Inspiring South Australian Women Award 2024

Sophie Thomson

Sophie Thomson, renowned for her passion for gardening and the environment, inherited her love from her plant-loving family and their nursery in Adelaide Hills. With over 35 years of hands-on experience, she educates communities on the health and environmental benefits of gardening. Following the 2019 bushfires, Sophie rallied the Kangaroo Island community to establish four community gardens and raised over $100k+ in support. She continues to aid communities affected by natural disasters like floods and fires. Known for her role on ABC TV’s Gardening Australia for over two decades and as a regular on ABC Radio Adelaide, Sophie is also a sought-after public speaker nationally. Her contributions have earned her numerous accolades, including the Pelzer Prize for environmental efforts in 2022 and recognition on the 2023 SA Women’s Honour Roll. Sophie serves on the boards of various organisations, including the South Australian Botanic Gardens and State Herbarium.

Inspiring South Australian Women’s Award – Commendation 2024

Professor Marnie Hughes-Warrington AO

Distinguished Professor Marnie Hughes-Warrington AO, a University of Tasmania graduate and Rhodes Scholar from the University of Oxford exemplifies a commitment to higher education’s transformative power. As Deputy Vice Chancellor at the Australian National University and later at the University of South Australia, she spearheaded initiatives to advance research, diversity, and inclusion in academia. She is passionate about strengthening the South Australian economy and society and supports researchers across disciplines and career stages. Recognised for her contributions, she was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia in 2022. She received a George Parkin Award in 2023 for her distinguished service to the Rhodes community worldwide. Marnie champions diversity, equity, and inclusion, advocating for greater participation from disadvantaged backgrounds and gender diversity in higher education.

Inspiring South Australian Women’s Award ‘Emerging Leader’ 2024

Isabella Courtney

Isabella, aged 20, founded the PIEA Project to address educational inequity. Through this not-for-profit, she provides free academic support and resources to underprivileged children, aiming to break cycles of disadvantage. Partnering with Puddle Jumpers, the project operates a homework club, offering essential supplies and assistance. Isabella is also a dedicated fundraiser, organising events at Adelaide University, participating in the Adelaide City Plunge, and supporting local charities. Testimonials highlight the program’s positive impact, creating an inclusive and supportive environment for children.

Inspiring South Australian Women’s Award ‘Emerging Leader’ – Commendation 2024

Dr Sarah Scholten

With Dean’s commendation, Sarah received her PhD in Laser Physics from the University of Adelaide in 2019. Her research aims to advance precision measurement using light. She is developing a cutting-edge optical atomic clock that is small enough to launch into space. Sarah is also passionate about making experimental discoveries practical and inspiring the next generation of physicists. She is recognised as one of Australia’s Superstars of STEM for 2023-24 and regularly visits schools to encourage young students to pursue careers in science.

Inspiring South Australian Women 2023 Recipient

Sarah Paddick

Sarah’s kindness has assisted vulnerable women find confidence and self-worth during and after incarceration. This kindness has supported many women obtain dignity through securing meaningful work as well as empowering them to reach their full potential and change the trajectory of their lives.
As a director of her own successful architecture business for almost 30 years Sarah’s skills and experience has supported over 100 projects in secure facilities across South Australia and nationally. Through the acquiring of this professional knowledge Sarah felt compelled to give back and support other women to transform their lives after incarceration.

Sarah co-created the U-Turn Charitable Foundation, a not-for-profit social initiative that focuses on improving outcomes for incarcerated women on their release, by creating meaningful and long-term employment pathways. This program supports women to develop their skills and gain experience within the building and construction industry. It provides the invaluable opportunity to work alongside professional contractors whilst receiving industry accredited training. U-Turn enables women to take control of their lives, build confidence, feel valued and achieve their own success.

“Sarah Paddick changed my life. Being given a term of imprisonment the shame and embarrassment I felt, let alone genuinely thinking I’m in prison I’m 33 years old and my life is over. Sarah gave me a chance to work on the building team, I gained so much for being able to “work” every day, when I was released I was offered a position within Mossop Construction in their head office, I’m now a facilitator for programs and work back in the women’s prison teaching our women to believe in themselves and there is more to life,” participant of the U-Turn Program.

Inspiring South Australian Women 2023 – Commendation

Madelyn Duckmanton

After the loss of her daughter, Letitia, to Ovarian Cancer, Madelyn Duckmanton was determined to continue the legacy of the young wife and mother, by raising awareness and vital funds to support research into early screening for Ovarian Cancer. In 2016 Letitia and her committee coordinated the first Adelaide Silver Style event raising $75,000 in support of the Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation. Determined to build on her daughter’s work Madelyn and her supportive committee members staged successful fundraising gala events across 2018 and 2019.

Madelyn then went on to establish the not for profit, South Australian based charity, Letitia Linke Research Foundation Inc. The foundation aims to increase overall community awareness of the signs and symptoms of Ovarian Cancer and to raise funds that supports research to find an early detection test and more directed and personalised treatment for women with Ovarian Cancer.

Drawing on her background as a Senior Healthcare Manager in Pathology, Madelyn leads a team of dedicated volunteers. The Letitia Linke Research Foundation is currently funding two research projects at the University of South Australia, one working on an early detection test and the other focused on patient specific treatment.

