Brenda Gabe Leadership Award 2017


The nomination period for the 2017 Brenda Gabe Leadership Award has been extended until Monday 28th August!

Women with Disabilities Victoria is excited to announce that moninations for the 2017 Biennial Brenda Gabe Leadership Award are now open. This award recognises and rewards the contribution women with disabilities have made that is of direct benefit to women with disabilities, or to making a more inclusive community, in Victoria.

All award nominees are acknowledged and celebrated at our AGM in October 2017. The winner will receive $2,000 towards professional development, or a capacity building project.

You can download the following documents:

BGLA 2017 Brochure (Word)

BGLA 2017 Nomination Form (PDF) (Word)

BGLA 2017 Nomination Requirements (Word)

Read on for more information about the award or past nominees and award recipients.

For more information, contact Bridget Jolley at WDV: or (03) 9286 7813.


Brenda Gabe Leadership Award update

The next Brenda Gabe Leadership Award was scheduled for November 2016. It has been moved from an annual to a biennial event and will now be held in November 2017. We will also be broadening the selection criteria allowing for more women to be involved in the activities which make them terrific potential candidates. Further updates on the Award and the application details will be coming shortly.

If you have any questions please contact Sharon Granek, Program Manager, Women's Empowerment Program. Phone: 9286 7802 or Email:


Brenda Gabe Award 2015

Congratulations to the nominators and the nine nominees for your contributions to building a world where women with disabilities are fully respected. Thank you to Dr Helen Sykes, Director of Future Leaders, for supporting this award. Thanks also to Martin Foley, Minister for Disability, and Liz Wright from the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission for presenting the 2015 award.

The annual Brenda Gabe Award honours a much-loved and respected member of Women with Disabilities Victoria. Encouraging other women with disabilities to make a positive difference was very much at the forefront of all of Brenda's activities.

Last year's Brenda Gabe Award winner, Jody Barney, was unable to be at the AGM. However, Tricia Malowney shared a wonderful presentation by Jody reviewing her year with the award.

Colleen Furlanetto wins the 2015 Brenda Gabe Leadership Award

Colleen Furlanetto is the newly-elected Mayor of Strathbogie Shire. She is committed to bringing change at all levels for women in the areas of disability, violence and health care. She chairs the Municipal Association of Victoria Prevention of Violence against Women Network. Colleen is also a participant in the acclaimed Williamson Leadership Program.

Colleen said, "To be the 2015 Brenda Gabe Award winner is a huge privilege. We are in a time of significant social policy change offering many people with disabilities choice for the first time. Violence against women with a disability is far higher than for those without disability. To know that Brenda Gabe was a very committeed advocate in this space, it is wonderful to receive the award in hername in 2015."

2015 Nominees:

Deborah Haygarth

Deb is passionate about making a contribution. After volunteering for the MS Society for eleven years Deb decided to also assist with the development of the women’s re-THINK dis-ABILITY group at Surf Coast Shire and the development of the Barwon WDV Leadership Network Hub of which she is now Chair.

Effie Meehan

Effie is a passionate disability advocate. She is the founder and ambassador of Action on Disability in Ethnic Communities Inc.(ADEC) and former Program Coordinator and now Steering Committee Member of the Diversity and Disability (DnD) program. Most recently Effie has also been asked to become a peer-to-peer spokesperson for survivors of breast cancer.

Fiona Tuomy

Fiona Tuomy is a writer and filmmaker and her documentary ‘Helen Garner’s Monkey Grip’ recently screened nationally on ABC TV.  Over the last 20 years Fiona has also worked in a diverse range of leadership, educational and advocacy roles across arts, screen, literary and disability sectors.

Fran Henke
Fran has taken a leadership role in raising awareness about polio for over 25 years.  She is also committed to building the relationship between 2 complementary and important polio organisations. Fran has written 20 books including 'Iron Wills Victorian Polio Survivors Stories’ and ‘Polio Day Cookbook, fine food for the fatigued'.

Jax Jacki Brown

Disability rights activist and advocate Jax-Jacki Brown is a spoken-word performer, writer, workshop presenter and theatre producer. Her publications, commentary and performance challenge stereotypes and spotlight serious issues for change including violence against women. Jax works passionately to empower women with disabilities through performance and inclusion in safe, accessible spaces.

