Congratulations ACLW's 2013 SWECO Winners

on Saturday, 16 February 2013. Posted in Sustaining Women's Empowerment in Communities and Organisations

Congratulations ACLW's 2013 SWECO Winners

On International Women’s Day (IWD) 2013, ACLW is proud to honour the women and men who have established initiatives for the advancement of women in workplaces and in the community.

Below are the winners in the Organisations and Community categories of the Award. They are to be congratulated for achieving gender equality through their initiatives and establishing organisational processes to sustain this outcome. 

My deepest gratitude is extended to the panel of distinguished Judges who have contributed their expertise and time to the evaluation of the applications. 

The recipients of the 2013 SWECO Award bear testament to the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day - The Gender Agenda: Gaining Momentum.

Diann Rodgers-Healey


2013 Sustaining Women’s Empowerment in Communities and Organisations (SWECO) Award Winners 


Organisations Category 


Gold Award Winner in SWECO’s Organisations Category 

The National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples (Congress) 


LindonCoombes     Congress Board

(L: Lindon Coombes, CEO; R: Congress Board: L-R seated Rod Little, Tammy Solonec, Jody Broun, Co-Chair, Dennis Eggington, , Co-Chair Les Malezer; standing Brian Butler, Daphne Yarram, Venessa Curnow)

The National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples (Congress) was established with gender equity as one of its founding principles. This message was clearly delivered by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples during the consultation period prior to the establishment of Congress in 2010. The consultation process began in March 2009 led by the then Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner. Those initial consultations were followed later that year by the establishment of the ‘Steering Committee of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander members for the creation of a new national representative body’ (Steering Committee). The Steering Committee conducted further, in-depth consultations and released its report ‘2009 – Our future in our hands’, in August 2009. As a result of the consultations undertaken by the Social Justice Commissioner and the Steering Committee gender equity was embedded in the governance model and arrangements recommended in the Steering Committee Report from the establishment of Congress in 2010.

“Ensuring equal participation of men and women in leadership and decision making became a guiding principle of the Steering Committee’s Report.”

Gender equity has been enshrined in Congress’ Constitution, practices and processes to make sure that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are equally represented in its membership, delegate structures, National Board and Co-Chairs, Ethics Council, staff and other structures as they are established. In section 15 of the Constitution the make-up of the National Board is outlined. Subsection 15.1(c ) specifies that the company must have substantial gender equality in its leadership. Gender equality in the elected position is constituted in sections 15.3(3) and 15.4(2). Gender equality has been maintained in the inaugural and subsequent elected National Boards, in the delegate representation at both National Congresses (2011 and 2012), on the Ethics Council and at the first Congress National Youth Program in 2012.

Since Congress’ establishment as a company limited by guarantee in 2010, Congress has achieved 50% representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in its senior roles on the National Board and Ethics Council. Congress has two Co-Chairs, one female and one male, elected from its membership every two years. Almost 58% of Congress’ membership of nearly 5,000 individuals are women. 75% of its staff are women, with half of executive positions filled by women.

Congress is committed to continuing to ensure that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women’s voices, experiences, issues and opinions are heard not only within its own organisations and communities, but by government and in the broader community. Congress honours the contributions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mothers, aunts, sisters and daughters in tackling the issues that are important to Indigenous peoples, and Congress will continue to strive to ensure that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are visible, are heard and are counted.

The website for The National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples is Lindon Coombes is the CEO of the Congress.

The National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples (Congress) is commended for establishing gender equity as a founding principle in its Constitution and for implementing this principle in its management and governance of the Congress.


Testimonial from 2013 SWECO Winner, National Congress


Silver Award in SWECO’s Organisation Category 

Angela Yin


  QJA IWD AngelaYin MarianVierveyzer

(Angela Yin and Marian Vierveyzer, Vice-President of Queensland Justices Association)


Angela Yin initiated Queensland Justices Association (QJA) International Women’s Day (IWD) project in 2010 with the inaugural event successfully being held in 2011, attracting women JPs from all over Queensland.

Queensland Justices Association is the peak industry body of Justices of the Peace and Commissioners for Declarations, which has a membership of over 5,300.

Angela observed that “QJA’s membership is mostly comprised of people over 55, 45% of which are women. This generation of women is largely responsible for the opportunities and choices that younger women (myself included) enjoy today. In 1918, the first woman in Queensland was appointed a JP. In 2012, nearly half of QJA’s membership is women. It is important to reflect on how much progress has been achieved in a short amount of time.”

Angela undertook extensive research before commencing her project. “Firstly, a needs analysis was done with the membership in December 2010. We wrote to each female member and asked if she would be interested in this initiative. In 2011, we only had an event in Brisbane, however our members are located throughout Queensland. Out of the 2,500 letters we wrote, we received 400 mostly enthusiastic responses, which were compiled.

QJA’s inaugural International Women’s Day Luncheon commenced on the centenary of International Women’s Day and had the following objectives: -

  • As part of the 100th Anniversary of International Women’s Day, recognise and support the work of women Justices of the Peace
  • Provide a networking opportunity
  • Raise the profile of the Queensland Justices Association
  • Raise the profile of Justices of the Peace
  • Raise money for QJA Women’s Fund through fundraising raffles

Through a committee, Angela established QJA’s IWD 2012 and 2013 to generate the project as a long-term fundraising opportunity and to support the growth of QJA. To ensure the success of IWD, Angela collates feedback from participants, for the Board and the organising committee. QJA’s five-year strategic plan has included as a priority a focus on advancing the status of women and other diverse groups in the community.

