Three years ago, marie claire Australia launched it’s first Women of the Year Awards to celebrate the game-changers who’ve led with passion, fought with bravery and inspired us throughout the year.
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.
To acknowledge the women forging new futures in Australia, we’re thrilled to be able to honour these powerhouse women at a gala event, presented by Kerastase. On Tuesday, November 21, from 6.30pm onwards, follow along on Instagram and TikTok to see all the highlights from the night.
Now, drum roll… the 2023 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 2021, Australian surfer Lucy Small stood on a stage and called out the prize money discrepancy between male and female surfers. Her advocacy for equality in sport helped sprout the ‘Equal Pay for Equal Play’ campaign in NSW.
Writer and speaker Carly Findlay has advocated for representation of disabled people across all walks of life, and has been instrumental in the recent Disability Royal Commission findings.
Four years ago, Hill’s first book, See What You Made Me Do, shone a light on coercive control and domestic abuse. Since then, the activist has spoken at almost 300 public events, conducts training and education for schools, workplaces and local councils. This year, she ignited a national conversation with the documentary series Asking For It, which explored the epidemic of sexual violence in Australia.
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, Forrest launched a Walk Free report in London in May that outlined how Australia imported $26 billion of products that may have used coerced labour in the world’s renewable energy supply chains.
ADVOCATE OF THE YEAR
A grassroots changemaker who is actively advocating for disadvantaged communities
A powerhouse actor, speaker and disability advocate, Diviney is best known for her global campaign calling for a disabled Disney princess, work as editor in chief at Missing Perspectives, new book I’ll Let Myself In and performance in the series Latecomers, in which Diviney became the first disabled woman to film a sex scene for Australian TV.
Over a decade ago, Martin became a victim of image-based sexual abuse when a photo was stolen from her social media and photoshopped onto the bodies of adult film stars. In the time since, Martin has led the crusade against revenge porn in Australia and successfully campaigned for legislation making it a criminal offence to distribute non-consensual intimate images.
As the CEO of the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children Australia mission, Bowden collaborates with financial institutions, law enforcement agencies, child safety NGOs and tech companies to develop real-world solutions for detecting, reporting, prosecuting and preventing child sexual exploitation.
Having worked in the anti-violence space for more than two decades – with roles on the Our Watch Aboriginal advisory board and at the Mudgin-Gal Aboriginal Women’s Centre – Donohue’s core mission is prevention. Donohue is the lead writer for Voice Against Violence education program for the NRL, as well as the co-creator of Hey Sis, We’ve Got Your Back, the only Aboriginal women’s sexual assault network in the country.
ECO WARRIOR OF THE YEAR
A woman who’s paying it forward and making a difference in the environmental space.
The co-founder and managing director of the Queensland Indigenous Women’s Ranger Network, Hale leads a network of First Nations women working to protect the Great Barrier Reef. This year she joined Jacinda Ardern at The Earthshot Prize Innovation Summit in New York.
Through her B-Corp, eco-friendly business Banish, Dalziel has made it her mission to empower others to be kinder to the planet. Through the Banish Recycling and Disposal (BRAD) program, which Dalziel also runs, 2 million blister packs have been diverted from landfill and recycled in the past five years.
Since launching her charity ReLove in 2019, Fernando has provided essential household goods to people in vulnerable situations, including those fleeing domestic violence, experiencing homelessness, or seeking asylum. While sharing a helping hand to the people in our community who need it the most, ReLove is also saving furniture and whitegoods from landfill.
DR COLETTE HARMSEN
For more than a decade, Harmsen has been front and centre in protests against logging and mining in Tasmania. She works with the Bob Brown Foundation and considers herself to be a wildlife defender. In July, the veterinarian and staunch environmental activist was sentenced to three months’ prison for her ongoing protests against mining in Tasmania’s West.
THE VOICE OF NOW
A woman whose message captures the spirit and tone of our times.
Since sparking an important conversation about rape culture in a 2021 Instagram post, Contos has successfully got education ministers to unanimously agreed to roll out consent education in every school, nation wide. This year, Contos spearheaded a campaign to make stealthing a crime nationally, published her debut book, Consent Laid Bare and was anointed chair of the Youth Advisory Committee at the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership.
A fierce advocate for inclusion and equality, Thattil tackles issues of racism, sexism, financial hardship, homophobia, intergenerational trauma and mental health struggles in her book, Unbounded: Manifesting a Life Without Limits, her podcast, The Maria Thattil Show, and TEDx speech this year. She also made her acting debut in the reboot of Mother and Son.
