2019 She Leads Conference

Ignite your leadership journey with the sixth She Leads Conference – the premier event for women at all stages of their leadership journey.

Held at QT Canberra on Friday 2 August 2019, the She Leads Conference is set to attract a range of women leaders, including female-identifying and non-binary people, at all stages of their leadership journeys, from a variety of fields.

The Conference centres around the theme ‘Thrive’ and includes a diverse and full program of keynote speeches, panels and activities that will build your capacity to thrive in your community or workplace while supporting other women alongside you.

The 2019 She Leads Conference also includes a networking and cocktail function the evening prior on Thursday 1 August, providing attendees with the opportunity to network with our incredible speakers and fellow attendees.

The complete program, speaker line-up and scholarship applications have now been released and are available below. You can also download the She Leads Conference information pack here.  

Learn more about our previous She Leads Conferences here.

To receive the YWCA Canberra member discount become a member today.

Networking Function

On Thursday 1 August, the night prior to the Conference, there will be a networking function. With a highly limited number of tickets, this networking event provides attendees with the exclusive opportunity to meet like-minded people prior to attending the Conference.

The Function includes complimentary drinks and canapes. Watch this space for more details!

Tickets to the She Leads Conference are now SOLD OUT. If you would like to enquire about tickets please call the She Leads team on (02) 6185 2000.

Jan Fran

Jan Fran is a journalist, TV presenter and Internet commentator best known for hosting The Feed on SBS VICELAND. She’s the creator of opinion segment The Frant, guest-presenter of The Project and host of podcasts Sexism and the City and The Few Who Do.

Jan is a former TV journo-turned-VJ who has shot and produced documentaries from all over the world for SBS. She speaks three languages and has lived in Lebanon, France, Bangladesh and Uganda.

Jan appears regularly as a social commentator on Sky News and the ABC. She was a finalist for Best Television Personality in Cosmo’s Woman of the Year Award and a finalist for the 2018 Walkley for Women’s Leadership in Media. Jan is an ambassador for Plan International where she advocates for women and girls.

Yumi Stynes

Yumi Stynes is a broadcaster and writer who’s been working in Australian media for almost two decades, evolving from music reporter to her current, “more mature” focus as a writer on Arts, Culture, Food, Gender Politics and Human Sexuality. She’s known for her honesty, warmth and humour.

Like many women, Yumi is juggling — she does a daily radio show, works on several writing projects (including two cookbooks, Zero F**ks and Zero F**ks Endless Summer ), and regularly runs 10km for a laugh — all while raising four children. She fronts ‘Ladies, We Need to Talk’, the popular podcast with ABC Audio Studios and is the host of Is Australia Sexist? on SBS television.

Debby Blakey

Debby Blakey was appointed HESTA CEO in early 2015. Before her appointment, she held positions at HESTA as Deputy CEO and Executive of the Member Advice Unit.

HESTA is a $50b profit-to-member industry super fund dedicated to the health and community services sector. As HESTA CEO, Debby is passionate about working to achieve the Fund’s mission: to make a real difference to the financial outcomes of every member, and a positive impact on the world they’ll retire into.

She has a wealth of experience in financial services, having held senior positions across the industry, and running her own business as an Employee Benefit Consultant for 12 years.

In addition to her role at HESTA, Debby also holds directorships at the Fund Executives Association Limited (FEAL), Industry Super Australia Ltd (ISA) and the Australian Council of Superannuation Investors (ACSI).

Deborah Cheetham AO

Deborah Cheetham, Yorta Yorta woman, soprano, composer and educator has been a leader and pioneer in the Australian arts landscape for more than 25 years. In the 2014 Queen’s Birthday Honours List, Cheetham was appointed as an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO).

In 2009, Deborah Cheetham established Short Black Opera, a national not-for-profit opera company devoted to the development of Indigenous singers. The following year she produced the premiere of Australia’s first Indigenous opera, Pecan Summer, which has become a vehicle for the development of a new generation of Indigenous opera singers.

