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The Weekly

Climate change solutions and supporting domestic violence survivors: Meet the incredible finalists from the 2020 Women of the Future Awards

The Australian Women’s Weekly Veeda Women of the Future Awards celebrate bright, bold young women tackling big issues and changing lives. From climate change solutions to supporting domestic violence survivors, our finalists are an inspiration.

By Genevieve Gannon
Help us celebrate the young women of Australia with The Australian Women's Weekly Veeda Women of the Future 2020 Awards.
Now in its eighth year, these awards are open to Australian women aged 18-34 with a charity or innovation idea that aims to bring positive change to the lives of others, awards one very deserving winner over $70,000 in cash and prizes.
Scroll on to discover the six finalists in our 2020 competition, all who have done incredible work through their different projects.
Only one will be announced the winner at our 2020 Awards Luncheon later this year.
Our six finalists are...

Loretta Bolotin, 30

Loretta had worked with refugees for years before starting Free To Feed. (Photo: Emily Weaving)
Cooking and catering social enterprise that gives refugees employment and connection
Loretta knew she was on to a good idea when she found herself in a Melbourne cafe watching people learn to cook as they listened to the story of a newly arrived refugee.
"It smelled beautiful,"she says. "People were connecting. I thought, 'Wow, there's something in this that really works'. It grew from there."
Loretta had been working with refugees for many years and was aware that the greatest challenges newly arrived people faced were social isolation and finding employment.
She and her partner wanted to create something to help them overcome those challenges. Free to Feed is the result of that passion.
The program's participants credit it with helping them find their voice and a community in their new home. (Photo supplied.)
"We started by borrowing cafes around Melbourne and employing a group of newly arrived refugees who were passionate about food. We sold tickets and had refugees teach cookery while sharing their stories."
From that early experimental stage they grew, registered as a charity and created a more structured offering.
"We run classes and events, and have developed opportunities in leadership and catering," Loretta says.
"Newly arrived people looking to get their first job in Australia enter a training program working alongside chefs."
"Free to Feed is a finite period in their lives; they work with us for a year after which they have skills and a reference they can use to get a job or start their own business."

Bronwyn Bate, 30

Bronwyn aims to assists victims of domestic violence stand on their own through Mettle Gifts. (Photo supplied.)
Ethical gift service that provides employment pathways for domestic violence survivors
A journalist at the District Court of WA, Bronwyn wanted to address the injustices she saw every day.
"I was speaking to many CEOs of women's shelters who were saying 'we don't know what the next step is because once they leave they're left to their own devices'," Bronwyn says.
On average, 52 per cent of men, women and children in crisis shelters return within two months of leaving.
After researching for a year, Bronwyn developed a social enterprise to provide paid, transitional employment to women who have fled domestic and family violence.
WATCH BELOW: Why judges love being a part of the Women of the Future Awards.
Launched in September 2019, Mettle Gifts employs women in a six-month paid program that includes an employment development plan tailored to their needs.
"All some of them want at this stage is to put money in the bank, food on the table and save up a bond," Bronwyn says. A gift delivery service was the ideal enterprise because of the range of skills involved.
"There's marketing and e-commerce as well as manufacturing and fulfilment. Regardless of their work experience, there was a role for everyone."
Mettle Gifts employs staff to operate the business so the women can "ease into it".
"This is our small contribution to make sure women don't go back to homelessness or their abuser," Bronwyn says.

Ashleigh Smith, 31

Ashleigh Smith was inspired to create her support program, The Glimmer Project, after experiencing her own devastating loss. (Photo supplied.)
Bereavement support for mothers who have experienced stillbirth or newborn loss
As an obstetrician in training, Ashleigh Smith had attended classes on supporting bereaved parents, so when her own little girl died two days after she was born last January, she was shocked by how little support there was to help her through her mettleprofound grief and sadness.
"My heart and soul felt broken," she says. "I felt so alone. It astounded me that after leaving hospital the health system didn't have much to help with the ravages of grief."
She couldn't find support outside the hospital, either.
"There were free support group 'meet-ups' but the members changed each time and I found my husband and I constantly having to retell our sad story. I was experiencing the most profound agony – grief from losing a child is such a deep, deep sorrow."
She did a meditation course, and found articles that said meditation should be offered to those who are grieving.
"I decided to put my knowledge toward sifting through the evidence and literature that can help guide and support women through the grief of losing a baby," she says.
The Glimmer Project podcast and online program offers coping strategies, meditations and peer connection. "Everyone at the hospital was gentle and compassionate and wanted to help."
"But when you go home and your partner goes back to work it's so lonely. You think, this is happening eight times a day to women in Australia, why am I alone?"
The Glimmer Project has already supported 20 women, and the podcast has been downloaded 6500 times.

