Jahna Cedar was acknowledged for her work with indigenous job-seekers in the Pilbara region. Formerly employed by Bloodwood Tree, an Aboriginal community welfare business in Port Hedland, Ms Cedar helped indigenous people find jobs. She said one of the greatest rewards had been witnessing their growth in confidence. “A lot of them haven’t had past jobs or don’t believe they have any skills that are transferable,” she said.

The mother of two has also been a strong advocate for her community. She’s sat on committees and boards, done motivational speaking in schools and was chosen to represent the Australian community at last year’s United Nations Commission on the Status of Women in New York. She was also selected as the under 18s representative on the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission delegation to attend the UN third preparatory  committee for the special session on children in 2001. She is considered an inspirational role model. “Seeing a lot of negative media reports on indigenous people drives me to go out and push for positive stories and more positive things in the community,” she said, “My great-grandmother was a full-blood Aboriginal. She went through a lot so I work hard to show her (that it) wasn’t for nothing.” She now works in traineeships and youth recruitment at the Centre for Excellence in Rail Training in Perth, having moved from Port Hedland. 

Linda Fistonich was at school in New Zealand when she said no one thought she would ever amount to much because she was totally blind and had a severe hearing loss. But, they had not reckoned with her determination and the strong belief her family had in her. She went to Auckland University and graduated with a degree in psychology. Shortly after that, the family moved to Perth where her sister lived.

Ms Fistonich currently works part-time at Community Newspapers as a telemarketer. She said she had to thank her family, friends and work colleagues for their support and encouragement. But, equally she helps others. Over the years, she has done voluntary work with migrants and the unemployed and given talks at schools. She helps and supports many blind people in WA and all over the world through email, offering friendship and informal counselling. 

Professor Colleen Hayward AM, a senior Noongar woman, welcomed the Queen to country during last year’s royal visit and it was an eye-opening moment for both women. “I was deeply moved by the Queen’s response in conversation with me when she indicated it was the first time on any of her visits to WA that she had truly heard the meaning of country from an Aboriginal perspective,” Professor Hayward said. “She said that it helped her understand a little of country being the foundation to the way Western Australia has developed.”

Few people are better able to provide that perspective than Professor Hayward. She comes from a family of teachers — her father, Len Hayward, was WA’s first Aboriginal teacher — and is currently head of Kurongkurl Katitjin Centre for Indigenous Australian Education and Research, at Edith Cowan University. She has bachelor degrees in education and in applied science in Aboriginal community management and development, plus a postgraduate certificate in cross-sector partnerships from Cambridge University. Professor Hayward was recruited to ECU just over three years ago, having come from the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research where she headed the institute’s research efforts in Aboriginal child and maternal health.

Among her many achievements, Professor Hayward has been recognised for her long-standing work for and on behalf of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities across Australia. She was named a finalist in The National Deadly Awards in 2008, the same year she won the National NAIDOC Aboriginal Person of the Year Award. She has also received the Premier’s Multicultural Ambassador’s Award for advancing human rights and anti-racism in the community and was a 2009 inductee into the WA Department of Education’s Hall of Fame for achievement in Aboriginal education. 

Annette Howard, a pig farmer, says rearing pigs is a “seven days a week, 365 days a year” job. When she and her husband established their piggery in Wannamal 115km north-east of Perth 25 years ago, she’d get up at 5am, dividing her time between farm, family and working within the community. After being raised in the city, the change in lifestyle came as a shock. “I met a farmer and that was the end of it,” she laughed. The couple have 8000 pigs on their 1763ha property and she is on the Pork Industry Training Committee of WA, working to maintain quality in the industry.

Alongside her busy life on the farm, Mrs Howard is an active Country Women’s Association member and on the WA Scout Training Team. She was a cub scout leader for 19 years and is now the Scouts WA branch commissioner for adult training. “The satisfaction on someone’s face who’s spent two hours saying ‘I can’t do it’ and then for them to actually do it is very rewarding,” she said. The New Zealand-born mother of three said her main motivation in life was “to be happy, to laugh and have fun” and take life’s challenges in her stride. 

Freda Jacob says she’s always been a driven woman. She was just the second occupational therapist in the State and began her career after World War II. Much of her early work was with people who had been left crippled by polio epidemics. She went on to found the Independent Living Centre WA in the late 1970s and helped establish the State’s first School of Occupational Therapy.

