Welcome to our annual Women of the Year Awards: a celebration of the game-changers who’ve led with passion, fought with bravery and inspired us all in 2022.
This year, we’ve seen seismic shifts in politics, social justice, tech, business, sport and the arts, all steered by the female leaders, innovators and creatives on our esteemed list.
We started these awards two years ago to champion those forging new futures in Australia, and this year, with the pandemic behind us, we’re thrilled to be able to honour these powerhouse women in person at a gala event, presented by Kerastase. On November 9 from 6.30pm onwards, follow along on Instagram and TikTok to see all the highlights from the night.
Now, drum roll… the 2022 nominees for the marie claire Women of the Year Awards, presented by Kérastase, are:
CHANGEMAKER OF THE YEAR
A driving force who has tirelessly advocated for change and been successful in their pursuits
In 2022, Cox set her sights on increasing the representation of disability in the fashion industry. Working with the organisers of Australian Fashion Week, Cox ensured the event was 100% inclusive, from the programming to the runway shows, and she even featured on the catwalk of the event’s inaugural adaptive fashion runway (a showcase of creations designed for people with disability).
In 2021, Contos launched a petition demanding consent be taught in all Australian schools. This year in February – one year and 45,000 signatures later – Contos achieved the near-impossible when the Australian government agreed to make consent education mandatory in every Australian school from next year.
Natalie Lang launched the “We Won’t Wait” campaign eight years ago, calling for 10 days of paid Family and Domestic Violence leave for all workers. In May this year, the Fair Work Commission granted her wish and agreed to include 10 days of DV leave, ensuring an additional 2.6 million workers have access to this lifesaving entitlement.
In 2018, Saxon Mullins gave up her anonymity to tell her sexual assault story in an episode of Four Corners. This became the catalyst for the NSW Attorney-General to ask for consent to be reviewed in relation to sexual assault in the NSW Crime laws. It was successful. Under the new “affirmative consent” laws in NSW, a person must say or do something to communicate their consent for sex.
It’s been more than a decade since Grace Forrest founded Walk Free, an international human rights group with a mission to end modern slavery. This year, Grace continued working with the United Nations on the Global Estimates of Modern Slavery and lobbying governments around the world to introduce world-standard modern slavery legislation that will put people over profit.
Kate Chaney, Zoe Daniel, Dr Monique Ryan, Dr Sophie Scamps, Allegra Spender, Zali Steggall and Kylea Tink ran as Independent candidates in the federal election – and won, unseating some of the most senior Liberal politicians in the country. As a result of their collective power, the Morrison government was voted out of power in May this year.
ADVOCATE OF THE YEAR
A grassroots changemaker who is actively advocating for disadvantaged communities
As a passionate disability rights campaigner, Desmarchelier is a true champion for change, using her platform to defend the National Disability Insurance Scheme against funding cuts.
A city councillor and the executive director of Resilient Lismore, Bird has been instrumental in coordinating flood response and recovery programs, ensuring resources make it to those who need them most.
Barbero is CEO of Addison Road Community Organisation, Australia’s largest community centre that’s become a lifeline for many over the past few years as lockdowns and isolation left thousands unable to access food and other essentials.
Whan is the founder of grassroots not-for-profit “Sober in the Country”, an organisation that’s helped thousands of rural Australians battle their addictions and reclaim their lives by providing peer support, advocacy and education.
ECO WARRIOR OF THE YEAR
A woman who’s paying it forward and making a difference in the environmental space
Dr Veena Sahajwala
Sahajwalla, a materials scientist, engineer and innovator, has dedicated her life to becoming a leading expert in the field of recycling science, producing a new generation of green materials and products made primarily from waste.
As founder of Thread Together, one of Australia’s most impactful charity organisations, Halas has has engaged over 800 fashion partners (including giants like The Iconic and David Jones) and clothed up to 2,000 people each week, distributing excess clothing via more than 1,000 charity partners. Thread Together celebrated 10 years of much-needed service this month.
Sharma was the lead litigant in the class action and a key organiser of the School Strike 4 Climate movement in Australia. The 18-year-old continues to speak out, raising awareness about the disproportionate impacts of climate change on young people and people of colour, and advocating for a future where the voices and stories of marginalised communities are amplified.
Groundswell is a “giving circle” that pools members’ donations of $20 a week to collectively fund strategic, high-impact climate advocacy. The group has raised over a $1million dollars so far, and has more than 600 members.
THE VOICE OF NOW
A woman whose message captures the spirit and tone of our times
Last year, Tame grabbed the attention of the nation as a fierce advocate for survivors of child sexual assault and a powerhouse of progress, her stance igniting a reckoning for women in Australia. In 2022, she’s continued to fight to overhaul legislation and education on child sexual abuse via the Grace Tame Foundation and her powerful, best-selling memoir.
