportunities for migrant women in business.

Christine recently supported the launch of Mushauri, a STEM mentorship program which was founded by Dr Maggy Lord and Dr Ester Onyango for students from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) backgrounds to expand opportunities for girls interested in STEM. In less than three months more than 400 students from five schools have benefited. This initiative was supported through the African Professionals of Australia Association of which Christine sits on the national board. Christine currently serves as a key strategic advisor for Mushauri and has been working with the two founders on how to expand this opportunity.

As the host of the ‘Sisters in Colour’ podcast, Christine uses this platform to celebrate the successes and achievements of women of colour and to change the face of leadership. Multicultural Women from all walks of life come onto this platform and share their journey to leadership, career and business development. The intention is to help change the narrative for the girl child who looks up to female role models for guidance and inspiration of what the face of leadership looks like. Representation matters, you can’t be what you don’t see.


Wonder of Science Team

The Wonder of Science team have been recognised for their invaluable impact their program has had on igniting curiosity and passion for STEM through the delivery of engaging and innovative real-world STEM learning initiatives for students across Queensland in years 4-9 and empowering teachers to enact change within their schools.

Since Wonder of Science launched in 2012, the program has reached more than 95,000 people across Queensland – including students, teachers, parents and members from across the community. In 2022, 74% of schools participating in Wonder of Science program were schools from rural and regional communities across Queensland.

The all-female team Dr Kaylene Cooper, Alexandra McKelvey and Lenore Irvine inspire excellence in STEM education by co-ordinating more than 140 young science ambassadors – PhD students in various STEM disciplines – to visit participating schools across Queensland and support students to undertake a term-long, curriculum aligned research project and then present their findings at a conference in their region as part of the Challenge Task initiative. Regional winners then present their findings at a State-wide conference held in Brisbane.

The team are passionate about fostering a STEM culture and recognize the pivotal role that teachers play in shaping students’ STEM education. The team work closely with teachers to develop and refine innovative, engaging and practical curriculum aligned resources for their students, ensuring teachers are equipped with the tools and resources needed to empowering their students to engage and thrive in the challenging nature of STEM in an exciting and engaging environment. Throughout the term teachers from participating schools receive ongoing guidance and support from the team, including specialised professional development opportunities to support and enhance their own learning and growth.

The Wonder of Science team are also finalists in the Inspiring Excellence in Education and Research and Raising the Regions categories at the 2023 WiT Awards.

2023 Raising the Regions Award - Finalists


Wonder of Science team

The Wonder of Science team have been recognised for their invaluable impact their program has had on igniting curiosity and passion for STEM through the delivery of engaging and innovative real-world STEM learning initiatives for students across Queensland in years 4-9 and empowering teachers to enact change within their schools.

Since Wonder of Science launched in 2012, the program has reached more than 95,000 people across Queensland – including students, teachers, parents and members from across the community.In 2022, 74% of schools participating in Wonder of Science program were schools from rural and regional communities across Queensland.

The all-female team Dr Kaylene Cooper, Alexandra McKelvey and Lenore Irvine inspire excellence in STEM education by co-ordinating more than 140 young science ambassadors – PhD students in various STEM disciplines – to visit participating schools across Queensland and support students to undertake a term-long, curriculum aligned research project and then present their findings at a conference in their region as part of the Challenge Task initiative. Regional winners then present their findings at a State-wide conference held in Brisbane.

The team are passionate about fostering a STEM culture and recognize the pivotal role that teachers play in shaping students’ STEM education. The team work closely with teachers to develop and refine innovative, engaging and practical curriculum aligned resources for their students, ensuring teachers are equipped with the tools and resources needed to empowering their students to engage and thrive in the challenging nature of STEM in an exciting and engaging environment. Throughout the term teachers from participating schools receive ongoing guidance and support from the team, including specialised professional development opportunities to support and enhance their own learning and growth.

