Department of Family and Community Services

2014 Premier's Award for Woman of the Year finalists

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The Premier's Award for Woman of the Year recognises women who have excelled in their career, field or passion and/or have made a significant achievement in a traditionally male-dominated area. The Premier’s Woman of the Year Award is chosen by a judging panel who select the winner from a shortlist taken from public nominations. This year’s judging panel was led by Minister for Women Pru Goward and included:

  • Jeni O’Dowd – Editor, Daily Telegraph
  • Katie Page – CEO, Harvey Norman
  • Garry Beard – Chairman, A.H. Beard
  • Dr Cathy Foley – Chief Scientist CSIRO and winner of the 2013 NSW Premier’s Award for Woman of the Year

Fiona Shewring from Wollongong

Founder of Supporting And Linking Tradeswomen (SALT)

"The mothers and grand-mothers we teach today will influence the choices available to their daughters and grand-daughters".

Fiona Shewring never intended to become a tradeswoman, teacher or an advocate, but then she started working with her future-husband in his painting business.

Holding a BA(Hons) in Three Dimensional Design, Fiona had an affinity for all things visual and excellent attention to detail. Working part-time in the painting business allowed her to care for her five young children and increase the family's income.

Two days a week, Fiona would drop her children to school and put on "the whites" - the professional painters' uniform. However, as the lone tradeswoman on site, Fiona attracted scrutiny from clients and tradesmen - eager to see if she could "cut it".

Fiona became determined to not only excel at everything she did but to encourage other women to re-assess their career options and consider a trade. In 2003, Fiona became a part-time painting and decorating teacher at TAFE NSW - only the second such female teacher in TAFE NSW. Today, she is TAFE NSW's only full-time female painting and decorating teacher.

In 2009, Fiona won the inaugural National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) International Women's Day Scholarship and undertook a study tour in the USA to meet tradeswomen and visit organisations which supported them. Fiona's experience inspired her to start Supporting And Linking Tradeswomen (SALT), a non-profit organisation working to change the status quo for working tradeswomen and encourage girls and women to consider a career in trade. SALT began in Wollongong with six tradeswomen and now has more than 300 members.

In 2012, SALT received a grant from Family and Community Services to purchase a custom-made trailer which teams with Fiona's SALT branded ute to take the women working in trades message to community events, careers days and schools.

"SkillWomen" community workshops have now been held from Maclean to Gundagai for women and girls aged 3 – 91. The workshops teach new skills and help make connections within communities. SkillWomen workshops are also held in schools to introduce trades as an alternative career path for young women.

SALT provides advice and support to organisations looking to employ tradeswomen and has worked with State Training Services, South Australia Power Network, Marist Youth Care, John Holland Group and Miller TAFE to secure roles for women, set up pre-apprenticeship courses and discuss the potential for women in trade roles.

In promoting tradeswomen as role models and encouraging organisations to employ more tradeswomen, Fiona has become an ambassador for change, shifting perceptions and attitudes about the role women take in communities.

Fiona Simson from Bundella near Coonabarabran

Voice for agriculture and women in farming

"I never planned my career, but followed my passions and beliefs, grasping opportunities as they came along, in areas where I thought I could make a difference".

Fiona Simson grew up on "Saumarez Station" a grazing property near Armidale. She credits her early family life as providing her with an appreciation of the land and for a desire to be part of a strong local rural community. Fiona's deep connection with rural NSW continues, she and her family live and work on a 5,550 hectare mixed farming and grazing property 100km from Quirindi where her children are the 4th generation making "The Plantation" home.

Fiona's passion for local food production and sustainability - particularly water and soil management - led to a career in local government as Councillor in Liverpool Plains Shire Council and her appointment to the NSW Farmers Executive Council.

In 2010, Fiona was elected to the Board of NSW Farmers, the state's largest farmer association representing more than $70 million in assets and a diverse range of commodity groups including oysters, eggs, horticulture, grains, livestock, pigs, poultry, wool, dairy and others. In 2011, Fiona became the first woman President of the association and is now in her third term as President.

Fiona consistently lobbies for policy reform at all levels of government to provide certainty and sustainability for the farming industry. Passionate about a unified voice for agriculture, she is on the board of the National Farmers Federation (NFF) and is the Australian delegate to the women's committee of the World Farmers' Organisation.

Fiona's work has raised the profile of local food production. Consumers are now aware of the value of our local food-growing industry, the quality of local produce and the benefits a strong industry brings to regional and rural communities and the NSW economy.

Not only a voice for women in farming, but an advocate for the future of primary industry, Fiona actively promotes farming as a viable career for young people.  She is a keen supporter of research and development and for the use of evolving technologies to improve agricultural practice and provide greater economic benefit to rural communities.

A leader driving representational change in the farming sector, Fiona is an inspirational role model for women in NSW, particularly in 2014 – the International Year of the Family Farm.

Mo'onia Gerrard from Narrabeen

Netball champion, advocate for community building and improving women's wellbeing through sport

"Don't be afraid to have a go. Dream your dream. Be yourself. Be unique".

