Public sector game changers recognised at Women’s Agenda Leadership Awards


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Amy Thunig and Narelle Underwood have been recognised as the most outstanding up-and-coming female leaders in the public sector at the Women’s Agenda Leadership Awards.

The annual awards ceremony — now in its seventh year — was held in Sydney on Friday. Finalists in a range of categories attended from across Australia.

Any woman working in politics, local government, or a government department was eligible for the Emerging Female Leader in the Government and Public Sector Award — regardless of age or experience. Sponsored by ANZSOG, the award winners were selected based on their demonstrated growth and inclusivity in their field since the start of 2018.

Underwood is in charge of regulating NSW’s land and mining surveying sector as the state’s first female Surveyor General. Appointed at the age of 32, she was also the youngest. Underwood hopes to inspire more women to become surveyors, and according to the judges, she’s succeeding.

“An exceptional young leader in a male-dominated industry, changing the perception and inclusion of women surveyors,” they said. “She has a dynamic vision for the work and its role in our overall community.”

Thunig is an associate lecturer in the Department of Educational Studies at Macquarie University, where she is undertaking a PhD in education with a focus on Indigenous women in academia. A Gamilaroi woman, Thunig is also a freelance media writer and panelist.

The judges said she had shown outstanding academic and community leadership. “She has overcome significant barriers and is challenging us all to think differently about First Nation’s peoples. She is also a wonderful role model for women, particularly Indigenous women.”

Dr Cathy Foley, chief scientist at the CSIRO, was also recognised at the ceremony as the 2019 Agenda Setter of the year.

She was selected due to her drive to “elevate women in STEMM across the board”.

“Dr Foley demonstrates exceptional leadership through her position as Chief Scientist of CSIRO, and her tireless pursuit to make Australia both globally competitive and sustainable is remarkable,” the judges said.

The award for Emerging Female Leader in Science, Medicine and Health was won by Karlie Alinta Noon and Dr Kudzai Kanhutu.

Noon is a student at ANU and CSIRO, whose research centres on traditional Aboriginal astronomical knowledge. She was a 2019 Young Australian of the Year Finalist and the first Indigenous woman in Australia to graduate with a double degree in mathematics and physics.

Other nominees for the public sector category included Janelle Andrews, Dr Abeer Alsadoon, and Faye McMillan.

McMillan is a Wiradjuri woman from Trangie, NSW. She graduated as Australia’s first Aboriginal pharmacist, and is a founding member of Indigenous Allied Health Australia.

Andrews is the Inspector of the State Intelligence and Covert Services Command in the Queensland Police Service. Within the QPS, she has previously served as the Patrol Group Inspector for the Centenary and Inner West Patrol Groups, and as a Strategy and Performance Officer for the Deputy Commissioner of Regional Operations.

Alsadoon is an Associate Professor and IT researcher at Charles Sturt University. She has also worked as a researcher in the health services area, data mining and the e-health research group.

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