The Wonder of Science team are also finalists in Lifting Communities and Inspiring Excellence in Education and Research Award categories at the 2023 WiT Awards.


Louise Nicholas

Louise Nicholas is being recognised for the impact that her work, advocacy and volunteer efforts is having on helping Queensland ‘grow its own’ agtech experts.

She is a teacher, industry thought-leader and community ambassador who is passionate about the power of agricultural education and the incredible impact it can have on students’ lives. Louise leverages the networks she’s built within education, the Agriculture industry and the local community to create a collaborative environment where knowledge, resources, and experiences can be shared to embrace innovation, strengthen the community and foster a collective effort to support agriculture education and workforce development.

As an Agricultural Science Teacher at Home Hill State High School in Townsville, she is committed to building strong school-to-industry links by fostering collaborations with industry professionals, local farmers, and community organisations to bring real-world experiences into the classroom and create valuable learning opportunities through work placements, mentorship opportunities and industry connections to expand the reach and impact of agricultural education beyond the classroom.

Louise played a pivotal role in the development of the region’s ‘Holiday Harvest Program,’ connecting students with local producers and businesses to gain real-world work experience during their school holidays – inspiring new opportunities and pathways for young people to pursue a career in Agriculture and for the local industry to attract and nurture skilled talent.

She also actively mentors and shares her knowledge and expertise with other teachers in the region and across Queensland through her involvement with the Queensland Agricultural Science Teachers Association (QATA), National Association of Agricultural Educators and initiatives such as the Agribusiness Gateway Industry Schools Program – all with the aim of opening more doors for more students to receive cutting edge education in Agriculture that prepares them for a thriving future in the industry.


STEM Punks team

The STEM Punks Team, led by co-Founder Fiona Holmstrom, are being recognised for their impact on inspiring young minds in regional Queensland to become the innovators of tomorrow and their contributions in promoting equity and equality in STEM Education.

Fiona Holmstrom believes that STEM education should be for everyone, particularly children in regional and remote areas. By leading the team to form key partnerships with government and industry, Fiona played a pivotal role on empowering the STEM Punks team to extend the reach and delivery of their innovative learning programs to more teachers and young minds across regional and rural Queensland.

Forming a partnership with Queensland Museum Network, enabled STEM Punks to deliver immersive STEM experiences to the community at World Science Festival events in Chinchilla, Toowoomba, Townsville, Gladstone and Ipswich.

Through corporate partnerships with organisations such as Santos, STEM Punks have successfully expanded their programs to regional children in Roma, Walumbilla, Wandoan, Miles, Dalby, Paluma, Gladstone, Hervey Bay, Bargara, Bundaberg, Maroochydore, Moura, Blackwater, Springsure, Emerald, Rockhampton, Longreach, Plainland, Moranbah, and Bowen to name a few.

Fiona led STEM Punks to form a partnership with NASA which enabled the team to co-create and deliver “Space 2101” – an immersive and innovative learning experience for young children delivered by STEM teachers and an NASA Astronaut. The program was designed with female NASA Astronaut, Commander Susan Kilrain, to inspire and retain local talent in regional areas and to link local industries with future career pathways.

STEM Punks Co-Founder Fiona Holmstrom is also a 2023 WiT Awards finalist in the Inspiring Excellence in Industry Leadership Award to recognise her leadership contributions in service of enabling greater equity in education.

2023 Consumer Strength Champion Award - Finalists

23WINNER_CCI LeadershipTeam

Consumer and Community Involvement (CCI) in Research Alliance Leadership Team

Katrina Cutler, Jessica Taylor, Alison Bell, Jo Maxwell, Benedette Watson, Nancy Cloake, Anja Christoffersen and Jana Hesketh are female leaders who have been working individually to advance consumer involvement in health research projects throughout their careers.

After meeting at the Health Consumer’s Queensland Forum in October 2022, they were inspired by the difference they could make to amplify Consumer and Community Involvement (CCI) in Queensland’s research if they came together to collaborate.

