International Women’s Day | Celebrating Regional women in Australia, champions in their field



Meet some extraordinary women across regional Victoria helping #BreakTheBias this International Women’s Day.


Every March, women and allies around the world come together and acknowledge International Women’s Day (IWD). Celebrated on 8 March – it’s a reminder of the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women each and every day. And most importantly, it’s a day of progress as it marks a call to action for accelerating women’s equality.


The first International Women’s Day gathering took place in 1911 supported by over a million people. It has grown significantly to a much greater movement today where change can happen in everyday conversations and behaviour, growing to make a worldwide difference.


This year’s theme is Break the Bias. It conjures up experiences of bias, stereotypes and discrimination based on looks and a complex history. No Borders Law Group strives to break this bias and create a world where difference is valued and celebrated.


There are strong women in every field, around every corner.


A bright group of regional women share their experience with bias, and here are their stories.


Brigit Heller, Visual Artist at Romsey Ecotherapy Park

Loddon Mallee, Romsey


Share with us a time where you have had to #BreakTheBias – in your professional or personal life?

Photograph of Brigit Heller

Brigit Heller

I am an artist and educator, working in an outdoor and public art environment. While there have been many changes in the public art environment throughout the years, I feel the area is still very much dominated by male artists. Working with metals which is my preferred material to use, seems to be an inherent masculine process and is often reflected in public works. I have been working with steel for a long time and spent years trying to change that perception. I want to move away from an idea that hard and heavy materials should be handled by men and that welding, grinding and forging of steel is not considered feminine.


Tell us about a woman you admire and why?

There are many female artists I admire greatly. To choose almost seems unfair, so I have decided to keep it close to home. One of the artists I greatly respect and admire is Inge King. She worked up until 98 years old as a Victorian artist and has some of the most recognisable works in Australia. She lived a long life, passing away at 101 years. Like myself, Inge King migrated to Australia as an adult. Through determination, talent and persistence, she took her place in the artworld during a time when women were usually only represented on the fringes of public art.


How do you choose to help create a gender equal world?

As an educator I have the privilege to share some of my work experiences with students. During lectures we talk about the entrenched inequality which exists within the art world. The positions of decision makers and curators are often occupied by men and as a result, commercial galleries seem o feature more male artists as their works are viewed as commercially more viable. The reality is that the percentage of female students in art schools is higher than male students. I encourage young women to be seen, to be loud and take up space with their ideas and creations. Opportunities present themselves once you are visible and heard, show interest and dare to engage. I am in the fortunate position to offer work experience to students in my Lancefield studio.

To see her work, visit Brigit Heller Visual Art.


Thablay Khinshwe, Multilingual Liaison Officer at Nhill Learning Centre

Grampians, Nhill


Share with us a time where you have had to #BreakTheBias – in your professional or personal life?

Photograph of Thablay Khinshwe

Thablay Khinshwe

Inequality based on race, age, gender and ethnicity is so real. I have been treated differently based on the way I look – I am a young woman from a refugee background and person of colour. People don’t expect me to speak up or to disagree with their ideas and opinion (this is both with my own community and wider community). I usually stay quiet in meetings and when I do speak, sometimes people hurry me up to finish my sentence. I feel I don’t have a voice because of my looks. For example, when I’m in restaurants with a Caucasian friend, the staff will choose to speak to them when taking our order.


Tell us about a woman you admire and why?

The person I admire the most is my mother because she is very warm, careful and also a fighter in everything. She left her birth place so that we could be in a safer place. She is still continuing to fight in this new country where everything is so different especially the language and culture.


How do you choose to help create a gender equal world?

I spend a lot of my professional and personal time empowering women to be independent especially women with young children and women with low levels of education.


Deb DeCarli, Hydrogen Supply Chain Advisor at Hydrogen Energy Supply Chain project

Gippsland, Latrobe Valley


Share with us a time where you have had to #BreakTheBias – in your professional or personal life?

Photograph of Deb DeCarli

Deb DeCarli

When I worked on a demolition site in the late 90’s, I worked with some of the first women to enter an asbestos enclosure, which required a change room to be made available for us. The existing change room that we had to walk through to get to our small tent had magazine pictures of women in various semi-naked poses covering the walls. I guess the current employees assumed this would be okay and didn’t consider if it could be offensive to new employees. It looked like they only saw women as objects to be looked at rather than working side by side with them! With several young women on site who were required to access the change room, I requested the pictures come down. The response resulted in some serious pornography images placed in the female change tent. I felt really uncomfortable and intimidated, but I stuck to my guns and with the support of both management and other male employees, the pictures were removed.


Tell us about a woman you admire and why?

There are many women I admire including Marie Curie, Madeleine Albright and Julia Gillard. It is hard to pick one but for this exercise I will detail why Marie is high on my list. She worked in a time when it was very uncommon to have a female as a scientist and she was so passionate about physics and radiation that she gave her life for her passion. She is also still the only person ever to have won a Nobel prize in two different fields of science.


How do you choose to help create a gender equal world?

I try to advocate for women and diversity whenever I can. In my personal life, I am the Secretary of my local Yallourn-Yallourn North Football Netball Club. I have a seat at the committee table that I use to advocate for women which is primarily our netballers. I have been very active in advocating for a new netball complex securing grants for a new court, change rooms and bathroom facilities. It is something that our male footballers have had access to for over 40 years. I am amazed at the strong women in our club and the current and emerging female leaders we have developed. My message to netballers and women in general is regardless of your background, we want to support you to become strong independent women who can feel safe to contribute in our local community


Vanessa Kearney, Commercial Manager at VIVA Energy Australia and 2018 Woman Manufacturer of the Year co-winner

Barwon South West, Geelong


Share with us a time where you have had to #BreakTheBias – in your professional or personal life?

Photograph of Vanessa Kearney

Vanessa Kearney

As I progressed into leadership roles in Refining and Supply Chain areas, I noticed I became the only woman in the room or meeting. It made it intimidating and hard to speak up at times. My confidence grew slowly from a lot of trial and error (often feeling like I got it wrong or didn’t get my point across) and using informal mentors as support. It takes perseverance and courage but it’s worth it to feel like you have a voice and can represent others.


Tell us about a woman you admire and why?

I have a lot of admiration for politician Julie Bishop, for both what she has achieved in her career and also how she has gone about it. Her achievements in politics is well documented and universally respected. I really admire her ability to always speak out for injustice and equality while being able to remain true to who she is as a female working in a tough industry. She truly is an inspirational role model for women across the country.


How do you choose to help create a gender equal world?

My goal has always been to help and support other women to find their own pathway. I want young women to understand that there are many different opportunities that will come their way if they remain open to them. The more access they have to mentors and different experiences, the more confident they will feel to be themselves and make their own choices. I feel like it is our job to make the journey easier for young women by sharing our experiences.


Read more information about regional Victoria investment at Regional Development Victoria.

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