In March 2015 she was inducted onto the Honour Roll of Women in Victoria and in April 2018 received an Honorary Doctorate from the University of South Australia. In 2019 Deborah Cheetham received the Merlyn Myer Prize to create a new work for the Melbourne based ensemble Syzygy. In October 2018, Ms Cheetham’s latest work Eumeralla, a war requiem for peace, sung entirely in the Gunditjmara language, premiered to a sold out audience on-country at the Port Fairy Spring Festival. The Melbourne premiere of this major new work will be performed by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra on June 15, 2019.

Marina Go

Marina Go is Chair of Ovarian Cancer Australia, a non-executive director of Energy Australia, Autosports Group, 7-Eleven, Pro-Pac, and The Walkley Foundation, Chair of the Advisory Board for the Centre For Media Transition at the University of Technology Sydney, a director of PWC’s Diversity Advisory Board, and author of the business book for women, Break Through: 20 Success Strategies for Female Leaders. Boss magazine named her as one of 20 True Leaders of 2016.

Marina has over 25 years of leadership experience in the media industry, having started her career as a journalist. She is the Chair of childcare marketplace platform Juggle Street and was a founder of the female leadership website Women’s Agenda. Marina is the Diversity Champion and former Chair of the Wests Tigers NRL Club. She has an MBA from The Australian Graduate School of Management and is a member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

Kemi Nekvapil

Kemi Nekvapil is an executive and personal coach, speaker and author, who has worked in the wellness industry for more than 23 years.

Having studied leadership and purpose at The Gross National Happiness Centre in Bhutan, trained as a yoga teacher in India with a 23-year yoga and meditation practice, Kemi understands there is a process for meaningful, connection to ourselves, our work, our families and communities.

In her ICF credentialed coaching practice, Kemi works with female leaders to unlock the obstacles that prevent value-based leadership, and as a facilitator Kemi designs programs and speaks for global organisations.
She is the author of Raw Beauty – The 7 Principles to nourish your body, transform your mind and create the life you want and, The Gift Of Asking – A woman’s guide to creating personal power.

Zakia Patel

Zakia Patel was recently appointed the role of Unit Commander for the Queanbeyan SES Unit. She has been a volunteer with the SES for 10 years, and prior to this new role, Zakia was the Deputy Unit Commander for Operations. Zakia has had the opportunity to participate in many local and interstate operations as well as represent the SES at the World Firefighter Games in 2012.
In her professional life, Zakia is passionate about supporting young people and is the Youth Development Coordinator for YMCA Canberra. In addition to this, Zakia is a qualified lawyer. When she isn’t at work or SES, Zakia loves to spend time with her family on their farm.

PO Alee-Marie Scarfone

Petty Officer Alee-Marie Scarfone joined the Navy March 1999 as a Combat Systems Operator. She has completed posting on HMAS Newcastle, Ballarat (II), Manoora (II), and Melbourne (III).

PO Scarfone has been fortunate enough to be a part of the dramatic evolution of the role of females in today’s defence force. Her experience observing the integration of sailors from all male crews and a Navy that had yet to appoint a female Commanding Officer to a defence force that does not restrict the enlistment of females into any role has provided her with an exceptional perspective on importance of an equitable workplace. PO Scarfone is using her experiences and knowledge to represent Defence Force Recruiting under the Specialist Recruiting Team for Women.

PO Scarfone is a decorated sailor and has undertaken three Middle Eastern Operational Deployments, and a peace keeping mission in the Solomon Islands. PO Scarfone has also been recognised with a Commanding Officers Commendation 2013, an Australia Day Medallion 2015 for her efforts during Operation Slipper, DUX of her Petty Officer Promotion Course 2015 and a second Commanding Officers Commendation 2016.

PO Scarfone recently married her wife Emma and they have two children together Keira, 11, and Cooper, 2.

Tarla Lambert

Tarla Lambert is the publisher and part-owner of Women’s Agenda, Australia’s leading online news hub for professional and entrepreneurial women. Women’s Agenda has established a valuable place in the Australian media landscape, covering everything from business, tech, and politics through to lifestyle, finance and leadership.

Tarla specialises in content strategy and production, editorial, social media, events and digital partnerships. She earned a Bachelor of Arts Global Studies from the University of Sydney graduating in 2012, and a certificate in content marketing with ADMA.

She’s also a public commentator, appearing on Sky’s YourMoney and ABC and a speaker at various events championing women’s equality.