She was born into a farming family in the small Wheatbelt town of Shackleton. During the war she helped her younger brother run the farm before joining the Women’s Auxiliary Australian Air Force for a year. At the end of the war she came home to find her brother had married so she had to leave the farm and find a job. Deciding on OT, she set off to study in Sydney. “I felt these people needed a chance to get back to normal lives,” she said of her career choice. She worked at the Society for Crippled Children and Princess Margaret Hospital for Children, later becoming the head of the OT department at Royal Perth Hospital.

Ms Jacob was involved with the World Federation of Occupational Therapists and travelled the world attending conferences. She was also a charter member of the Zonta Club of Perth, part of a worldwide organisation of professionals working together to advance the status of women. She led a team to establish six other Zonta clubs in WA, retiring from the club last year after 39 years. As circumstance has it, Mr Right only came along very early and then very late in her life. She married her childhood sweetheart, Hal Finkelstein, in 2002 after first meeting him as a child in Shackleton. They lost touch for decades until they met again in 1999. “The years didn’t make any difference when we saw each other again,” she said. 

The Honourable Antoinette Kennedy AO is one of the most outstanding women to have been a member of WA’s legal profession. She was the first woman appointed as chief judge of the District Court in WA and one of only three women to have headed up a court in Australia. Ms Kennedy stepped down from the bench in 2010 but has remained active in the community and last year was appointed an officer of the Order of Australia for services to the law and to the judiciary, to professional associations, as a mentor to women in the law and to the community. She is patron of the Ishar Multicultural Women’s Health Centre, Association of Court Welfare Officers and Access Housing Australia, which is a non-government community housing organisation.

She has been outspoken on issues of social justice and has a keen interest in the provision of affordable housing. Ms Kennedy served as a member of Murdoch University’s Senate for six years, was a founding member of the Women Lawyers of Western Australia and has been the body’s patron since 1999, was a member of the Chief Justice’s Gender Bias Taskforce and a mentor in the Law Society of WA’s mentoring program for young lawyers.

Raised in Joondanna, she was the only woman in her high school class to attend university and then became the only women in her law class at the University of WA to gain her articles of clerkship. She has said that when she became a lawyer, there were only five other women practising in WA. She was appointed to the District Court in 1985 at the age of 40, becoming chief judge in 2004. During her career, she served on a wide variety of boards, including those of the University of Notre Dame Law School, St John of God Hospital and the Catholic Social Justice Commission and she was a member of the Ethics Committee of Graylands Hospital and the Centenary of Women’s Suffrage in WA Committee. 

Kerry Newick, a Perth foster mother, felt surprised and flattered when she found out she had made it into the WA Women’s Hall of Fame. “People think it’s so special but I’m just doing something I love to do,” she said over the phone as she found a quiet spot in the house away from her 11 foster children. Since 1987, Mrs Newick has fostered 52 kids, eight of whom were newborns. Their biological daughter was 18 months old when she and her husband started taking in children. “We had so much to give,” she said. “We knew we could handle more children and give someone a better life.” Expecting just one addition to the family, Mrs Newick got three siblings at once as her first foster children.

The Newicks have often cared for multiple members of the same family so they wouldn’t be separated. Mrs Newick said many of the children came from extremely troubled backgrounds. “You have your behavioural challenges but at the end of the day, with love and care and nurturing, no one’s bad,” she said. Mrs Newick, who is also the president of the Foster Care Association of WA, said she was still in touch with most of the children she had cared for, many of whom had grown up and had families of their own. Her husband walked her two eldest foster daughters down the aisle and she recently witnessed the birth of a grandchild. “I love what kids bring to you. They teach you so much because they’re so honest and so innocent and they can bring you laughter. You can see them grow into some really decent, valuable people,” she said. 

Dr Casta Tungaraza co-founded the African Women’s Council of Australia last year to allow African women to have their voices heard on issues such as the child protection system and antisocial African youths. The council held a forum and presented a national action plan to the Federal and State ministers for women at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Perth. It also established cultural awareness training and parents’ education programs in African-Australian communities nationwide.

Born in Tanzania to a family of 11, Dr Tungaraza’s father was a minister for labour and social welfare and her mother was a primary schoolteacher. “Dad would say ‘if you go to the well and you can’t carry a bucket, you can still carry a glass’ so whatever you can do, you are assisting,” she said, “Don’t ever think you are too young or too small to have an impact…We can’t wait for problems to be solved by someone else. We have to be part of the solution, not the problem.” The Applecross mother of two is a doctor of philosophy in international relations and is equal opportunity and social justice manager at Murdoch University. She came to Australia 25 years ago and has become a strong advocate for multiculturalism. She holds seats on the WA Premier’s anti-racism steering committee and the Australian Multicultural Advisory Council. 