Reid was instrumental in the development of the Uluru Statement from the Heart. In 2022, the lawyer and proud Wiradjuri and Wailwan woman has continued to advocate for her community, becoming a First Nations Lawyer in Residence at the University of Sydney Law School.
Dr Amy Thunig
Along with releasing one of the most impactful memoirs of 2022, Dr Thunig was awarded her PhD in July for her thesis “Sovereign women: why academia?”, a ground-breaking investigation into the choices, motivations, and experiences of First Nations female academics.
This year, Diviney made headlines when her viral tweet encouraged both Lizzo and Beyonce to change the lyrics of their newly released hit songs, thus removing a derogatory term for people with disabilities. This also started a global conversation about why ableist language – intentional or not – has no place in pop culture.
CHAMPION OF THE YEAR
Celebrating a woman who has reached new heights this year in sport
Madison de Rozario
Recognised as one of the best in the world for wheelchair racing, this year De Rozario became the first Australian para-athlete to win four Commonwealth Games gold medals. With multiple medals under her belt and at the top of her game, she is not only breaking records but the stigma surrounding disability.
In 2022, Ash Barty broke a 44-year drought to become the first local player to claim the Australian Open singles. At the top of her game, with an 11-match winning streak behind her and the coveted Australian Open silverware, Ash announced her decision to hang up her racquet to focus more on her personal life and community-led campaigns.
On September 8, Stephanie Gilmore achieved the ultimate first – taking out the coveted crown of the greatest female surfer of all time. The celebrated surfer captured an historic eighth world title to finally surpass Layne Beachley’s longstanding record and instantly rewrite the history books.
Tina Rahimi made history as not only the first female Muslim boxer to represent Australia, but the first to win a Bronze Medal at the Commonwealth Games in August.
ENTERTAINER OF THE YEAR
A woman who has captivated audiences in the entertainment field
In the brutal and heavily male-dominated knife fight that is the smash-hit series Succession, Sarah Snook’s character Shiv is a fan favourite thanks to her masterful performance. This year, the Adelaide-born actor nabbed a Golden Globe and was nominated for an Emmy as the Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series.
As 2022 saw Australia returning to a more normal way of life, Shark set about reviving the live music scene with one of the most ambitious tours to date across the nation – and certainly the biggest of its kind this year playing a record-breaking 68 shows from Wagga Wagga to Whyalla, and everywhere in-between.
A champion for the importance of story-telling through humour, Gadbsy uses her medium to tackle her experiences as a queer person, her autism diagnosis and encounters with misogyny. In 2022, her stand-up show, Body of Work, and new book 10 Steps to Nanette has been highly received.
Eryn Jean Norvill
This March, Norvill received rave reviews for her incredible one-woman performance in The Picture of Dorian Gray. Taking on the classic Oscar Wilde story, Norvill shapeshifted between 26 characters and drew standing ovations in theatres across the country.
CREATIVE OF THE YEAR
A female creative who has pushed the boundaries of her chosen medium
In 2022, the much-anticipated Elvis hit screens, showcasing Martin’s incredible attention to detail, exquisite costume design and ability to bring characters to life through fashion design.
This year, the production company released its first major motion picture, Seriously Red, an Australian comedy which follows the story of a failing real estate agent who trades her 9-to-5 to become a Dolly Parton impersonator. A pioneer for female-centric storytelling, Dollhouse Pictures has transformed the local film landscape with its many movies, documentaries and TV shows.
This year, Atem was awarded the prestigious AGNSW’s inaugural La Prairie Art Award for her self-portrait series A Yellow Dress. The hyper-visual work drew on her experiences as a South Sudanese migrant and her fascination with history.
In 2022, after Covid delays, The Drover’s Wife was finally released into theatres. A true creative force, Purcell wrote, directed and starred in her film adaptation of Henry Lawson’s poem. They say write about what you know, and Purcell is the embodiment of the film’s core themes: the power of women, survival and strength.
DESIGNER OF THE YEAR
A fashion designer who represents the new guard of style and innovation
The opening show at Australian Fashion Week is the most prestigious slot on the schedule – and this year, the honour belonged to Bianca Spender. Held in a gallery space dedicated to her late mother, legendary fashion designer Carla Zampatti, the showcase featured a stunning stream of bias-cut silk dresses and timeless tailoring. Notably more than 50 per cent of the collection was made from deadstock fabrics.
