The 2021 Women in Defence Awards will (finally!) take place on 01 February following several postponements. The event will be held virtually due to the current public health situation in eastern Australia.

Ahead of the event, we are proud to introduce our readers to the amazing finalists across nine categories. Today we are focusing on the finalists in Legal/Contracting.

Alison Whittaker of BAE Systems Australia
Alison is the Head of Procurement, Defence Delivery at BAE Systems Australia. She provides strategic leadership, mentoring and guidance to the procurement and subcontracts team, and has also championed future talent by leading as the company's supply chain graduate functional manager. In 2020, one initiative that Alison led with her team was to commence payment of BAE Systems Australia's suppliers and SMEs early outside of normal standard payment terms. This released approximately $70 million into the supply chain. Alison inspires and encourages her team with her inclusive leadership style, working with them to produce a focus and grow strategic vision.

Carla Balanco of DroneShield
Carla is DroneShield’s Chief Financial Officer and Company Secretary. During the first half of 2020, during the pandemic-inflicted near-standstill in global business, Carla helped ensure business continuity while successfully applying for the payroll-related Covid-relief and other grants in Australia, the United States, and the United Kingdom. Later in 2020, Carla facilitated DroneShield’s largest capital raise as part of an overall record annual new-capital influx of $17 million. Carla has proven invaluable helping DroneShield navigate the chaotic global pandemic environment by accurately modelling forecasts of the company's cash position based on unpredictable scenarios, enabling the board to make optimal decisions for success.

Lieutenant Commander Elizabeth Margery Cooke of the Royal Australian Navy
Elizabeth is Deputy Fleet Legal Officer in the Royal Australian Navy. For much of her tenure she has successfully fulfilled two roles and her provision of legal services has been timely, comprehensive and accurate. She has supported Sea Training Group Afloat, using her exemplary operational knowledge and experiences to ensure that Command Teams are conversant with Rules of Engagement and legal limitations whilst on operations. She invests in her team, and not just in terms of their jobs: Elizabeth successfully retained a sailor who suffered significant injuries whilst giving birth in 2019. She has an unwavering sense of service, not only to her country and profession, but to the people around her.

Melinda Halliday of Coras Solutions
Mel is a Senior Consultant with Coras Solutions. In 2020, Mel delivered contracting and procurement services as the Commercial Manager in the Guided Missile Frigates System Program Office and was involved the sale and transition of Royal Australian Navy Adelaide Class FFGs to the Chilean Navy, which was recognised as the largest ever Commonwealth sale of maritime assets to an allied Navy. During this time, she provided commercial advisory support to seamlessly transition the project through to closure. Her personal dedication to developing commercial support arrangements provided comprehensive quality assurance across the entire transition process, effectively nurturing an enduring relationship with the Chilean Navy and increasing the Commonwealth’s overseas exports.

Kaylene Askew of Luminact
Kay’s role is to manage all legal, commercial, and contracting for Luminact. During 2020 2020, Kaylene relocated (along with her partner Megan, and daughter Harper) to Canberra to head up Luminact as the company grew. Despite the additional responsibilities and pressure, and having just relocated in the midst of a pandemic, Kay established a new office, provided ongoing and uninterrupted commercial support to CASG via the DSS Panel, and recruited a second commercial team member in Canberra. Kay also acted in a business development role and created additional leads, opportunities, and ultimately growth.

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