By the end of 2022, they were united as a leadership team and set the wheels in motion to form a State-wide Consumer and Community Involvement in Research Alliance which includes consumer representatives from the community along with universities, health services and research institutes across the state.

The Alliance is founded on the strength of relationships to build on synergies, foster new partnerships and invite new people, communities and organisations into an environment where consumers and community members work in partnership with researchers across the research cycle, in strategy and policy – as equal decision-makers.

To date, Alliance currently has a membership of 28 people, and 25 of these members are women who are the CCI in Research leads representing 17 of Queensland’s major health care and medical research institutes.

In the six months since the alliance formed, the leadership team have led significant structural and cultural shifts within their respective organisations – vital for uniting key partners and increasing consumer involvement across the research cycle as equal decision makers.  They’ve also embarked on four major projects that will positively transform the research landscape for Queensland and move closer towards their goal of ensuring that Queensland’s research reflects the needs of its residents and the priorities of local communities.


Kerri Buttery

Kerri Buttery saw a disconnect in the skills and knowledge required to function in the workplace, and society, that is assumed and not specifically taught.

She also understood that not only does being digitally literate allow an individual to fully participate in society; but it also empowers them to expand their learning and life outcomes.

This led Kerri to draw on her skills and expertise as a digital learning designer to bring to life the Digital Literacy Licence (DLL) – a mirco credential program that focuses on enhancing the base-level foundation skills for everyday Australians.

Kerri is being recognised for the impact she is creating to make a positive difference not only to the 1 in 4 people who are digitally disadvantaged, but also to the 40% of Australians who don’t feel confident in keeping up with the rapid change of technology.

To expand the reach, delivery and recognition of the digital literacy program to date, Kerri has leveraged her professional networks to form flourishing partnerships with organisations such as Energy Skills Queensland, Business Educators’ Association of Queensland (BEAQ) and initiatives such as the Gateway to Industry School Partnerships (GISP) programs.

She’s passionately advocates for the importance of digital literacy in contributing to enhancing digital capability in workplaces but most importantly, the ripple effect this can have on enhancing individual wellbeing.

Kerri volunteers her time on advisory committees, working groups and inputting her expertise into key industry discussions and strategic planning.


Sara Pontoppidan

Sara Pontoppidan is the Industrial Design Director for Clandestine Design Group and for more than 14 years she’s been drawing on her passion for technology, cognitive psychology and emotional design to turn ideas into purposeful products, meaningful innovations and joyful experiences.

Because designers can set a collective vision of what we want our future to look like, Sara is driven by a desire to collaborate with her clients, peers and her broader network to co-create meaningful design solutions that are not only functionally and visually appealing, but are holistically considered to solve real-world problems and improve people’s lives.

She has a strong commitment to continuous education and knowledge sharing – actively participating in mentorship programs and has been a guest lecturer at Griffith University and RMIT. She passionately supports the young female innovators of tomorrow and has contributed to the missions of initiatives such as Future Anything, Girl Shaped Flames, and Arc Hardware Accelerator.

Sara believes that cross-pollination of different knowledge and perspectives can lead to big breakthroughs and is committed to fostering this type of collaborative learning environment within the studio, within the design industry, as well as in wider community.


Salome Bowman

When Salome moved to Brisbane and joined UQSchoolsNet, she immediately saw its potential and fell in love with its commitment to bridge the technology gap that exists across Queensland for both students and schools.

Under Salome’s leadership, UQSchoolsNet has evolved to become a female-led organisation that delivers solution-based technology services by leveraging partner relationships and journeying alongside clients every step of the way to lead them over hurdles and support them in their time of need.