As a result of Angela’s initiative, QJA’s Warwick branch was established and Community organisations and businesses continue to support QJA IWD. The event demonstrates high engagement from women:

“Women over 160 attendees at a single IWD event in 2011 is larger than the attendance rate of our last three Annual State Conferences. More women are becoming involved in our branch network, which is the traditional way that members of QJA progress to leadership at the Board level.”

Angela hopes that QJA IWD will be adopted by other Justices Associations throughout Australia and New Zealand.

The website for Queensland Justices Association (QJA) is

Angela Yin is commended for her self-appointed leadership, commitment and dedication to raising awareness and celebrating the achievements of women through the establishment of Queensland Justices Association International Women’s Day project.


Community Category


Gold Award Winner in SWECO’s Community Category

Julie Verner-Mackay




As part of lifelong commitment and goal to create pathways to true equality in the workforce, Julie Verner-Mackay designed and developed a women’s leadership program known as ‘Women as Leaders’ which has enabled more than 4,000 women from across all sectors, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, to participate.

With an acute understanding of barriers facing women, Julie designed a program that is highly experiential and holistic in nature.

“My experience has shown that women need continued support particularly in management roles while organisations transition from ‘command and control’ cultures to ‘recognition and response’ cultures. Women lead differently and need to have an opportunity to discuss issues. What is powerful about the program is that women can speak openly and honestly about their future – something that many of them have stated could not happen as easily on a mixed-gender leadership program.”

A large component of the design and delivery is based on emotional intelligence and in the ability for participants to develop intra-personal proficiency assisting participants in understanding their thinking, and how their thinking impacts on their feelings and behaviour. Julie’s approach is aligned to the core values of the H.E.A.R.T.: Honesty, Empathy, Acceptance, Respect, and Trust. She encourages these values in her programs to promote self-leadership in individuals, resulting in more healthy, equitable organisational cultures.

The Program’s focus is on ‘self-leadership’. Participants develop leadership skills through Work-based projects that are chosen by participants around the theme of influencing change, either for themselves or for other women in their organisation. The Program is open to women in all sectors and settings and has also been specifically adapted to address needs relating to the backgrounds, values and beliefs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (ATSI) women.

“Nowhere is the need for enhanced social and economic empowerment more critical than in Indigenous communities. Since 2000, over 800 Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander women have been able to access the program. I had previously worked in more than 40 Indigenous communities and experienced first hand many of the challenges faced by Indigenous women. I have also been extremely inspired; as I have witnessed the leadership capability of women who once armed with key leadership skills and a strong vision for their community are capable of implementing significant change. In modifying the design and delivery of the program to ensure that the methodology and content met the needs of Indigenous women, I held numerous focus groups and interviews in regard to the issues specifically impacting on Indigenous women. My approach in ensuring cultural sensitivity was to collaborate and continually acquire feedback from all key stakeholders.”

The website for further information about the program is

Julie Verner-Mackay is commended for her self-leadership, and for designing and developing a program in response to stakeholders needs. Her motivation to give women the opportunity to access a leadership development program that focuses on self-leadership and enables women to recognise their capacity to lead using their innate strengths, is exemplary.


Silver Award in SWECO’s Community Category

Sarah Patricia Valentine




In August 2011 Sarah Patricia Valentine launched the Bellarine Business Women, a membership group for women in business who live on the Bellarine Peninsula, Victoria. It combines networking, events, support, business development, resources and promotion. Inspired by the death of closest friend Dione, Sarah wanted to work with others to create outstanding lives for themselves.

Prior to starting her business, there were no local networking events or business development places for women who lived on the Bellarine Peninsula. After researching what was available for business women in Bellarine and gauging interest in the community, she promoted a meeting through the local papers, posters, Facebook and her networks. 40 women came to the first meeting. She initially offered women the Silver Membership Program and had 27 women join at the first meeting. Within 6 months, the number of members in Silver jumped to 50. After receiving feedback that many of the women wanted more business development and tools, she created the Business Circle program. A third of the members joined the Business Circle. In 12 months she had created a hierarchy of 3 programs to cater for the different needs of the women and had tripled in size.

Bellarine Business Women members have benefitted through exposure and involvement in sponsoring business and community programs, workshops and webinars focusing on professional development and networking.

Sarah Valentine has learnt to listen to what the members say, note their objections and respond without any excuses or blame. She explains, “As a leader I believe it is my role to take 100% responsibility for the successes and the failures. My market and my business is only ever a reflection of me and I always take the feedback. Not only do I learn from it I do something different, get the results and then teach that to my community of business owners…I believe the foundation to ensure consistent and empowering leadership is to have a mission that you will fight for and is bigger than the problem you can solve today. I also believe having very clear values ensures leadership with integrity and allows decisions to made with precision.”

Bellarine Business Women’s mission is Connect. Share. Support. Grow. The vision is to be the ‘go to’ place for business owners to establish, create and transform their business and their lives to allow them the lifestyle they desire. The website for Bellarine Business Women is:

Sarah Patricia Valentine is commended for her self-appointed leadership and shaping her desire to empower other women personally and professionally in Bellarine, Victoria through the Bellarine Business Women venture.