Inspiring South Australian Women 2023 – Emerging Leader Recipient

Zainab Kazemi

Zainab Kazemi was 13 when she arrived in Australia with her family after fleeing Afghanistan, 10 years later she has become a respected multicultural advocate here in SA.

From her own lived experience as a new arrival Zainab was inspired to advocate and support refugees and new migrants particularly women in finding their voice and sense of belonging in their newly adopted country.

Zainab is an emerging community leader and through her voluntary participation in the Afghan Association of SA, she has championed the rights of new migrants and refugees as well as those who are unable to escape Afghanistan.

Zainab’s passion to promote her culture is evident through her involvement in Youth Parliament, organising events and fundraisers that create awareness of human rights and raise vital funds for Afghani families locally and internationally. Zainab empowers young women particularly from refugee backgrounds to pursue their dreams to ensure they have equal opportunities across all areas of their life.

Inspiring South Australian Women 2022 Recipient

Liz Habermann

Embarking on a campaign to change the law on voluntary assisted dying requires determination, courage and commitment.

Already an outstanding citizen in her local community where she has contributed unselfishly for more than a decade to the advancement of her district and its environs, Liz is also widely acknowledged for her efforts in bringing about the introduction of the Voluntary Assisted Dying Act 2021, following the death of her 19-year-old son Rhys from terminal bone cancer.

Inspiring South Australian Women 2022 – Emerging Leader Recipient

Bianca Nilsson

Bianca has never allowed adversity to stand between her and success. In the space of a few years Bianca has gone from working graveyard shifts in a northern suburbs potato factory to become a worldwide phenomenon in the music industry.

Following multiple start-ups and a number of setbacks, Bianca has turned her passion for music into a thriving business based in Adelaide, but with global reach. Bianca has retained the essence of what drove her to strive for ever greater triumph over adversity  – her love of people and a deep-seated desire to help wherever she can.

Inspiring South Australian Women 2022 – Commendation

Farida Ayubi

Farida Ayubi, is the founder and joint owner of a spectacularly successful restaurant in Torrensville specializing in Afghani cuisine that has hosted sold-out fundraising dinners in aid of those left behind in Afghanistan.

Tickets and donations from this and subsequent fundraisers have provided emergency relief to hundreds of thousands of displaced Afghans and even to our own homeless people here in Adelaide.

Inspiring South Australian Women 2022 – Commendation

Melanie McHugh

Life in a country town can be challenging for teenagers looking for ways to spend their leisure time, and sometimes it can lead them astray.

Recognising and doing something about the issue in Pt Augusta is Woolworths Store Manager, Melanie McHugh, who is leading the way in engaging local youth in innovative programs aimed at keeping local youngsters out of strife.

Inspiring South Australian Women 2021 Recipient

Dawn Jennings

Dawn Jennings is a compassionate, devoted and selfless carer who has fostered children since the early 1990’s – providing all of these children with a safe and nurtured start in life all while raising children of her own.

Parents understand the complex yet rewarding privilege it is to raise children and Dawn has lived this experience 91 times within the fostering environment. She has safeguarded young children until permanent homing solutions were discovered and secured. Dawn opened her home and heart to support and guide these children in their very early years. When asked to describe Dawn many have used the following terms and phrases; inspiring, selfless, humble, strong, a loving woman and someone who is undeniably deserving of recognition for her incredible impact within the community.


Inspiring South Australian Women 2021 – Dual Emerging Leader Recipients

Laura Campbell and Caylin Bristow

For women only in their early twenties, Laura and Caylin are exemplary role models within their local and community. Their recognised mentoring and leadership skills has resulted in both these young women becoming Directors at the Christies Beach Surf Lifesaving Club.

Engaging both Laura and Caylin in directorship roles within this surf lifesaving club has been a positive experience benefitting the wider community. It has enabled the club to address and work through bullying, body shaming and social exclusion issues experienced by many young people on a regular basis.   Laura and Caylin have helped to foster a culture of inclusivity and acceptance as well welcoming for all young people.  Both Laura and Caylin have created the successfully embraced initiative “surf sisters” camp.  This initiative promotes a safe environment for young females to build self-esteem and a sense of belonging in a male dominated environment. Laura and Caylin are two admirable young women who are passionate about enhancing unity and encouraging diversity across the wider community.

Inspiring South Australian Women 2021 – Commendation Emerging Leader

Kaitlin Purcell

Kaitlin has supported the introduction of women’s football across many regional communities as well as inspire many to connect with this code. Kaitlin established the second league to exist under the Great Southern Football League for females and received 2018 Female Coach of South Australia from North Adelaide Football Club. Her passion and commitment to the sporting industry is demonstrated through her multiple volunteering roles including the role of sports trainer for the Australian Combined Emergency Services, the Australian Police Football Association and committee member for the far North Football League. In this league, Kaitlin commenced and coached the junior girls football teams. Her work in supporting the community is further highlighted through her ambassadorial role for Around the Camp Fire, a not-for-profit sporting organisation with an aim to promote reconciliation and encourage diversity on the sporting field. Kaitlin is an inspiring pioneer for young females across the whole State, through her hardwork and determination she has helped to remove barriers as well as motivate younger generations to pursue their true passions.

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