ESSE (Charlotte Hicks)
For designer and brand founder Charlotte Hicks, ESSE Studios was founded in 2019 as a revolt to the industry’s obsession of fast, seasonal collections and the growing excess we had come to accumulate. The growth of ESSE has been quick and in June this year Hicks made her debut at Afterpay Australian Fashion Week at Bennelong Restaurant, with the sentiment of sustainability carried throughout.
MAARA Collective (Julie Shaw)
Yuwaalaraay designer Julie Shaw launched her luxury resortwear label, MAARA Collective in 2019. The brand has since enjoyed a rapid upward trajectory, picking up accolades including the Fashion Design Award in 2020’s inaugural National Indigenous Fashion Awards, and Indigenous Fashion Designer of the Year in the Australian Fashion Laureate in December 2021. Today, MAARA Collective is stocked by major retailers including David Jones and The Iconic.
Bassike (Deborah Sams and Mary-Lou Ryan)
This year, Sydney-based label, Bassike, was named the first major design brand in Australia to become a certified B Corporation. A comprehensive third-party audit saw the business assessed on its social and environmental performance, corporate governance and transparency – and it passed with flying colours. For 2022 Afterpay Australian Fashion Week, the label eschewed a traditional runway to screen a fashion film shot at the Great Barrier Reef, drawing attention to the beauty and vulnerability of this natural wonder. Sustainability has been a tenet of Bassike since its launch in 2006, with Deborah Sams and Mary-Lou Ryan heroing organically sourced fabrications and Australian craftsmanship.
A next-gen talent who has captured our attention as a face to watch
At just 16, Hawkins took over from Emma Wiggle at the end of last year to become the youngest and first black Wiggle to take the beloved primetime slot.
After she began posting her self-written songs to social media, PEACH PRC caught the attention of Republic Records. She signed with the label joining a roster of artists, including Taylor Swift and Ariana Grande. Peach released her debut single Josh in 2021 which became her first big hit. In 2022, the hits kept coming with God is a Freak and Forever Drunk.
In 2022, Hayden debuted as an actor, starring as one of the world’s first autistic characters, Quinni, in Netflix’s popular Heartbreak High. The multitasking talent also released her debut book, Different, Not Less: A neurodivergent’s guide to embracing your true self and finding your happily ever afters.
Reid’s debut novel Love & Virtue was not only the bestselling literary debut fiction of 2021, but her novel also won the 2022 ABIA Book of the Year Award and the 2022 ABIA Literary Fiction Book of the Year Award. Her highly anticipated second novel Seeing Other People was released in October.
The Melbourne-born actor shot to overnight fame and was praised for her performance as Pricilla Presley in Baz Luhrmann’s biopic, Elvis. Adding to her already-impressive year, DeJonge also appeared in one of the most talked-about TV series of 2022, the dramatised version of the famous Netflix true crime documentary The Staircase alongside Colin Firth and Toni Collette.
Landing the highly coveted role in House Of The Dragon, HBO’s Game of Thrones prequel, Alcock is an undisputed show-stealer as the young Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen.
An inspiring trailblazer who has paved the way for other women
The former PM currently serves as the Chair of Beyond Blue and is the inaugural Chair of the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership. In October 2022 — a decade since she delivered her iconic misogyny speech to parliament — Gillard released her ninth book, Not Now, Not Ever, an exploration not only of our nation’s historical misogyny but a roadmap for how we can and must do better in the future.
This year, Burney became the first Indigenous woman – and the second Indigenous person – to be sworn in as Minister for Indigenous Affairs. Now she takes the lead on enacting the Uluru Statement from the Heart and enshrining an Indigenous Voice to Parliament in Australia’s constitution.
As the CEO co-founder of Canva, Melanie Perkins has become one of the world’s youngest (and most successful) women to run a tech company. In September 2021 Perkins and partner Obrecht pledged to give away 30% of Canva, accounting for the “vast majority” of their stake in the company. Their equity, which is roughly valued at $12 billion, would put the young co-founders on track to create Australia’s largest charitable foundation.
In 2018, after a successful career as a lawyer and banker, Wikramanayake became the Macquarie Group’s first female Managing Director and CEO. When appointed she was also the first Asian-Australian woman to head an ASX 200 listed company and in 2019 she made history again when she was named the first woman ever to become Australia’s top-earning CEO.
This year, Mostyn, an independent company director, sustainability advisor and long-time women’s advocate, has continued to be a champion for Australian women, continuing her work as president at Chief Executive Women and in September taking on a new role as Chair of the Albanese government’s new Women’s Economic Equality Taskforce. With Mostyn at its helm, the taskforce will provide independent advice to the Government on a broad range of issues facing women in Australia, including informing the development of a National Strategy to Achieve Gender Equality.