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2015 Premier’s Award for Woman of the Year

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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.

This year was an exceptionally competitive field and the judges found it very difficult to choose only four finalists.

You can read about their amazing work below but you can not vote for your favourite. The judging panel has made a decision for this category and the winner will be announced 4 March 2015.

Melinda Cruz

CEO & Founder – Miracle Babies

Melinda Cruz
 

Melinda is CEO, Founder and Board Director of Miracle Babies Foundation; Australia’s leading organisation supporting premature and sick newborns, their families and the hospitals caring for them. Miracle Babies fills a vital gap within the health system providing the link between clinicians and families and is the peak consumer body for neonatal research.

Melinda started Miracle Babies after two of her sons were born prematurely, one of whom was just 26 weeks and 1.1 kilos. Despite excellent staff from the hospital she felt isolated, emotionally drained and lacking in long-term support. She had no one to turn to when her child wasn’t walking or talking like all the other children of his age. 

Melinda approached the medical staff and the hospital and with their support, Miracle Babies was created. Under her gentle but persistent guidance the organisation has grown from supporting women at just one hospital to working with all the neonatal intensive care units across the country, always remaining true to her original principals. Giving back to the hospitals that have cared for their babies, providing long-term emotional support to the families and giving a voice to the experiences of consumers in the research and medical world. 

 She believes the organisation provides three 

At every step of the organisation’s growth Melinda asks s the organisation grow at 

Every year 45,000 babies require the care of a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit or Special Care Nursery. As the mother of 3 premature babies, Melinda’s incredible difference to thousands along with her impact as a successful entrepreneur has seen her win numerous awards including 2011 EY Social Entrepreneur of the Year and be a regular guest on radio, TV and speaker at national and international conferences.

 

In 2013, she was inducted into the Australian Business Women's Hall of Fame. She is a trusted expert to medical professionals being awarded as an Honorary Research Associate by the University of Sydney Medical School in 2012 and was the first parent to be invited as a consumer Associate Investigator on a National Health & Medical Research Council (NHMRC) funded neonatal trial.

In 2014, she was invited to join the Perinatal Society of Aust. and NZ (PSANZ) Consumer Advisory Panel as the inaugural Chair and accepted a position on the PSANZ IMPACT (clinical trials) executive committee.

She is a published author and speaker and on 2 Nov 2014 ran the New York Marathon with 18 others raising over $200,000 for Miracle Babies.

In Nov 2014, Melinda completed the New York Marathon with 18 others raising $200,000 for Miracle Babies.

Other Awards and media coverage

  • Australian Business Women's Hall of Fame – 2013
  • Various media articles in relation to her foundation

Captain Mona Shindy, CSC (Runner up)

Captain Royal Australian Navy, Director Littoral Warfare and Maritime Support, Maritime

Mona Shindy

Captain Mona Shindy currently holds the position of Program Director for Littoral Warfare and Maritime Support within the Defence Capability Development Group. Thanks to an epic career spanning 25 years as a Weapons Electrical Engineering Officer in the Royal Australian Navy, Mona has reached the highly respected rank of Captain.

As well as service on a large number of warships in war-torn areas, Mona has lead complex projects in defence acquisitions, combat system design and evaluation. She has also represented Defence in Washington DC, working on the Australian Air Warfare Destroyers Program.  One of her many roles, has seen her responsible for developing collaborative performance based contracts with defence.

As a woman, an Engineer and the most senior Muslim serving in the Royal Australian Navy, Mona Shindy is used to breaking down barriers. Born in Egypt and a mother of three Mona was recently given a new challenge when she was appointed the Chief of Navy's first Strategic Adviser on Islamic Cultural Affairs. She performs this role jointly with her regular defence job presenting business cases to Government for the acquisition of future assets. Her strong dedication to duty and outstanding achievements were recognised with the award of a Conspicuous Service Cross on the 2015 Australia Day Honours List. 

She is an example and advocate for females and those from non-English speaking backgrounds, especially members of the Islamic Community. Her mission has been to promote better understanding between Defence members and the Islamic community. In this role, Mona has also helped to strengthen ties between the Australian Navy and its Muslim counterparts abroad. Mona succeeds in changing attitudes through education, leadership by example and implementing inclusion and diversity initiatives that make Defence more effective.