Anna Robertson, 34

Anna Robertson believes that a larger impact can be made by starting small-scale. (Photo supplied.)
Socially responsible fashion that creates employment for women in Ghana
Anna Robertson always imagined playing a role in international development, but after a few years of working for non-government organisations she decided to invest in a social enterprise instead.
"Part of that was understanding that you can throw a tonne of money at a problem but a lot of the time the people who are supposed to benefit from that program don't," she says.
"I thought there could be a more tangible impact on a much smaller scale, for a small number of people."
Each Yevu garment is socurced and produced in Ghana, and kept single mothers there employed throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo supplied.)
Anna investigated the potential for a textile business that would employ women in Ghana and the socially responsible fashion label, Yevu, was born.
"At first it was me and our partner at the time on the floor with thousands of yards of fabric ... trying to develop ranges," she says.
Using her personal savings, Anna opened a pop-up shop in Sydney selling a small line of unisex clothes. Off the back of its success, she took out a loan, which she invested in training sewers, cutters and other staff in Ghana.
Yevu now employs around 25 staff, mostly single mothers, in Ghana, who scour markets for the colourful locally-made fabrics popular with Yevu customers.
"The goal is to give as much ownership to Ghana as possible," Anna says.

Alisha Geary, 25

Alisha Geary wants to share the stories behind Indigenous works of art to ensure they are properly appreciated. (Photo supplied.)
Australian-made activewear that showcases Indigenous art, plus an agency that helps businesses to license that art ethically, ensuring the artists are properly paid
Alisha Geary wants to share the beauty and meaning of Indigenous art with the world. It all began when she was a law student at Bond University and was invited to lead tours of the uni's Nyombil Indigenous Support Centre art collection.
As she learned about the artworks, Alisha wondered how she could share her understanding.
"A lack of understanding breeds a lack of appreciation," Alisha says.
She saw the potential to incorporate Indigenous art into fabric design for activewear, and reached out to some artists, who were keen to be involved. Her activewear brand, Faebella, was born.
WATCH BELOW: One of this year's judges Brooke Boney speaks on racism.
As the business grew, other businesses approached Alisha to ask for advice about licensing Indigenous artwork.
Using the knowledge she'd gained while sourcing her own images, Alisha created Umelore, a website where people can browse art and purchase licensing packages.
"It promotes Indigenous artwork while protecting it as well," she says.

Karolina Biernacka, 27

Karolina represents a team of three women who created the ElevenStore battery project. (Photo supplied.)
Inventing new sodium batteries to power clean transportation methods
Karolina Biernacka is part of ElevenStore, an all-female research group working to turn Australia's abundant sodium bicarbonate into cheap, lightweight batteries to power electric scooters.
They hope to replace the petrol-powered scooters that are so common in Asia, and in doing so, play a role in the transition to a zero-carbon world.
Karolina was raised by two environmentally-conscious engineers so it's no surprise she dedicated herself to developing this low-cost, climate-friendly battery.
"Chemistry was always my passion," Karolina says. "And batteries interest me because we use them all the time."
"Even with solar panels, the battery is important. You convert the energy of the sun during the day, store it in your battery, and use it at night."
Karolina says sodium batteries offer reliable storage, as well as being a cleaner, more affordable option than the increasingly popular lithium variety.
Ultimately, sodium batteries could be used for all manner of electric vehicles from scooters to buses. "Sodium is a hot topic," Karolina says.
Meet the judges of the 2020 competition here, or read see some of inspiring past winners here.
Read more about our Women of the Future competition in the December issue of The Australian Women's Weekly, on sale now.

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