Salome believes in providing opportunities to those who have historically been deprived of equal opportunities, an experience she felt as a female in a male-dominated IT Industry. She re-imagined how UQSchoolsNet could tap into The University of Queensland’s extensive partnership network of global and local suppliers and relentlessly challenged the status quo to advocate for enhanced service delivery arrangements with these partners to significantly improve affordability of providing cutting-edge hardware, technology, cyber security and software solutions for the schools they serve.

The team now aspire to lead by example within the sector, set a new standard in digital delivery by becoming the leading ISP and professional development provider for the K-12 education sector, special schools, and other higher-education related institutions.

2023 Employer of Change Award - Finalists


RSL Queensland

RSL Queensland celebrate and recognise the remarkable women in STEM whose innovation, commitment and leadership empowers the organisation to better the lives of veterans and their families around Australia.

Comprising approximately 64% of our employees, 43% of our STEM workforce and two-thirds of our executive team, women of all backgrounds play a pivotal role across RSL Queensland. Including ensuring their machine learning and AI algorithms are free from gender bias and delivering the analysis, insights and digital capabilities needed to optimise vital fundraising initiatives that make delivering their mission possible.

RSL Queensland are committed to uplifting their people through policies and initiatives that support their personal wellbeing and development. These include flexible schedules, which have allowed staff to pursue volunteering work that’s close to their hearts; a strong Workplace Health, Safety & Wellbeing commitment; and a rich calendar of social and community purpose events that connect staff with each other and raise money/awareness for worthy causes.

Celebrating excellence helps RSL Queensland to inspire excellence –  regularly hosting panel discussions (e.g. for International Women’s Day) that showcase women’s achievements, share tips for success, and connect inspiring women with staff from all levels of their organisation. Their leaders instil a culture that regularly highlight staff milestones, promotions and other achievements, enabling all employees to share in those successes and see where their own skills and ambitions can lead.

RSL Queensland are a staunch advocate for women in STEM, taking active steps to challenge the status quo and give women the equal opportunities and recognition they deserve. Their commitment to strategic, inclusive, fair and transparent recruitment practices is fundamental to hiring the best employees who align with our culture, values and purpose.


Griffith University

Griffith University prioritises being values-led, which places diversity and inclusion at the forefront of everything they do.

Griffith was one of the first Australian Universities to achieve an Athena Swan Bronze Award in recognition of their commitment to driving strategic, transformational change to enhance gender equity, diversity and inclusion across the university. This program has led to significant improvement in the representation of academic women including increases from 28% to 34% (+6%) in the Sciences Group; 18% to 33% (+12%) in the School of Engineering and Built Environment; and 5% to 24% (+19%) in the School of ICT since 2018. Additionally, academic Sciences women also saw an improvement in engagement (+4%), wellbeing (+2%) and progress (+8%) in our staff engagement survey between 2021 and 2022.

Griffith recognises that representation and visibility of role models is crucial to inspiring the next generation of leaders. Women are well represented at the highest level of the University and comprise 43% of the Executive Group (EG). Their Academic Equity Development Program provides key academic staff from diverse groups with support and funding to conduct sustained activities to further their development as scholars, researchers, teachers and practitioners.

Griffith have also established their own Gender Equality Research Network, which is a network of academic and higher degree scholars seeking competitive research success for projects dedicated to gender equity.

Optus EOC


Optus is a trailblazer in promoting women in technology and fostering an inclusive work environment that has belonging, impact and growth at the heart of our people strategy.

Optus champions diversity and inclusion, firmly believing it fuels innovation. Their culture actively fosters a supportive, inclusive environment where all voices are heard and respected. Optus offer comprehensive programs that empower women in technology, nurture talent through career-focused networks spanning gender, disability, culture, early career, returned service persons, and LGBTQIA+ communities.

Women currently make up over a quarter of our leadership roles, a success due to innovative initiatives like Optus U, as well as leadership programs and specific talent pathways for our Emerging Executive Women as well as our Executive Women Leaders that focus on skills and capability building as well as mentoring, coaching and Executive sponsorship.

