Australian politics has always been dominated by men, but the recent election highlighted just how far we’ve come, with so many women playing a pivotal role in our nation’s future. Which brings us to Edith Cowan (1861-1932), who was the first woman elected to an Australian parliament in 1921. Her commendable role in female politics also includes campaigning for women’s rights (as well as children’s rights and welfare) throughout her career, being awarded a Member of the Order of the British Empire for her contributions to society, and appearing on our $50 note!
Carrie Bickmore may be best known as the host of The Project and the Gold Logie winner who wore a beanie during her acceptance speech, but it’s her extra-curricular activities that we want to shine light on. After the devastating loss of her husband Greg to a brain tumour in 2010, she created her own foundation, Carrie’s Beanies 4 Brain Cancer, to help find a cure for brain cancer, of which she’s already raised over $11 million. It’s also her refreshing honesty that we admire, such as this recent Instagram photo she posted that compares Instagram versus reality when it comes to parenting.
While many 16-year-old girls have their hands full just trying to balance hormones, school and boys, Jessica Watson set herself a near-impossible challenge to sail around the world all on her own. Inspired by the same journey 18-year-old Jesse Martin took in 1999, Jessica spent four years racking up 6000 coastal miles and 6000 ocean miles of sailing experience, and gained qualifications in offshore safety, diesel engines, radio operation, sea and safety, First Aid and yacht master theory. 210 days after she set off, Jessica arrived home on May 15, 2010, and earned herself the title of the youngest person to sail solo and unassisted around the world. She was also awarded Young Australian of the Year in 2011, and in 2012 she received the Medal of the Order of Australia for her service to sailing and as a role model for young Australians. Since then, Jessica has also completed an MBA, authored two books, and co-founded boating app Deckee.
Fanny Durack and Mina Wylie
Wilhelmina (Mina) Wylie (1891-1984) and Sarah (Fanny) Durack (1889-1956) were more than just famous Australian swimmers; together they put an end to women not being allowed to enter any competition where males were competing (yes, that basically included all major sporting events). They were also the first Australian female Olympic representatives, competing in the 1912 Olympic Games in Stockholm; Mina won silver in the 100m freestyle event and Fanny won gold. Later they were both inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame for their amazing swimming achievements.
An Australian female athlete - pick a sport, she’s succeeded in many - Jess Gallagher is inspirational for both her physical achievements and the adversity she’s overcome. In her teens, Jess showed immense promise as a netball and basketball player, but at the age of 17 she found out she had a rare genetic condition known as Best's disease that caused her to become legally blind. Unwavered and even more determined, she set her sights on the Paralympics, eventually competing in alpine skiing at the Vancouver Winter Olympics in 2010. She not only won a bronze medal in the Slalom, she also became the first Australian woman to win a Winter Paralympics medal. Fast forward to the 2016 Rio Paralympics, Jess became the first Australian athlete - Olympic or Paralympic - to medal at both a summer and winter games, winning bronze in the 1km Time Trial cycling event.
In 1996, hockey player Nova Peris became the first Aboriginal Australian to win an Olympic gold medal. She later made the switch to athletics and also competed in the 1998 Commonwealth Games and 2000 Olympic Games. Following on from her sporting success, Nova got into politics and became an inspirational advocate for egalitarianism and anti-racism. In 2012 she became the first indigenous woman to be elected into parliament.
When we think of influencers, we think outfit ideas and the like. But Melissa Ambrosini is inspiring in so many more ways. After suffering from serious health issues at the hand of stress, anxiety, way too much partying and an eating disorder, Melissa found herself in the hospital with her body ready to shut down. Following her wake-up-call moment, she turned her life around and got her holistic health coaching certification and also studied yoga, meditation and life coaching. Her lessons in self-worth, motivation and natural wellbeing are what have earned her 119,000 followers on Instagram and a loyal following of women who also want to master their inner ‘Mean Girl’, as Melissa puts it. She’s also a best-selling author of two books - ‘Mastering Your Mean Girl’ and ‘Open Wide’, a motivational speaker, and a podcaster.