In her 23 years as a journalist, Jacobs has told many important stories, but she considers this year’s referendum to be the biggest thing she’ll have a say in. In the lead up to this moment in history, Jacobs was awarded an OAM.
As a member of Media Diversity Australia and a speaker at this year’s Visibility for Change panel, Cox has been shaking up the conversation using her voice and advertising background to agitate for real change.
CHAMPION OF THE YEAR
Celebrating a woman who has reached new heights this year in sport.
The support for The Matilda’s at this years FIFA World Cup highlighted the unique power of the game to bring together a nation and brought a renewed focus on the gender pay gap for women’s sport. Sam Kerr, Mary Fowler, Mackenzie Arnold, Cortnee Vine, Ellie Carpenter and Caitlin Foord are now sporting heroes to young girls (and boys) across the country, inspiring young girls to follow their own athletic dreams.
Since the inaugural Netball World Cup in 1963, the Australian national team, the Diamonds, has dominated the tournament. Out of the 16 World Cups (held every four years), the team has won 12, including this years triumphant win.
At 17 years old, track and field athlete Indi Cooper is already one to watch. The proud Wiradjuri teenager, who has dystonic cerebral palsy in all limbs and severe short-sightedness, won silver for the T38 100m final at the Youth Commonwealth Games this year.
Bursting onto the cricket scene at 18, Meg Lanning quickly climbed the ranks of the women’s national team. In 2014, she became Australia’s youngest ever captain – a role she still holds today. A four-time World Cup winning captain, Lanning has struck more one-day tons than any other woman and is Australia’s all-time leading run scorer across all formats.
ENTERTAINER OF THE YEAR
A woman who has captivated audiences in the entertainment field.
Cementing herself as one of most talented actors in Hollywood, Robbie has conquered a slew of complex female roles, from Mary Queen of Scots, Sharon Tate and Tonya Harding, as well as her biggest undertaking yet this year: Barbie. Robbie’s production company, LuckyChap Entertainment, has championed female creators and dynamic storytelling, producing critically acclaimed films including Promising Young Woman and I, Tonya.
Adding nuance and depth to the characters she takes on is part of the Snook effect that has spanned the Adelaide-born actor’s diverse portfolio of roles, including a modern adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s Pieces of a Woman, Steve Jobs, The Dressmaker and her role as Shiv Roy in the most talked-about series of the year, Succession. Now, the star is prepare for the critically acclaimed Australian production of The Picture of Dorian Gray as it makes its London debut in 2024.
After an incredible 36 year career, Minogue has been crowned the first woman to score a UK No.1 album over five consecutive decades. Her 16th album, Tension, has seen America re-enter the Kylie chat via an instant classic, “Padam Padam”.
With a career that spans more than 60 film and TV productions, an Oscar, five Golden Globes and two Emmys, what does an actor do next? She steps out of her comfort zone, taking on a role in the action-packed drama Lioness Special Ops to critical acclaim. A passionate promoter of Australian female creatives through her company Blossom Films, Kidman is a fierce advocate for spotlighting new female voices.
CREATIVE OF THE YEAR
A female creative who has pushed the boundaries of her chosen medium.
Earlier this year, 29-year-old multidisciplinary artist Julia Gutman won the Art Gallery of NSW’s Archibald Prize for her portrait of friend and singer Jessica Cerro, known widely as Montaigne. Not only did this make Gutman the youngest winner in 85 years, but also only the 11th woman to win the prize since the Archibald began in 1921. In addition to winning the Archibald, Julia has been exhibited across Australia and internationally, with shows in Sydney, Melbourne, Rome, Milan and New York.
The winner of this years coveted Miles Franklin Award, Shankari is a human rights lawyer and mother of four, who describes her writing as an extension of her legal work because she is concerned with injustice and the brutality of people.
MADE UP STORIES
Nine Perfect Strangers. Pieces of Her. The Undoing. The Dry. Luckiest Girl Alive. Anatomy of a Scandal. These are just a few of the critically acclaimed and award-winning shows that production company Made Up Stories has developed since it began in 2017. Australian powerhouse producers Bruna Papandrea and Jodi Matterson set up the company with the aim of championing women on and off the screen. This year, Made Up Stories brought to life the novel The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart, starring Sigorney Weaver, and later this year it will release Strife, starring Asher Keddie.
Best known globally for her captivating portrayal of Christine Daaé in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera, Manford also runs her own production company where she has worked in tandem with Disney Concerts USA to curate a never-before-seen program in which she co-produces, casts, performs in and tours around the country.
DESIGNER OF THE YEAR
A fashion designer who represents the new guard of style and innovation.