Optus’ commitment to talent nurturing is evident in their graduate program, with women representing half of the recent cohort. Optus prioritize ongoing skill enhancement via prestigious university partnerships and OptusU’s tailored learning.

Their Elevate network facilitates the development of female staff through mentorship and energising programs like speaker series, coaching circles, and profiling their amazing women.

Optus further champion women in technology through strategic alliances with organizations such as Vogue Codes. Innovation underscores their operations, as showcased by pioneering projects like Optus SubHub and our socially beneficial collaboration with StandbyU Foundation.

2023 First Nations Change Maker Award - Finalists


Larissa Hale

Larissa Hale is being recognised for her impact as a First Nations woman leading transformational change bringing together traditional knowledge and practices alongside modern science and technology to improve environmental land and sea management in Queensland – now and into the future.

She is a passionate advocate for women looking after country, and is proactively working towards breaking down barriers that discourage First Nations women from becoming land and sea country managers, scientists and innovators, whilst protecting their culture. In 2018, Larissa established the Queensland Indigenous Rangers Network to open up career pathways for Indigenous Women who share Larissa’s passion for protecting country and culture. The network started with 34 indigenous female rangers in 2018, and in 2023 has grown to 164 indigenous female rangers across Queensland.

By creating opportunities for more First Nations women to participate in environmental protection and empowering them through culturally appropriate on country training and new business enterprise opportunities in digital technologies, geospatial information, and robotics; Larissa’s is empowering First nations women and girls to become leaders in innovation as well as amplify the scale and breadth of their impact on protecting and repairing vital ecosystems in Queensland, around Australia and globally – creating a win-win for nature and for community.

Larissa’s passion for the environment, reef, and culture has seen her take on numerous leadership and advisory roles on national and international committees that empower her to share and advocate for Indigenous people and Indigenous communities at a much larger scale.

As Managing Director of Yuku-Baja-Muliku Landowners & Reserves she leads the co-creation and implementation of vital environmental programs in the Cape York Community, working alongside Elders, land trust members, the local community and government stakeholders. She’s also currently the only Indigenous councillor in the Cook Shire and holds dual positions with the Great Barrier Reef Foundation as the Chair of the Traditional Owner Working Group and Board Member for the Partnership Management Committee. This provides a space for her to champion for the Great Barrier Reef and to advocate for the inclusion of Reef Traditional Owners in management and care of their sea country and helps her to share and advocate for our region, our communities our people and the ongoing growth of Indigenous Land & Sea Management.


Let’s Yarn About Sleep

The female-led team behind the Let’s Yarn About Sleep Program are being recognised for their impact on being a catalyst for greater investment in the sleep health of First Nations peoples and incorporating vital sleep health education into mental health and well-being services in 11 rural and remote First Nations communities across Queensland, home to more than 50,000 First Nations peoples in Queensland.

In collaboration with community Elders, parents, carers, First Nations youth and service providers, Program Lead A/Prof Yaqoot Fatima, Project Coordinator Roslyn Von Senden and Karen Chong from the Poche Centre for Indigenous Health at The University of Queensland, lead a team of researchers from 10 universities in partnership with 12 community partners to deliver a multi-disciplinary Sleep Health Equity Program specifically for First Nations Australians that embeds First Nations perspectives and culturally informed practices to explain the impact of sleep loss and support participants with practical strategies to improve their sleep health.

Unlike existing sleep health programs, Let’s Yarn About Sleep is rooted in community ownership and leadership, and focused on First Nations’ health improvement through the agency of First Nations peoples. Between 2020 and 2023, the team consulted with more than 300 stakeholders from First Nations communities, industry partners, and policymakers which underpinned all aspects of the development and delivery of LYAS programs into communities as well as the creation of training and employment pathways for Indigenous people, especially young women, to become sleep coaches or contribute to improving the sleep health of First Nations peoples. Through investing in capacity building of First Nations people in the community, the team have created local role models to encourage young people to become change-makers in the community.