Linda Wayman, general manager of Southern Cross Austereo Perth,  runs two of WA’s top radio stations, Mix 94.5 and 92.9. Mix 94.5 has broken listening records to become the most successful radio station in Australian history, winning 98 consecutive radio surveys. Ms Wayman is the first person in the company’s history to gain a senior executive position with a non-radio background and now manages close to 100 staff and a budget of $42 million.

Ms Wayman began her career working as a journalist in magazines and newspapers in Perth and Sydney before becoming a group editor of five award-winning suburban newspapers in Melbourne. She rose to prominence as general manager of Eventscorp in WA before joining Southern Cross Austereo. She holds a masters degree and was named Telstra Business Woman of the Year (WA) in 2003. With other winners, she went on to set up Make Me a CEO, a program to help women progress in their careers. Ms Wayman has been an active worker in the community, involved with the Salvation Army through her role at Southern Cross Austereo. She was also chairwoman of the State Library of WA Foundation where she has pursued an interest in improving literacy rates with initiatives such as the WA Spelling Bee. She is currently a councillor on the Australia Business Arts Foundation and a member of the Committee for Perth. 

Professor Samina Yasmeen AM, the University of WA director of the Centre for Muslim States and Societies, has taken part in high-level international relations meetings around the world, advised the US Government on security threats and attended policy forums in India to discuss relations with Pakistan.

As the country’s most prolific researcher and commentator on Muslim identities, the Pakistan-born professor of political science and international relations has worked tirelessly to promote tolerance and understanding of Islam in the post-9/11 environment. She is a member of the Australian Multicultural Advisory Council, the Council for Immigration Services and Status Resolution, and the International Humanitarian Law Committee. She sits on the boards of the National Australia Day Council and the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, and is the WA vice- president of the Australian Institute for International Affairs.


 Susan Adelaide Casson (1872-1952) dedicated much of her life to helping people affected by mental illness in a time when many sufferers were institutionalised for long periods. She sought to have psychiatric patients rehabilitated in the community and there are now residential facilities in Perth that bear her name, including Casson House. She founded the Mental Hospital After Care and Comforts Fund, now called Casson Homes, which is believed to be one of the first charities for mental health patients in Australia. Mrs Casson was also the first female organiser for the Australian Labor Party in Perth and was the second woman in the State to be appointed a Justice of the Peace.  

Dr Roberta Jull (1872-1961) was the first woman to practise medicine in WA. She came to WA to work with her brother, also a GP, in Guildford. She married and had a daughter, writer Henrietta Drake-Brockman, in 1901. In 1917, after the death of her husband, Dr Jull became a medical officer for schools with the Department of Public Health. She spent much of her life fighting for women’s and children’s equality. 

Dame Annie Florence Gillies Cardell-Oliver (1876-1965) became Australia’s first female full Cabinet member in 1949. She was WA’s minister for health, supply and shipping and continued to work in Parliament until 1956. She introduced a free milk program for schoolchildren and legislated for compulsory chest exams as part of the fight against tuberculosis. In 1935, Dame Cardell-Oliver attended a congress in Istanbul of the International Suffrage of Women Alliance at the personal request of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder and first president of the Republic of Turkey. She was also delegate to the British Commonwealth League. 

Florence Hummerston (1890-1984), born in Fremantle,  was the first woman elected to Perth City Council. She was on the council for 18 years until 1969 where she focused on improving food handling practices and installing electric hand dryers and incinerators in women’s restrooms. She started the Women’s Australian National Service during World War II, which spearheaded the foundation of Wanslea Hostel for children of sick mothers two years later. She was president of the Tuberculosis Association of WA, an executive member of the Children’s Protection Society of WA. and the National Fitness Council of WA, and foundation president of the League of Home Help through which Meals on Wheels was started and was made Justice of the Peace in 1952. 

Isabel Johnston (1891-1976) had a passion for teaching women about the workings of government in the hope that they might one day be able to participate, which led her to start the Western Australian Women’s Parliament in 1946. The parliament taught women how to formulate, research, prepare, present and debate material. It was an immediate success and the women submitted some of their proceedings to State Parliament. After much representation from the Western Australian Women’s Parliament a woman was appointed to the housing commission. Isabel Johnston was appointed Justice of the Peace in 1947 with Ida Swift, another member of the women’s parliament.