Lynne Foreman

Lynne is a leading local advocate for those with a disability in the Barwon region. She sits on many panels and participates in committees, conferences and forums.  Her work as a leading local `campaign champion’ for the Every Australian Counts campaign and the subsequent NDIS are just 2 examples of her contribution.

Maribel Steel

Maribel Steel is an author, freelance writer, visually-impaired mother and vocalist. She is a vibrant speaker dedicated to raising awareness about issues people experience with vision loss. Maribel is a peer advisor and International correspondent for VisionAware. Her short stories and essays have been published locally and overseas.

Simone Stevens

Simone is an enthusiastic and committed advocate who actively participates in a range of activities on behalf of people with disabilities. She is engaged in facilitation work and leadership empowerment and is involved in getting a Women’s Leadership hub running in Geelong after completing the course ‘Enabling Women with Disabilities’.

Brochure - Brenda Gabe Award 2015

Nomination Guidelines

Nomination form

Brenda Gabe Award


Image of Brenda Gabe


Celebrating leadership amongst
women with disabilities for women with disabilities


Brenda Gabe was a much loved and respected member of Women with Disabilities Victoria.

Brenda wore many hats. She was a school teacher, psychologist, champion swimmer, business woman, wife and mother. After being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1994 she became involved with Mulgrave Neighbourhood house and successfully completed the Leadership Plus course in 2007.

Brenda went on to become a strong and committed disability advocate, perhaps one of her most enriching roles.  Amongst her numerous commitments Brenda made time to represent Women with Disabilities Victoria on various committees, forums and conferences. She played a leading role on disability related campaigns including making both housing and public transport more accessible, and preventing violence against women with disabilities.

Making a positive difference for women with disabilities was very much at the forefront of all of Brenda’s activities.

The Brenda Gabe Leadership Award recognises and rewards women with disabilities who have made a significant contribution to improving the status of women with disabilities in Victoria.

Nominations close for the 2015 Brenda Gabe Award on 20th July 2015.

For further information do not hesitate to contact Jane Oldfield, Partnerships and Leadership Development Officer, at or by calling 03 9286 7807.

To find out more about previous winners and nominees for the Award, see below.

2014 Award


Indigenous woman, Jody Barney wins Women with Disabilities Victoria ‘Brenda Gabe Leadership Award’

Hear from last year's Brenda Gabe Award winner, Jody Barney, in this video. Many thanks to Jody and to Joanne Beckwith for making this video possible and allowing its use on our website.

Celebrating leadership amongst women with disabilities for women with disabilities.

Image of Jody Barney winner of the 2014 Brenda Gabe Leadership Award

The second annual Brenda Gabe Leadership Award was today awarded to Jody Barney, as part of an awards ceremony attended by over 140 members and other community representatives at the Women with Disabilities Annual General Meeting.

The Brenda Gabe Leadership Award recognises and rewards a woman living with a disability, who has made a significant contribution to improving the status of women with disabilities in Victoria.

Women with Disabilities Victoria’s Executive Director Keran Howe noted “As women with disabilities we face many issues in addressing disadvantage.The Brenda Gabe Award highlights women's work in challenging the disadvantage women with disabilities face.  It is also wonderful to see the impact that being nominated for the award has for all of the women involved. 

Promoting their work enables these leaders to make connections with each other and others. These connections can inform and affirm their work.”   

Jody has made enduring and valuable contributions as an Australian Indigenous leader, as a woman, and as an advocate for people of all abilities.

She is the first Deaf Aboriginal woman to present at local, state, national and international levels on the empowerment of Aboriginal people with disabilities.

She was actively involved in the National Congress process, the First People’s Disability Network (Australia) and the International Deaf Native Gathering.

Jody models leadership to others in the aboriginal and ghe disability communities. She demonstrates a holistic approach to strengthening leadership and self-determination, making her the perfect Brenda Gabe Leadership Award recipient.

“The Brenda Gabe award is significant because it recognises and celebrates women with disabilities who give so much, often so quietly, to ensure a better life for women with disabilities.”-Jane Oldfield, Partnership and Leadership Development Officer, Women with Disabilities Victoria.

Background into the Brenda Gabe award:

This award was created to honour Brenda Gabe, a much loved and respected member of Women with Disabilities Victoria and a strong and committed disability advocate.

Brenda represented Women with Disabilities Victoria on various committees, forums and conferences. She played a leading role in disability related campaigns, including making both hosing and public transport more accessible, and preventing violence against women with disabilities.

