• WIDA 2023 Logo
    WIDA 2023 Logo

Following our announcement of the Women in Defence Awards 2023 finalistsADM will be introducing each of our amazing finalists across the 10 categories in more detail. Today we are focusing on the finalists in our Indigenous category.

In this category, judges were looking for entries that exhibited a remarkable contribution to Defence or defence industry from an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander woman. The finalists in this category are all-rounders who demonstrated excellence in their roles in 2022, a clear commitment to personal values, and a willingness to advocate for others and support community.

Jasmine Newman of Killara Services.
Credit: Supplied
Jasmine Newman of Killara Services. Credit: Supplied

Jasmine Newman 
Managing Director 
Killara Services 

As Managing Director of Killara Services Jasmine oversaw an increase in indigenous employment levels across their major NSW Defence contract from 35% in 2021 to 41% in 2022, and imparted cultural awareness training sessions with their Defence clients. Killara Services is Australia's largest Aboriginal Cleaning company with 95% of the workforce being female. 

Kezia Smith 

Kezia Smith of Ventia.
Credit: Supplied
Kezia Smith of Ventia. Credit: Supplied

Senior People & Capability Business Partner 

In 2022 Keziawas responsible for the rollout of a number of programs aimed at improving Ventia’s rates of Indigenous employment, retention, and paths to meaningful work for the Indigenous community. Implementation of these programs increased their Indigenous employment rate in the Northern Territory from 2% to 13.1% in only 2 years. This provides Indigenous individuals with increased capabilities and supporting the economic development and prosperity of their communities.  

Rhiannon Busch 

Rhiannon Busch of JY Australia.
Credit: Supplied
Rhiannon Busch of JY Australia. Credit: Supplied

General Manager - Indigenous Programs 
JY Australia Pty Ltd 

In 2022 Rhiannon was both a Contract Project Assistant within the Support Office of Foreign Military Sales and an Indigenous Mentor for JY Australia's Indigenous Development & Employment Program. In December 2022 she was promoted to General Manager - Indigenous Programs within JY Australia. She is the first female General Manager of the company and only Female leader within the C and M suite. Rhiannon volunteers by providing Indigenous Cultural Awareness briefs to women's AFL clubs around Melbourne and within Defence. 

Rikki Cooper 

Rikki Cooper of BGIS.
Credit: Supplied
Rikki Cooper of BGIS. Credit: Supplied

National Indigenous Engagement Manager 
BGIS Pty Ltd 

Rikki has shown strong leadership in Indigenous engagement and has successfully steered a culture shift to increase organisational diversity, that has been effectively executed across all levels of BGIS. She is the first appointed National Indigenous Engagement Manager at BGIS. Rikki acts as a liaison and first point of contact for all Indigenous enquiries; given her lived experiences she is able to identify gaps in knowledge and support structures and seek opportunities to continuously improve relationships and cultural awareness. 

Leading Seaman Boatswain Mate Vanessa Lee Cheu 

Vanessa Lee Cheu of the Royal Australian Navy.
Credit: Supplied
Vanessa Lee Cheu of the Royal Australian Navy. Credit: Supplied

Regional Indigenous Development Coordinator Darwin 
Royal Australian Navy 

A key concern for Navy, is the low number of personnel that self-identify as First Nations. Vanessa, through her humanistic interaction with these members, was able to identify and remediate some of the reasons why these members were reluctant to self-identify as Indigenous. Her efforts in promoting the benefits of self-identifying directly correlate with the increase of members self-identifying in the Darwin area. Through her sincerity and outstanding social mastery, Vanessa has successfully managed to evolve Navy’s relationship with the Darwin Indigenous community into something meaningful and enduring. 

The winners and Hall of Fame inductee will be announced at a gala dinner at The National Arboretum Canberra on 25 October 2023. Book your tickets here – we hope to see you there!

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