She is also founder and Executive Officer at a local Western Sydney Australian Navy Cadet unit. Less than one year old, it is the second biggest navy cadet unit in NSW.  She combines this with various youth mentoring programs which absorb much of her out of office time.

Mona is firm, astute and professional in character, all balanced with a kind and caring nature. This unique combination of qualities has helped Mona achieve her phenomenal career success.

 

Associate Prof Lynn Kemp

Director - Centre for Health Equity Research Training and Evaluation (CHETRE), Ingham Institute for Applied Medical Research

Lynn Kemp
 

Dr Lynn Kemp is as an international leader in the field of early childhood interventions and home visiting services. Her mission is to translate evidence-based research into long term policy and services.

Lynn’s local, national and international research in early childhood helps vulnerable families by providing them with programs that research demonstrates really help. Her energy, enthusiasm and tenacity is second to none and has enabled her to have a significant impact for thousands of families struggling with young children. 

Since 2002, she has worked tirelessly to implement the Maternal Early Childhood Sustained Home-visiting (MECSHV). Under the program, a child and family health nurse regularly visits a mother throughout her pregnancy right up until her child turns two. The nurses shares information about their child’s development and helps with problems ranging from sleeping to toddler tantrums. The nurse also provide emotional support and links with other services when needed. 

This specialist intervention and research was developed in South Western Sydney because families with young children living in disadvantaged communities were desperately needing more support.

Critically, Lynn’s research has translated a locally developed program into a population-wide intervention for at-risk families.  

Results from the trial demonstrate that the program has made a real difference to children and families. This locally-led research program has gone global, with Lynn championing its implementation in the United Kingdom and South Korea.  MECSH is now implemented in Australia, the UK, USA and South Korea, currently serving more than 15,000 families world-wide.

Significantly, in South Korea, her work has been instrumental in establishing a universal child and family health service system, serving the city’s 10 million residents, where previously families had no access to such support.

Lynn's dedication to researching and implementing programs that address health inequity has significantly improved the lives of families in Australia and internationally.  She also generously gives her time to mentor less senior researchers.

Professor Minoti Apte OAM (Winner)

Director - Pancreatic Research Group (PRG) University of New South Wales and Ingham Institute for Applied Medical Research

Minoti Apte

Professor Minoti Apte is internationally acknowledged as a leading researcher in the field of pancreatic diseases, particularly chronic inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis) and pancreatic cancer. Pancreatic cancer is one of the most deadly cancers with a five-year survival rate of just six percent. 

Professor Apte's work investigates pancreatic cancer at a cellular level to find out how and why the cancer is so aggressive and spreads so quickly. She was the first in the world to develop a method to isolate pancreatic stellate cells (PSCs), a technique which provided a research tool for studying the path that pancreatic fibrosis (scarring of the pancreas) takes. Her group established that PSCs were responsible for producing the prominent scar tissue in pancreatic cancer and that there was a close communication between PSCs and cancer cells. This important finding proved that cancer cells recruit normal pancreatic cells from their micro-environment and turn them into co-conspirators to help the cancer grow and spread to distant parts of the body.

 The next phase of Minoti's work is to stop the cancer cells working with normal cells. She is currently leading pre-clinical studies that are anticipated to create a new combination therapy to help improve treatment outcomes for people with pancreatic cancer. 

In 2014, she was awarded the Order of Australia Medal (OAM) for her services to medical research, tertiary education and the Indian Community. Minoti plays an active role in research training through her supervision and mentorship of PhD, Masters and Honours students. She is also the Editor-in-Chief of Pancreatology, a specialist journal in her field. Minoti’s publications have received over 3400 citations and she is regularly invited to speak at national and international scientific meetings. She has received national and international awards and honours in recognition of her work over the years.

  On the community front, Minoti is an active member of the Marathi Association of Sydney, a community organisation that serves a large section of the Indian diaspora in Sydney. She has served on the organising committee, provided programs for community radio, and plays an active role in cultural events through her work as dance choreographer and performer. She is highly sought out by members of the community for advice and guidance on careers in academic/educational fields.