The winner of the award receives $2000 towards a capacity building project or professional development. 

This award would not have been possible without the generous support of Dr Helen Sykes the Director of Future Leaders.

2014 Nominees:


Image of Amanda Lawrie Jones

Amanda Lawrie-Jones

Amanda is passionate about Diversity & Inclusion. Her consultant role focuses on employees, customers and community with disability, ensuring to create inclusive products, services and processes. Amanda led the internal Disability Employee Network at NAB to increase engagement of their employees with disability enabling them to have a voice.



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Anj Barker

Anj actively encourages awareness of women with disabilities through her educational presentations to schools and other at-risk groups about domestic violence and disability. She is an advocate for women with disabilities to have appropriate housing and promotes acceptance of women with disability within the mainstream workforce.



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Barb Edis
Barb had breast cancer and survived. Breast cancer affects everyone and Barb is passionate about ensuring women who have a disability understand this important health issue. She also works in the community with doing communication and disability awareness training.  ‘We all have an important voice which needs to be heard’.



Image of Colleen Furlanetto


Colleen Furlaneto
Committed to community, safety, health and wellbeing.  Living with a disability, trained as co-facilitator by WDV, on PVAW and women with a disability. Colleen advocates for policy and best practice to facilitate change. She represents PVAW and holds high level policy advocacy positions to assist awareness for change to occur.



Image of Danni Di Toro


Danni Di Toro
Danni is a former world number 1 wheelchair tennis player who now spends her time mentoring athletes. She is also an ambassador of Foundation 97 (a not for profit created to support people with spinal cord injuries)
Recently Danni won Tennis Victoria’s Spirit of Tennis Award, recognising her efforts both on and off the tennis court.



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Elle Steele
Elle is an award-winning sportswoman and experienced coach and motivational speaker. Elle’s vision is to work with individuals to unlock their potential, helping them learn that they can achieve their dreams if they truly believe in themselves and understand their capabilities.




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Fran Vicary
Fran has a passion for empowering people with disabilities through information and design. She believes in community participation, equity and the realisation of human rights for people with disability. She is currently serving on the NDIS Advisory Group providing advice on how to improve the system of care and support for Australians with disability




Image of Jen MorrisJen Morris
Jen elevates the perspectives of women with disabilities in her work as a patient advocate – through public speaking, writing, consulting and committees membership. She also developed the Youth Disability Rights Hub, wrote regularly for ABC RampUp and was a Community Visitor for the Office of the Public Advocate.






Image of Jody Barney


Jody Barney

Jody has a rare opportunity to make change for women with disabilities. She takes advantage of these chances to develop leadership and friendships with the women. Her work gives women a sense of ownership of their own lives, opportunities and strengths. ‘It’s not learnt in a course, it’s my lived experiences’.




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Maureen Hewitt
Maureen is passionate about raising awareness for people living with a disability. She has focused on working with schools and TAFE’s to help break down barriers for other women with disabilities in my community. She is an ambassador for women with disabilities, able to advocate on various issues to enable change.




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Melinda Smith
Melinda is a woman living with cerebral palsy.   She works at the Cerebral Palsy Education Centre (CPEC) as an advisor to staff and mentor for students who have complex disabilities.  She also work as a consultant in schools, community groups and disability organisations where she speaks what she is truly passionate about.



Image of Peer Educators - Living Safer Sexual Lives Peer Educators – Living Safer Sexual Lives: Respectful Relationships – Rebecca Davie, Yvette Keane, Kathrene Peters

Living Safer Sexual Lives: Respectful Relationships is a prevention of violence and abuse program for people with intellectual disability.

In Bendigo three women co-present the program as peer educators alongside community practitioners.



Image of Penny Stevenson


Penny Stevenson

Penny teaches people who have low vision how to move around the community with safety and independence. She is a role model for all people with disabilities but particularly women. She is currently working with a young female asylum seeker from Afghanistan and enjoys being able show pride in being a capable, independent woman with low vision.





Image of Susan Arthur


Susan Arthur

Susan is a passionate self-advocate who volunteers at Reinforce, an organisation run for and by people with an intellectual disability. She recently started a group through Reinforce called ‘The Powerful Parents Self Advocacy Group’ – a positive group run for and by parents of those with an intellectual disability.



Image of Tully Zygier


Tully Zygier

Tully is a strong advocate for the rights of people with a disability and a mentor to young women with a disability looking to build their confidence and skills so that they can access the community, create relationships and work in the field of their choice.





