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The winner of this award category was selected by the NSW Minister for Women, Regional Youth and Mental Health.

2020 Finalists

Dianna Somerville

Dianna Somerville headshot

A former Australian Defence Force Naval Officer, Dianna is passionate about nurturing businesses in rural and regional Australia. She founded Regional Grants, Tenders and Corporate Services, Working Spaces HQ and three national events accelerating innovation in regional Australia (Regional Pitchfest, Agrihack and 8point8).

Dianna helped establish and facilitated the Charles Sturt University AgriTech Incubator program and has most recently taken on the role of Community Manager with Bridge Hub, an agrifood tech innovation hub.

Her proudest professional achievements have been designing and delivering over 70 startup events for regional entrepreneurs across Australia through Regional Pitchfest. These events created hundreds of positive news stories that focussed on the changing possibilities of work in the regions.

Dianna lives on a farm with her family near Wagga Wagga. She is open about her significant struggles with mental health, citing loss of professional identity when moving from her career in the navy back to the farm.

Holly Conroy

Holly Conroy headshot

Holly is a soccer and AFL transgender athlete from Wagga Wagga. Growing up she secretly dressed as a girl, attempted to come out as trans multiple times, and had suicidal thoughts.

After spending the first 37 years of life as David, a football-loving, motorbike-riding, MMA fighting bloke, Holly finally emerged as the football-loving, motorbike-riding, makeup-wearing, community-leading loud and proud woman she was destined to be.

To celebrate her journey, in 2017 Holly organised Australia’s first ever trans pride awareness round in the local soccer league. In 2019 she organised the inaugural Wagga Wagga Mardi Gras, which was attended by more than 15,000 people. She is currently planning the 2020 parade.

By generously sharing her story, Holly has become a trans role model. By starting conversations about sexuality and gender she is working towards ensuring that rural locations are safe for LGBTQI+ people to live, work and build their lives.

Krystaal Hinds (Winner)

Krystaal Hinds headshot

Krystaal has been a volunteer member of Gunning Fish River Rural Fire Brigade since 1998 and its Captain for the last six years. She is also a Deputy Group Captain in the Southern Tablelands zone, delivering state-wide training to RFS members on leadership and women in firefighting.

She has been deployed with RFS across the nation multiple times. Krystaal is highly regarded by the local farmers and the community for her management of the bushfires.  

Krystaal leads by example, demonstrating that women can succeed in a male dominated service. She also encourages women in the community to get involved. Since Krystaal became captain, female membership in the brigade has increased to 30%.

Born and raised in Gunning, Krystaal and her husband run a successful electrical company and are raising their three children there too. Somehow Krystaal also finds time to contribute to the local community. She is an active member of the Gunning Primary P & C and Gunning Early Learning Centre.

Shanna Whan

Shanna Whan headshot

Shanna is using her lived experience with alcohol addiction to lead the way in creating a healthier drinking culture in rural NSW through honesty, connection and conversation.

The CEO and founder of charity Sober in the Country (SITC) is breaking stigmas and raising awareness around the gaps in ‘relatable’ services and support for those slipping through the cracks; people isolated from the help they need because of either geography, lack of treatment options, stigmas, or the lack of anonymity in the rural areas.

In addition to Shanna's story going national to millions via Australian Story in 2019, SITC is now gathering huge momentum as a growing tribe of like-minded professionals gathering to challenge unhealthy alcohol habits.

Shanna is leading a cultural shift around the drinking culture in regional NSW and garnering widespread media coverage of alcohol abuse and misuse issues in a demographic she says is often overlooked.

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Last updated: 26 Mar 2020