Clare Moore

Clare Moore is a genderqueer disabled advocate born and raised in Canberra.

They started advocating for their peers as a teenager concerned about public education and health care. They are passionate about breaking down the societal barriers for women and non-binary people with disabilities.

In 2018, Clare received the ACT Chief Minister’s Inclusion Award for Emerging Young Leader for their work as CEO of Women with Disabilities ACT.

Nakari Thorpe

Nakari Thorpe is a proud Gunnai, Gunditjmara and Gooreng Gooreng woman from Victoria and Queensland.

She graduated with a Bachelor of Media (Communications and Journalism) at the University of New South Wales in 2015, and shortly after completed a 12-month journalism cadetship with the Special Broadcasting Service (SBS) in 2016.

Nakari is now a Political Reporter with SBS World News, working in the Press Gallery at Parliament House in Canberra, and recently covered the 2019 federal election campaign. She is a cross-platform reporter filing for television, online and radio.

She previously worked as the Political Correspondent for NITV.

Karlie Noon

As the first Indigenous woman in Australia to graduate with a double degree in mathematics and physics, Karlie Noon is using her knowledge to identify the traditional Aboriginal astronomical knowledge embedded within dreamtime stories. The research is helping to recognise and highlight the richness of Indigenous culture and the astronomy science embedded in it.

A Gamileroi woman who was determined to excel, Karlie overcame a poor background to achieve enormous success and her hope of becoming a researcher. Karlie is now conducting research looking at the Milky Way as part of a Master of Astronomy and Astrophysics (Advanced) degree, with CSIRO’s Astronomy and Space Science and ANU’s Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics.

She is a generous mentor and motivates others with similar backgrounds, establishing a STEM program for Indigenous students and teachers and mentor’s Indigenous students in the CSIRO’s ASSETS program. Karlie was a finalist for 2019 Young Australian of the Year. Karlie demonstrates the power of positive role models to inspire the next generation of Indigenous students and fosters pride in Indigenous culture.

Kemiso Matlho

After having lived in 3 other countries before Australia, Canberra has become Kemiso’s home and place of study. Throughout her time in the capital, she has participated in various youth-focused leadership programs from multiple organisations.

Kemiso has had the opportunity to work within organisations such as UN Youth, Jasiri Australia and The Girls Leadership Network, which have all been instrumental in accelerating her leadership journey. Kemiso has been selected into youth programs such as the Trailblazer Fellowship and tGLN alumni board which has allowed her to continue to develop necessary and practical leadership skillsets. These experiences have also provided the mandatory space for Kemiso to establish and put into action her leadership type and abilities to act in decision-making roles within the organisations.

As a result, in 2018 Kemiso actively campaigned toward and contributed to, an open letter appeal by various women groups and youth-led organisations, addressed to every state Premier and various high-level politicians that successfully led to the decision to remove the GST on menstrual products.

Kemiso’s ability to be vocal and passionate alongside her desire to engage in difficult or taboo conversations have not only become strengths, but continue to encourage her in her work related to empowerment and activism roles. Kemiso has facilitated and spoken on panels surrounding young women in leadership, the importance of diverse women in leadership and the body positivity movement.

Hannah Wandel

Hannah Wandel is the 2019 ACT Young Australian of the Year, a motivational speaker, and the Founder, CEO and Chair of national non-profit Country to Canberra, which empowers young rural women to reach their leadership potential. Hannah has built the organisation to run five standalone programs that educate about leadership, gender equality and self-empowerment. In 2018, she travelled 32,000km to reach over 3,500 girls in 80 bush communities to drive change. Hannah’s efforts have seen her named one of Australia’s ‘100 Women of Influence’ by the Australian Financial Review/Westpac, win the 2017 National Emerging Leader Award from the Institute of Managers and Leaders, and represent Australia at the 2018 United Nations Commission for the Status of Women. Hannah has been a speaker at TEDxYouth and a Director on various community boards, such as YWCA Canberra and the National Rural Women’s Coalition.