Since founding the Australian label in 1991 Zimmerman has cemented its place alongside international fashion dynasties. In August, the brand became Australia’s first billion-dollar fashion label, after a majority acquisition by a private equity firm. With more than 900 staff and 58 boutiques around the globe – including 22 shops in Australia and a new European head office on Paris’ Rue Saint-Honoré – Zimmermann’s Advent investment is set to speed up world domination.
From Ballarat to Paris and New York to the skies, Vallance has proven to be one of Australia’s most in-demand fashion exports, and her recent collaboration with Qantas has only solidified that.
At this year’s Australian Fashion Week, the Ngali founder and Wiradjuri woman, Deni Francisco was the first Indigenous designer to hold a solo runway.
Fuelled by a love of her Country, culture and people, Liandra Gaykamangu and her eponymous swimwear label, Liandra, have made waves in the Australian fashion industry. In February, IMG announced Liandra as one of the four winners of 2023’s iteration of Next Gen, AAFW’s emerging designer program. As a recipient of that award, Liandra hit the runway at Australian Fashion Week, opening the Next Gen show.
A next-gen talent who has captured our attention as a face to watch.
After launching onto the scene in the cult DC television series Titans while she was in high school, Teagan Croft’s career had officially launched. This year, after Titans wrapped its fourth and final season, Croft set out on a new adventure on the high seas, taking on the role of Jessica Watson in Netflix’s hotly anticipated bio-pic True Spirit.
Starring alongside industry legends Sigourney Weaver and Asher Keddie, the actor captivated audiences with an emotionally charged performance in hotly-anticipated series The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart, exploring the legacy and complexities of intergenerational trauma.
As one of musical theatre’s most sought-after performers, Negwenya has blown audiences away with her performances in Lion King, We Will Rock You, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, Ragtime and Moulin Rouge! The Musical. This year, the triple threat performer stunned audiences once again with her explosive performance as the Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll in Tina: The Tina Turner Musical.
Millie Ford is one of the fastest-rising creatives in Australia. She amassed more than 1.7 million followers online, appeared on the Stan Original Series Bump (2021) and Nine’s Beauty and the Geek (2022), launched a podcast Out of Character with Millie and hosted a slew of A-list red carpets.
An inspiring trailblazer who has paved the way for other women.
The first Indigenous person and only the second woman to be appointed to the AFL executive team, Hosch has workied hard for decades to ensure the rights of First Nations people. In this role, she has helped to create positive change for women, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and gender-diverse Australians. In 2021, she was the recipient of the South Australian Australian of the Year Award and is currently the director of Australians for Indigenous Constitutional Recognition.
In September this year, Michele Bullock became the first female governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia in its 63-year history. As difficult as it is to believe, that’s actually the second milestone Bullock reached at the financial institution – the first was in 2022, when she became the first woman to take on the role of deputy governor.
VANESSA HUDSON PROFESSOR
The appointment of new Qantas CEO Vanessa Hudson marks the first time the airline has had a female boss in its 103-year history. During her time as CFO, a role she stepped into as the pandemic shut down most airlines around the world, Hudson was widely credited for Qantas’ survival during Covid.
Since helping to create 2017’s Uluru Statement From The Heart, the activist and human rights lawyer has worked tirelessly during the Voice’s Yes campaign, debunking myths and misinformation and meeting with both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people to talk about what the Voice will mean for the country.
A woman whose illustrious career and talents have immortalised her name for generations to come.
One of the most talented forwards of her generation, Kerr has led The Matilda’s since 2019 and was a driving force in getting the team to where they are today. This year, the athlete took out the coveted Women’s Footballer of the Year award for the second consecutive season and named runner-up to Spain’s Aitana Bonmati as UEFA’s Women’s Player of the Year, as well as calling for more funding for grassroots teams.
As the former anchor of the ABC’s flagship current affairs program 7.30, and the current host of the documentary series Australian Story, Sales is one of the country’s most respected and formidable journalists. After 28 years in the industry, the Walkley Award winning journalist Leigh Sales has released her most fascinating work to date: her book Storytellers, in which she interviews Australia’s most influential journos.
With 70 films and 20 stage productions under her belt, the scale of Blanchett’s work reaches beyond the confines of genre, medium or typecast. Her latest film, the psychological thriller Tar, is no exception. Taking home six Academy Awards this year, the film navigates themes of cancel-culture and identity politics through the life of a queer conductor as she loses her grip on power.
Marcia Hines is a trailblazer. She’s the American girl who landed in Australia aged 16 to star in the then-radical musical Hair. After a career that has spanned nearly six decades, Hines is returning to the stage in Grease the Musical. She has also created her own musical, Velvet.