We are thrilled to announce the FINALISTS for our Queensland Women in Leadership Awards!



Madison Birtchnell

Madison Birtchnell

Madison embodies excellence in community service, volunteering since the age of 6. Named the 2018 Gold Coast Young Citizen of the Year, a finalist for Volunteering Queensland & Mental Health Achievement Youth Awards and recently selected as Australia’s representative in the Class of 2018 Women Deliver Young Leaders Program, Madison’s passion for mental health, inclusion, equality, social justice, youth engagement and empowering other women is evident. Her proudest achievements in 2017 were devising an IWW Conference, featuring Hon. Yvette D’Ath, raising $1.2K for Ovarian Cancer; along with Shadowing Director General DJAG Mr David Mackie, and Law Spokesperson. Madison is only 17 years old with a passion for serving others and hopes to work for the UN.

Kathryn Lyons



Kathryn Lyons has a complex medical disability that neither defines, nor stops her. An award-winning innovator, mentor and ambassador, her mission to achieve universal inclusion for all is becoming reality. Through her charity, Accessibili-t and advocacy with governments and corporations, university-based product development and inclusive community consultancy, Kathryn’s achieving real change. Her awards and nominations include Baton-Bearer for the 2018 Commonwealth Games for her Innovative Design, Entrepreneurial-finalist at [email protected] 1.0 Australia, Youth-Governors Young Queenslander of the Year 2016, Finalist for the Young-People-Human-Rights Medal of Australia 2016, Logan’s Community-Award for Disability 2017. Kathryn is also the proud patron of Parent-2-Parent QLD.

Bianco Goebel


Bianca is a social advocate for the empowerment of youth, women and those from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds as well as the innovation of economic systems to facilitate this. She is passionate about enabling positive change towards the goal of equality of opportunities - in recognition of the diverse reality we live in. Bianca has had the privilege of giving through various volunteering roles, including: YWCA QLD Board member, Red Cross Youth Advisory Committee member, CEO of NFP Youth Without Borders, Chair of the Women in Engineering Committee, Co-Chair of the UQ Young Alumni Advisory Board and mentoring young leaders.

Taylor Birtchnell


Taylor has a passion for serving others and has created real, tangible change in her local community. She is involved in a wide range of service activities, from volunteering with local charities, raising funds and awareness of the importance of youth mental health to volunteering with service organisations as a proud Rotarian. The inaugural winner of the Volunteering Queensland ‘Youth Volunteering Award’, Taylor has been recognised as an emerging leader in her local community and as someone who displays incredible drive. She serves her community selflessly, with passion, commitment and dedication.



With so many nominations of women who have made amazing community contributions and innovative change the judges decided to split the award into two, the Entrepreneurial and Innovative Leader and the Rachel Whitford Award for Building Communities.

Pushpa Bakshi


Pushpa has a long history of supporting the local community. As a cognitive behavioural therapist, she has helped many get through times of stress and depression. Over the last two decades, she has dedicated her time to assisting others get their lives back on track through coaching, mentoring and wellbeing activities such as yoga. A business woman, she has worked tirelessly to assist thousands of businesses through her mentoring program and has worked with special needs children. Pushpa has played the role of Chair and Vice President for several women’s organisations and has still found time to participate in events through public and motivational speaking.  


Reena Augustine


Founder of Red Carpet Functions, Reena challenges the stereotypes of beauty and fashion and works positively towards breaking down those stereotypes by celebrating all men and women, no matter their cultural background, shape or size. Since living in Australia, Reena has supported many community events through volunteer work. Drawing on her own experiences, Reena provides opportunities for people who would otherwise not have them. The winner of the 2016 Women in Business Community Achievement Award and a Queen’s Baton Bearer at the upcoming Commonwealth Games, Reena promotes multiculturalism and peace in all that she does.

Emily De La Pena



Founder of Coding Kids and Advance Queensland’s Community Digital Champion, Emily is developing the next generation of coders, inventors and change makers. After spending over a decade building a successful career in civil and transportation engineering, she now enjoys sharing her passion for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics with the next generation. Emily balances her time between empowering children to become technology creators and engaging with teachers and librarians to integrate the new Digital Technologies subject (i.e. computational & systems thinking, design thinking, coding and robotics) into their classrooms and schools.

Bernadette Eriksen


Bernadette is a woman of extraordinary vision, who has transformed that vision into an effective tangible form. During the 1990s, Bernadette identified areas of failing within the health sector associated with those suffering swallowing disorders (dysphagia) and malnutrition, especially in the elderly. She set about producing products in her own kitchen and in so doing transformed her aspirational concept into an international business. Humble entrepreneur and single mum, Bernadette is the Founder and CEO of Flavour Creations, a Brisbane-based food manufacturing company that researches and develops innovative nutritional products intended to support a healthy lifestyle and improve the lives of thousands living with dysphagia in both Australia and overseas.



With so many nominations of women who have made amazing community contributions and innovative change the judges decided to split the award into two, the Entrepreneurial and Innovative Leader and the Rachel Whitford Award for Building Communities.

Manuela Whitford


A passionate career-woman, wife and mother, Manuela’s life changed after enduring a harrowing assault back home in South Africa and she has since made a positive difference in the lives of those affected by DV. After immigrating to Australia, Manuela secured a job with QLD Health working in the women’s prison system. Here, she realised that as much as she had escaped the violence in South Africa, which happened in public places, many of the women in the prison system were seeking refuge from violence happening within their home, a place associated with safety, warmth and love. These women committed crimes to escape. Inspired, Manuela created multiple charities and organisations dedicated to helping those in need, specifically in relation to DV and continues to be an advocate of freedom, hope and dignity.

Saalihah Seedat


A highly skilled social innovator and busy mother of three, Saalihah aims for work-life balance combining her career as a Clinical Pharmacist with mentoring and leadership skills as a Personal Development Coach. With a huge passion for women’s well-being, Saalihah has undertaken voluntary roles with Share the Dignity, Bali Life Foundation, Skilling Queenslanders for Work programs through Logan Women’s Health & Well-being Centre and the co-ordination of Breast Cancer fundraising events for Crescents of Brisbane. A strong believer in 'Knowledge is Power,' she believes together we can contribute to a more connected, empowered and united community.

Colleen Benson



Colleen has had an amazing career working in her local community and inspiring others to do the same. Having served on school P&Cs, the PCYC from 1977-1990, Little Athletics as a coach and on the committee for fifteen years, Meals on Wheels as a cook and committee member for three years and as a Justice of the Peace since 1984; Colleen continues to assist the socially disadvantaged through her work at Logan East Community Neighbourhood Association (LECNA). Through her inspiring leadership, LECNA has continued to thrive, providing services to over 30,000 clients annually. Colleen’s 27 years of community dedication is widely known and has earnt her great respect from the public.

Denise Hunter


In response to hearing disturbing statistics about the severe shortage of available housing for women and children fleeing domestic and family violence, Denise Hunter sold her house in 2015 and invested the proceeds in her charity, Safe Haven Community, which is now fully operational and saving lives every day. Despite having no formal training in the sector, Denise was determined to create a simple and safe community-based solution to address the problem. The service now has a team of 135 volunteers who are dedicated to helping provide a safe place to stay for anyone fleeing domestic abuse.