Committed to public service and strengthening rural communities, Hannah is also the acting Director of the Drought Taskforce at the Department of Infrastructure, Regional Development and Cities. She was previously as an adviser at the Department of Prime Minister & Cabinet and a broadcast journalist. She is a World Economic Forum Global Shaper, and is a media commentator about gender, youth, and rural affairs and presents at events around Australia. She also holds Law (Hons) and Media degrees from the University of Adelaide.

8:30-9:00am Arrivals

9:00-9:30am MC opening remarks

Jan Fran

9:30-10:20am Keynote: Where’s your head at?

Australian television and radio presenter, Yumi Stynes, will explore the challenges faced by women in the workplace how this can impact upon your journey to success. Yumi will provide tools that you can implement to support not only yourself however other women too, in order to help develop, sustain and lead strong teams.

Yumi Stynes

10:20-10:55am Morning tea

10:55-11:55am Panel: What are your limits?

Four women leaders from a range of industries and backgrounds will explain how they achieve their goals while navigating the pressure to have it all, right now. Panellists will outline their strategies for how to redefine success on your own terms in order to achieve your career goals, without overcommitting or underselling yourself.

Kemi Nekvapil, Clare Moore, Nakari Thorpe

12:05-12:45pm Keynote: Grow forward

Drawing on her extensive leadership experience Debby Blakey, CEO of HESTA, will offer insights based on her personal experience on how to develop resilience in the face of adversity and set yourself up for future success.

Debby Blakey

12:45-1:30pm Lunch

1:30-2:25pm Keynote: The leading lady

Yorta Yorta soprano, composer and Artistic Director of Short Black Opera, Deborah Cheetham AO, will examine how the portrayal of women as characters in the entertainment, arts and media industries affects how women thrive in the real world and how stereotypes can affect the leadership journeys of women in the workplace and society more generally. Deborah will explore our cultural conditioning and what can be done to change and develop the narrative.

Deborah Cheetham AO

2:25-2:45pm Afternoon tea

2:45-3:55pm Panel: Great Expectations

Four women leaders from diverse backgrounds will discuss how social, cultural and professional expectations influence your career growth. The panel will offer practical solutions on how to reframe external expectations in order to thrive regardless of your position, industry, or background.

Tarla Lambert, Zakia Patel, PO Alee-Maree Scarfone, Karlie Noon

3:55-4:40 Keynote: Avoiding the comfort zone

In the final keynote speech, Marina Go, Non-Executive Director and former Chair Wests Tigers Rugby League, will discuss her journey transitioning careers, from a full-time media executive to her ultimate goal of a portfolio career. Marina will provide advice on how to maximise your leadership capacity and productivity through finding a role that will not only amplify your strengths but will also fit your life.

Marina Go

4:40-5:00pm MC closing remarks

Jan Fran

She Leads has secured a number of full scholarships for this year’s Conference, which ensure equal access to this one of a kind leadership event. With the generosity of our donors and supporters, female-aligned attendees have a wide variety of scholarship options to suit their personal circumstances.

Jacq Burridge Scholarships

To apply for one of the Jacq Burridge scholarships, applicants should:

  • be a woman (includes female-identifying and non-binary people)
  • be a current full-time university student*
  • be a young woman (30 years and under)
  • commit to attending the event
  • write a 500-word article (by 16 August 2019) describing how attending the Conference has enriched your life

*Please note that one scholarship is available for one student from each of the following Canberra universities: University of Canberra, Australian National University, and Australian Catholic University.

Strive to Thrive Scholarship – supported by YWCA Canberra Life Member, Betty Ferguson

To be eligible for one of the Strive to Thrive Scholarships, applicants should:

  • be a woman (includes female-identifying and non-binary people)
  • be a current student or past graduate of the She Leads Diploma program
  • commit to attending the event
  • write a 500-word article (by 16 August 2019) describing how attending the Conference has enriched your life

Magistrate Louise Taylor Scholarships

To be eligible for a Magistrate Louise Taylor Scholarship, applicants should:

  • identify as an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander person
  • be a woman (includes female-identifying and non-binary people)
  • live in the ACT
  • commit to attending the event
  • write a 500-word article (by 16 August 2019) describing how attending the Conference has enriched your life

Applications are now CLOSED.

