THERE are approximately 24,000 teenage pregnancies in Australia every year and when Bernadette Black was 16 years old, she was one of them.
Although now happily married with three children, the Hobart mum’s pregnancy experience inspired her to establish the Brave Foundation in 2009, a charity that builds a community of support and acceptance around anyone facing teenage pregnancy and parenthood.
Seven years on, she has been crowned 2016 Telstra Tasmanian Business Woman of the Year.
The chief executive and founding director of Brave Foundation received the top gong at an awards ceremony held at Princes Wharf in Hobart on 25 October.
She also took home the 2016 Telstra Business Women’s For Purpose and Social Enterprise Award and will compete at a national level on 16 November 2016.
As a direct outcome of her tireless work, more pregnant and parent teenagers are finishing secondary school, remaining in employment, establishing happy and healthy families and having a positive impact on the community.
“It is my mission to reduce stigma, build families and strengthen communities by building up the village of support and acceptance around anyone facing teen pregnancy and parenthood, turning the trajectory of generations,” Mrs Black said.
The foundation provides flexible educational outcomes and pathways, which Mrs Black said helped to reduce lower socio-economic outcomes, as well as alleviate government economic burden.
Fellow high-flyer Dr Kirsten Connan took out the Entrepreneur Award for her work with the Tasmanian Obstetrics & Gynaecology Specialists (TasOGS) in January 2015.
The state’s first all-female specialist obstetrics and gynaecology practice, TasOGS provides women’s health, pregnancy, birthing and surgical care in an environmental that is respectful, non-judgemental and conveys clinical and business excellence.
In less than 18-months the practice, which Dr Connan operates alongside co-founder Dr Tania Hingston, has grown from two doctors and a receptionist to seven staff, three allied health professionals and a third doctor.
The winner of the Public Sector and Academia Award was ABC radio presenter Penny Terry, who has also worked as a radio producer, journalist and rural reporter presenting to national, local and online audiences.
Ms Terry’s main role at the ABC is to present a two-hour live radio program daily. She is responsible for researching stories, sourcing talent and finding innovative, creative and relevant ways to connect with her audience on air, online and on social media.
She says she feels privileged to deliver the ABC’s strategy to help Australians better understand the place they live in and how changes in policy affect them.
The Corporate and Private Award went to Alicia Leis, who in 2013 became the third female partner appointed to WLF Accounting & Advisory, a wholly-owned Tasmanian chartered accounting and advisory firm.
In response to the growing importance of risk management and governance, Ms Leis has built a new internal audit and risk service offering from the ground up and now leads the consulting and internal audit divisions of WLF.
Since securing her first contract in 2012, she has established a large portfolio of clients and secured revenue in excess of $2 milllion in under five years.
Melody Towns was named Young Business Woman of the Year.
Ms Towns founded Be Hers six years ago – a foundation that exists to place value on every woman and empowers her to fight for those who cannot fight for themselves, those who are enslaved by the sex slavery industry.
Ms Towns works in partnership with The A21 Campaign, a global anti-human trafficking organisation, to develop strategies and discuss how to best use their fundraising. All of Be Hers’ fundraising initiatives are donated to The A21 Campaign.
Telstra Business Women’s Awards ambassador Joe Pollard said the Tasmanian winners were exceptional business women.
“The winners of the 2016 Telstra Tasmanian Business Women’s Awards are brilliant, passionate and courageous women who are thriving in their chosen fields,” she said.
“Not only do they have the courage to challenge the status quo but they also demonstrate exceptional business acumen and strong leadership skills.”
Caption: Chief executive officer and founding director of Brave Foundation, Bernadette Black, at centre, celebrates with family and friends after winning 2016 Telstra Tasmanian Business Woman of the Year. Image: supplied.