2013 Award


The Brenda Gabe Award recognises and rewards women with disabilities and/or groups who have made a significant contribution to improve the status of women with disabilities in Victoria.

Brenda Gabe was a much loved & respected member of Women with Disabilities Victoria. Brenda played a leading role in gender and disability related campaigns including preventing violence against women with disabilities and making housing and public transport more accessible. 

The Director of Future Leaders Dr Helen Sykes AM made the presentation of the award at WDV’s AGM on Thursday to a full house which included Shadow Minister for Families, Community Services, Indigenous Affairs and Disability Reform, Jenny Macklin.

Helen is the sponsor of the Brenda Gabe Award, generously donating a prize to the Award including professional development to the value of $2000.  This award will be made on an annual basis to recognise a woman or group of women who embody the leadership traits shown by Brenda Gabe.

The Shadow Minister for Disability Reform, Jenny Macklin MP, today congratulated Tricia Malowney on winning the inaugural Brenda Gabe Leadership Award for her outstanding contribution to women with disabilities.

“Through her work as a respected advocate for people with disabilities Tricia has made an enormous contribution to the advancement of women with disability in Victoria. I congratulate her on all she has achieved.

“Women with Disabilities Victoria continues to play an important role in raising the profile of gender within the NDIS, ensuring that the interests of women with disabilities and carers are embedded in the Scheme’s structure.

“I would also like to thank Keran Howe, Executive Director of Women with Disabilities Victoria, for her continued advocacy on behalf of women with disability and for hosting such an inspiring event."

The award is an opportunity for the communities where women are active to recognize the contribution. Nominations came from hospitals and health services, local government and disability service providers who wanted to recognize women with disabilities in their leadership role.

WDV Executive Director Keran Howe said:

“In nominating women for an award, the nominators were making a public endorsement of the important leadership these women are making on behalf of WWD across the state.”

The winner Tricia Malowney said she hopes to:

Find a leadership program which will not only benefit me personally, but will also enable me to empower other women with disabilities”

Tricia is a highly respected advocate for people with disabilities who has worked at state, national and international levels in this role. She has used her life experience with polio and post-polio syndrome to inform her advocacy in this area.

Since retiring from a middle management position with Victoria police at age 46, Tricia has led and contributed in a formal capacity to boards, committees and councils championing the rights of people with a disability.

Today’s award particularly looks for the contribution nominees have made to improve the status of women with disabilities in Victoria. The following demonstrates the depth of Tricia’s commitment in this area:

  • Tricia was the convenor and chair of Victorian Women with Disabilities Network during its successful transformation & renaming to Women with Disabilities Victoria (WDV)
  • Tricia was the inaugural Chair of the Royal Women’s Hospital Disability Reference Group.
  • Tricia  worked with others to ensure women with disabilities were included in research policy planning and development of  key initiatives including the Family Violence Protection Act 2006
  • Tricia worked with the Cancer Council and other relevant organisations to support better access to Cancer Screening for Victorian women with Intellectual Disabilities
  • Tricia successfully lobbied for women with disabilities to be included in the United Nations Population

This award would not have been possible without the generous support of Dr Helen Sykes the Director of Future Leaders.

2013 Nominees:

Our 2013 Brenda Gabe Award nominees were:

Andrea Murphy

Image of Andrea Murphy

Brighton East

Cathy Clark

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Colleen Furlanetto

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Jennifer Robinson

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Jenny Cheng

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Jess Kapuscinski-Evans

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Judith Hooper

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Kim Ling Chua

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Joy Clarke

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Lisa Davis


Lynn Lancaster


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Melissa Lowrie

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Melissa Noonan

Doncaster Heights
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Michelle Rogers

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Norma Seip

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Peta Ferguson

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Rebecca Biddle


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Renee Biewer

St Albans

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Sally Smith

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Croyden Hills

Shaunagh Stevens

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Tricia Malowney

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Val Johnstone

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Vanessa Robinson

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Deafblind Victorians Self-Advocacy Group:
Heather Lawson, Trudy Ryall, Michelle Stevens
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Bendigo Community Health Service
Peer Educators – Living Safer Sexual Lives
Rebecca Davie, Yvette Keane, Kathrene Peters.

Rebecca Davie, Yvette Keane, Kathrene Peters.




We acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which Women with Disabilities Victoria is located - the Wurundjeri People of the Kulin Nation