Principal Partner


Defence Force Recruiting

Defence Force Recruiting (DFR) connects high calibre individuals to fulfilling careers in the Australian Defence Force. Demonstrating a commitment to women’s leadership, DFR were our Principal Supporter for the inaugural She Leads College Conference in 2015, helping us to connect young women in years 11 and 12 with inspiring women mentors and gain access to leadership skills and development. In 2016, DFR supported both the She Leads Conference and the She Leads College Conference as our Principal Supporter. In 2018, we are pleased to once again welcome DFR as the Principal Supporter for the She Leads Conference, She Leads College Conference, and the She Leads High Conference.

Conference Champion




HESTA has supported the She Leads Program since 2014, when they partnered with us for the inaugural She Leads Conference. As one of Australia’s leading superannuation funds, HESTA is committed to creating a better future for all Australians, and to providing valuable resources and advice regarding superannuation planning for women. We are pleased to continue to partner with HESTA as a She Leads Conference Champion for 2019.


Adore Beauty

Adore Beauty is the She Leads Program’s newest partner, coming on board in 2019.  Adore Beauty is Adore Beauty is Australia’s longest-running online beauty store, and an official stockist of over 200 leading global beauty brands. Adore Beauty has an ongoing commitment to advancing Australian women, through programs such as their Women in Tech scholarship and enacting policies within their company to double domestic violence leave for their staff. Adore Beauty is an inspiring Australian business that reflects the values of self-belief, determination and supporting other women. We are pleased to welcome Adore Beauty on board as our She Leads Conference Champion for 2019.

Conference Friends


Capital Chemist

Capital Chemist has been a She Leads Friend since 2015, and is continuing to support us to create an affordable, engaging and professional event.

Rowdy Digital

Rowdy Digital have been a She Leads Friend since 2018, and is continuing to support us in 2019. Rowdy Digital produces strategy and design for a digital-first world.


“We live here. Our families live here. We want the best possible built environments for Canberrra by ensuring our developments are of the highest quality and craftmanship. Our management and service also reflect our values.”

KDN Group is delighted to partner again with the YWCA Canberra on the annual She Leads Conference.

KDN Group is owned by the Katheklakis family – a team of passionate Canberrans committed to raising the standard of commercial, retail, retail trade and residential accommodation in the capital. Led by the original vision of brothers Jim and Tony Katheklakis who arrived in Canberra from Greece in the 1960s, we invest in, develop and manage property across the city we love.

From Gungahlin’s stunning new commercial building, Winyu House, to residential development Lumi Collection, which has Canberra’s highest EER, we are developers who care just as much about the physical experience of our buildings as their impact on the environment.

The KDN Group portfolio is centred on best-in-class craftmanship and sustainability design and includes:

  • Linq Apartments, Eastern Valley Way, Belconnen
  • The Lumi Collection, Swain Street, Gungahlin (coming 2020)
  • Winyu House, Gungahlin
  • The Barrandi Centre, 16 Marcus Clarke Street, Civic

Media Partner

Women’s Agenda

Women’s Agenda is a free publication that gives a voice to career-focused, aspirational women who want to set their own agendas. That’s why in 2014, we partnered with Women’s Agenda as the official online partner of the inaugural She Leads Conference in Canberra. The partnership was based on crafting and sharing compelling content from the Conference speakers and our leadership team, and providing a platform for these important stories to be spread beyond the Conference walls. We are delighted to have continued this partnership every year, including 2019.

Her Canberra

HerCanberra is an online and physical publication, designed to connect women (and blokes) with their city and each other. Featuring the voices of local writers, we write daily about life in Canberra – from ‘what’s on’ to reviews of places to eat; social commentary to health and fitness; beauty and nutrition to books and movies; fashion and motherhood to recipes and home style; if it’s part of ‘her’ life you’ll find it on HerCanberra.

Print Partner


Prinstant joined the She Leads program in 2018 as Print Partner for the She Leads College Conference, She Leads Conference, and She Leads High Conference. Prinstant are a small, locally-owned printery based in Fyshwick, and specialise in conventional printing, including books, magazines, annual reports, stationery, wedding needs, business cards and posters. We are pleased to continue to partner with Prinstant in 2019.

Scholarship Partners



Want to partner with us? Email the She Leads team at sheleads@ywca-canberra.org.au or call us on 02 6175 9904 to find out more!