Mo'onia Gerrard is of Australian and Tongan heritage. As a child she played netball and ascended the ranks to international level, representing Australia at Commonwealth Games and World Championships.  Today, she's a specialist coach and actively promotes the health benefits sport has on women's lives including building self-esteem and increasing social inclusion. Mo'onia also sees sport as a powerful way of engaging with women and girls on social issues including gender equality. Mo'onia is inspiring young women from all cultural backgrounds to aim for their best, set goals and achieve them - on and off the netball court.

Mo'onia started playing netball at a young age, joining Narrabeen Youth Club and later representing Manly Warringah Netball Association at State level.

In 1998, Mo'onia was selected to represent Australia in the under 21s team. Promoted to the Australian team in 2004, she continued to play at international level until 2013, earning 58 Test Caps. Highlights include a silver medal at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi and winning the 2007 & 2011 World Netball Championship.

From 2008 to 2010, Mo'onia played for Adelaide Thunderbirds and NSW Swifts and from 2011 to 2013 in the new ANZ Championship. An exceptional sporting talent, she played 50 ANZ Championship matches and 150 domestic matches, and was awarded Holden International Player of the Year and other awards including Best New Talent and Player of the Year.

As Co-Captain of the NSW Swifts, Mo'onia was the only Australian player to take her team to the final series four times. In 2014, Mo'onia stopped playing netball, but continues to coach and is a specialist for the NSW Swifts team. However, Mo'onia is not slowing down, she's considering a switch to rugby and thinks playing the oval ball might allow her to fulfil her Olympic dream.

Mo'onia is greatly admired for her extensive community work. She inspires thousands of girls and women from all ethnic backgrounds to get involved in sport and encourages them to aspire to sporting and personal excellence.

In 2012, she teamed up with NSW Netball to establish the Oceania Cup as a way of engaging with various culturally and linguistically diverse community groups and encouraging women and girls to play netball. The Oceania Cup is now an annual event.

Mo'onia travels across New South Wales, regularly visiting disadvantaged communities and using sport as a way to engage with young people. She teaches netball skills and promotes healthy eating and exercise as a way of creating a happier life. Using concepts of fair play, Mo'onia also teaches respect for others, acceptance of cultural diversity and promotes self-worth and achievement.

Mo'onia also conducts Polynesian Indigenous Netball clinics and established an annual netball tournament in Tonga. "Mo'onia's Cup" is now in its sixth year and attracts 50 teams and more than 500 participants.

Mo'onia has been recognised by the Prime Minister of Tonga for her extraordinary work in sport. The Honourable Siale'ataongo Tu'ivakanō has dedicated land for the establishment of an international sporting centre of excellence to be named in honour of Mo'onia's service in promoting the development of women and girls sport in the Oceania region. If Mo'onia has her way it won't be the only one.

Turia Pitt from Narrawallee near Ulladulla

Mining engineer, burns survivor, life champion

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"Never, Never, Never Give up. Live life to its fullest. Be determined. Persevere".

Turia Pitt is a mining engineer. Attending her first undergraduate lecture, a fellow student told Turia she was "in the wrong class".  Challenging assumptions and prevailing against the odds was to become a theme in Turia's life. Not only did she carve out a successful engineering career in the traditionally male-dominated mining industry, but when the catastrophic Kimberley fires of 2011 almost took her life, she survived and refused to be limited by her injuries.

Graduating from the University of New South Wales with a double degree (with honours) in Mining Engineering and Science, Turia earned a scholarship with Rio Tinto and in January 2011 secured her dream job at the prestigious Argyle Diamond Mine.

Turia soon managed challenging multi-million dollar engineering projects and became involved in an impressive range of philanthropic and community programs. She volunteered with the St John's Ambulance team and the Argyle Diamond Mine's Emergency Response Team; taught English to students from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds; cycled in Cambodia for ChildFund - raising funds to build two schools; and worked on a housing project in Mongolia with Habitat for Humanity.

In 2011, Turia was one of four marathon runners trapped in a remote gorge in the Kimberley region when bushfires swept through the area. She suffered deep burns to more than 60 percent of her body.

Fighting back from a two-month coma and recovering from more than 100 operations - including the removal of the fingers and thumb on her right hand and dozens of skin grafts  -  Turia has "accepted and moved on". She's re-learnt basic life skills including eating and walking, reclaimed her independence and declared the fire which turned her life upside down would not define her future which includes community engagement on issues she is passionate about, and completing a Masters in Mining Engineering.

Promoting organ and tissue donation and supporting people with burn injuries is important to Turia. While continuing various treatment programs to help her recovery, this year Turia is participating in the Variety Cycle from Sydney to Uluru and she'll walk a section of the Great Wall of China to raise money for Interplast, a non-profit organisation providing free reconstructive surgery for people in developing countries.

Showing the strength of character and courage she has become renowned for, Turia's 2014  program includes returning to the Kimberley region to compete in the 20km Lake Argyle Swim.

Turia's resilience inspires all who meet her. Following the release of her book, Everything to live for, Turia is a popular guest-speaker who shares her story of survival and achievement through adversity with businesses leaders, community groups and schools. The response  she receives from audiences - and the comments on her website - are a testament to the fact that Turia's message of perseverance resonates with women from all over the world. Turia motivates others to make positive changes in their lives. Her never, never, never give up motto, is a strong and powerful message which not only looks great on Turia's now-signature running shirt, but is an anthem for women everywhere striving to close the gender gap.