The Australian Women’s Weekly and AGL Energy has hosted the 7th annual Women of the Future​ (WoTF) awards ceremony at Bennelong, Sydney Opera House​.

The prestigious event, which celebrates some of the country’s most extraordinary young women who are making a difference, featured a topical and thought-provoking panel discussion between; Australian Banking Association chief executive officer, The Honourable Anna Bligh, TV and radio personality Amanda Keller, journalist Annabel Crabb, and the City of Sydney Councillor and former MP for Wentworth Dr Kerryn Phelps, hosted by emcee Virginia Trioli.

The panel particularly highlighted the current controversy around women’s reproductive rights hotly playing out in Australia. Anna Bligh shared her admiration for NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s “courage in taking this issue on.” She spoke of the shock she felt when she heard “a male journalist harangue the Premier about her personal reproductive history” – shocked by “the level of disrespect to her and to women in general…That’s when you know you’ve got a long way to go.”

Kerryn Phelps spoke of her experience as a General Practitioner. “As a GP, I have to work with women and their belief systems without judgement. The political system should also reflect that. This should be a health issue between a doctor and a woman. Politicians and the criminal justice system need to get out of the way.”

The panel also spoke about imposter syndrome and surviving and thriving through failure. “All too often, women pay a higher price for failure,” Anna Bligh said.

The ​Australian Women’s Weekly AGL WoTF patron, the Honourable Dame Quentin Bryce, announced her retirement as Patron this year, following seven years of service to Women of the Future. Dame Quentin passed the Patron baton to long-time friend Elizabeth Broderick AO who will take up service from 2020. Our longest serving Sex Discrimination Commissioner and United Nations Special Rapporteur, her review into the treatment of women in the Australian Defence Force led to widespread cultural reform. Elizabeth is one of the most inspiring champions of women in the country and ​The Australian Women’s Weekly and AGL are proud to welcome her on board.

Dame Quentin and Elizabeth Broderick took to the stage for an inspiring Q&A with Virginia Trioli. Dame Quentin spoke of her years as patron. “My engagement with young women,” she said, “is right at the centre of my heart.” Elizabeth Broderick spoke of her enthusiasm for her new role. “We live in challenging times,” she said. “You could almost say we live in dangerous times. But I am determined to ensure that when this period of pushback against women’s rights ends – and it will end – we will have a strong foundation to make sure the future is one where men and women will be able to equally thrive.”

The ​Australian Women’s Weekly ​AGL WoTF initiative is a key component of ​The Weekly’s long-standing commitment to support and promote the female leaders of tomorrow. Nominees are entered across three unique categories: ​Innovation and ​Technology​, Entrepreneur and Business,​ and ​Community, Health and Charity, with the winner of each category receiving $35,000 and a full-page advertisement in ​The Australian Women’s Weekly​ to help further their causes.

18-year-old Macinley Butson took home the ​Innovation and Technology award, thanks to her revolutionary invention SMART Armour that reduces the amount of radiation breast cancer patients undergoing radiotherapy absorb in their non-cancer-affected breast. Since devising the intricate shield three years ago, Macinley’s SMART Armour has been patented and approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration.

Little Dreamers founder, Melbourne’s Madeleine Buchner​, won the judges’ hearts and the Community Health and Charity ​award. After growing up caring for her younger brother and mother, she was spurred to launch Little Dreamers Australia, the country’s only non-profit organisation supporting young carers.

 Young fashion designer and innovator, Courtney Holm, was the winner of the ​Entrepreneur and Business c​ategory. Courtney is tackling waste in fashion through her label, A.BCH, sourcing raw materials from ethical suppliers and educating customers on how to be responsible for their garments. Her recent collection, presented at Helsinki Fashion Week, was entirely circular, generating zero waste.

This year’s particularly tight field of finalists was judged by a panel of Australia’s most influential women – ABC Chair Ita Buttrose, TV presenter Lisa Wilkinson, writer, director, actress and former WoTF winner Genevieve Clay-Smith, OZHarvest CEO Ronni Kahn, ​The Australian Women’s Weekly’s Editor-in-Chief Nicole Byers, and Lisa Harrington, AGL Executive General Manager – Stakeholder Relations.

“We’ve been delighted to collaborate with the wonderful team at ​The Australian Women’s Weekly ​for another year, on their prestigious program, Women of the Future,” says AGL Chief Customer Officer, Christine Corbett. “By recognising the entrepreneurial spirit of young Australian women, these awards provide more opportunities for the next generation of innovators and disruptors –- progress we can all benefit from.”

Editor-in-Chief Nicole Byers is proud of the 2019 WoTF campaign, saying: “The calibre of award entries continues to blow us away. The 2019 finalists have a special combination of creativity, innovation and smarts and while they’ve already achieved success in their respective fields, there is a sense that they’re only just getting started which is truly exciting.

“I’d like to sincerely thank AGL, our patron and the award judges, panellists and of course, the finalists, for allowing ​The Weekly to keep telling the stories of Australian women. We look forward to continuing to uncover and reward young women who will shape the future of Australia.”

Helping to celebrate one of the closest-run competition in the award’s history were many of Australia’s most interesting and influential women, including Kate Ritchie, Tracey Spicer, Maggie Beer, Leila McKinnon, Christine Forster, Wendy Harmer, Kerri-Anne Kennerley, Deborah Hutton, Wendy Whiteley, Michelle Bridges and Sarah Harris.

The October issue of ​The Australian Women’s Weekly​, featuring the AGL Women of the Future Awards winners is now on sale. ​#womenofthefuture19

Source: Womens Weekly Women of The Future