Starting as a small pilot project in remote Queensland, Let’s Yarn About Sleep has grown into a globally recognised program renown for its leadership, innovation and collaborative approach to transforming the way the sleep health needs of First Nations peoples are assessed and addressed.

Since its inception, the program has been widely recognised by both mainstream and First Nations media outlets nationally, and has contributed to advocacy efforts for greater investment in the sleep health of First Nations peoples. The team formed a national Sleep Health Working Party in 2022 and shared program tools with RACGP for inclusion in the guidebook (2023) for culturally-responsive sleep health care.


CSIRO Indigenous Jobs Map Project Team

The majority female team behind CSIRO’s Indigenous Jobs Map Project is being recognised for the potential impact their insights can bring in aligning collective efforts from employers, recruiters, government, industry leaders, the education & training sector and policy makers to address the historical and structural factors that underpin the differences in the quality of Indigenous employment relative to non-Indigenous Australians.

The research, lead by Dr Claire Mason, uses artificial intelligence (AI) powered analytics to identify areas of misalignment between employers seeking to recruit Indigenous talent and the profile of the Indigenous workforce.

This full project is yet to be launched but the team’s publicly available interactive map and related publications provide brings together Indigenous leadership, technology, big data and culturally informed applied research capability to provide actionable insights that can support employers and policy makers to develop targeted strategies and solutions to create more rewarding employment opportunities for Indigenous Australians across diverse sectors that value their unique traditional knowledge and cultural values, provide greater financial security and empower them to enhance their skills and capabilities in relevant and meaningful ways.

Examples of targeted strategies could include offering remote work to attract people who would like to stay on Country connected with their community, or creating roles in fields where qualified Indigenous workers are well-represented but demand is lower – fields such as Architecture and Building, and Agriculture and Environment. The data generated from this project to date reveals strong growth in employers seeking Indigenous workers through job postings. However, it also reveals that the diversity of these employment opportunities is limited, and illustrates the low representation of Indigenous people in sectors such as Information Technology.

Making these findings publicly is the first step in supporting efforts to create new opportunities and pathways to increase the representation of Indigenous peoples’ across the workforce in a diverse range of careers across a variety of industries – particularly in sectors such as IT which is facing chronic skill shortages.

The team behind the CSIRO Indigenous Job Maps Project: Louisa Warren, Cassandra Diamond, Kim Dyball, Mibu Fisher, Cecile Paris, Cathy Robinson, Taylor Bamin, Ian Watson, Claire Mason, Haohui Chen, Shanae Burns and Scott Phillip.


Susan Beetson

Susan Beetson is being recognised for her impact on leveraging emerging technologies to protect the intellectual property of generations of cultural knowledge and practices to empower Aboriginal peoples and their communities to continue ancestral knowledges, and consolidate contemporary knowledges, in the protection, rehabilitation, and restoration, of cultural artefacts, environment, and ecological communities.

A Research Academic at The University of Queensland, Susan conducts research alongside Elders and members of Ngemba, Ballardong and Whadjuk communities to digitally translate Knowledge into Culture Hubs—e-commerce entrepreneurial platforms, culturally co-designed and co-developed alongside community on Country.

Culture Hubs create new opportunities to upskill Aboriginal peoples, from Elders, Adults through to youth in geo-mapping, e-commerce information systems, entrepreneurship, education and training, governance and community development. These opportunities not only enhance connection to country but also have the potential to open up opportunities for culturally informed businesses or start-ups that have ripple effects on improving the social and economic wellbeing of Aboriginal people and Indigenous Communities.

Susan’s vision is to create a future where Elders and senior community members can pave the way for children to grow up culturally where technology and connection coexist, Elders and Knowledges are highly regarded, and e-commerce entrepreneurial Culture Hubs generate perpetual royalties for Communities.