Thursday, 3 March 2022

Good evening. It is my great pleasure to return to Whyalla to present the 2021-2022 Business Woman of the Year award.

I acknowledge the Barngarla people as the traditional custodians of the land on which we are gathering and pay my respects to the elders.

I was last here in October 2021, on my very first regional trip as Governor, spending time with the communities of Whyalla and Port Augusta.

I was struck by the sense of momentum and opportunity in this part of the state, as well as the many dynamic undertakings and the infrastructure being put in place to support them.

From the new state-of-the-art Whyalla Secondary College, now in its first term of operation;

To the sheer scope and scale of the steelworks; and only this week we have had welcome news about the new contract to supply more than 147,000 tonnes of steel for key rail projects across the country.

To the fantastic work in sustainability: the water sensitive Arid Lands Botanic Gardens, the production of food from renewable sources at Sundrop Farms, and the pursuit of renewable energy production planned for the Port Bonython Hydrogen Hub.

And of course, another of this area’s great assets is its natural landscape and stunning coastline, with all the tourism potential that implies.

The Mayor has Rod and I completely enthused about the idea of swimming with cuttlefish!

I trust that, as women in business, you are energised by this sense of activity and promise in your community.

Of course, the COVID pandemic has posed many difficulties in recent years, especially for business.

Businesses have had to find new ways of operating.

They’ve had to lay off staff, close temporarily, or even permanently shut down.

Despite these challenges, there have been examples of hope and success.

I was inspired to read the story of Amy Quist, the 2020-2021 Whyalla Business Woman of the Year.

Amy was forced to close her photography studio in the early months of the pandemic.

Instead of letting this defeat her, she changed tack and created a mobile version of her business.

This led to the creation of the Front Porch Project, in which she photographed hundreds of local families at home, creating a sense of connection for people in isolation and capturing an historic moment in the life of the Whyalla community.

I’m conscious that Amy is speaking a little later this evening, and I don’t want to tell her story for her.

But I do want to highlight and commend her initiative and spirit, which I sense runs more broadly right through this community.

Friends, in my career as a diplomat, working around the world, I have seen first hand the pivotal role that women play at the heart of their communities.

Local women understand local communities, and they are loyal to those communities.

This makes them an asset in local business.

I thank all the women in business here this evening for the outstanding contribution you are making to the City of Whyalla, and for showing support for one another by attending this event.

For me, International Women’s Day is about women coming together in solidarity.

While 8 March provides us with an excellent and necessary focal point each year, I believe strongly that we need to support each other every day.

I can still remember, years later, the small gestures of support and encouragement offered to me by senior women colleagues as my diplomatic career progressed.

I have been extremely fortunate in my career, in terms of the opportunities afforded to me and my female colleagues in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Yet I still remember sitting in rooms of predominantly men and struggling to be heard, only to be backed up by other women present. And I have done the same.

In my career, as a woman, I have needed to take a long view.

It’s easy to feel a bit stranded or marooned at times, that things are not moving along as you would wish, or your career is not progressing in the way you would like.

Many of us have experienced the rewards, but also the challenges of combining motherhood with a career.

Rod and I have four adult children, but I certainly remember times when I doubted whether we could make it all work and asked whether I shouldn’t step back or take a lower profile role.  Rod was unfailingly encouraging and I stuck with it.

I encourage you to be persistent. Resilience is an obvious asset (we all know there will be knocks and setback after all), but it is always worth keeping your hand in, maintaining your skills, and pursuing new ideas, when the time is right for you - whatever age and stage you may be.

Connecting with other women can be a source of great encouragement and sustenance.

I thank Enterprising Women Whyalla, under the umbrella of the Whyalla Chamber of Commerce and Industry, for promoting the advancement of women in business through personal development and networking opportunities, as well as this award.

It will be my great pleasure to announce the 2022 winner a little later this evening.