Drone developer Catherine Ball was named Telstra Businesswoman of the Year for 2015. Photo: Supplied
Queensland’s newest business award winner wasted no time getting her message across, warning Australia’s Foreign Minister to expect a call within a week spruiking the benefits of Australian technology in international aid.
Catherine Ball is justifiably proud of her world-leading work with drones, which is helping to push the country to become number one in the world.
Her team flew human-sized drones hundreds of kilometres to track turtle habitats off the West Australian Coast, spotting endangered animals not seen in years, an achievement that saw her crowned 2015 Telstra Queensland Business Woman of the Year on Tuesday night.
HR Junction managing director Belinda Brosnan won the startup award. Photo: Supplied
Dr Ball said the next step was using the cutting edge vehicles for humanitarian work.
“I had 20 minutes with Julie Bishop at the World Humanitarian Summit Pacific regional briefing in Auckland and I managed to convince her that Australian-made UAVs were perfect for post-cyclone disaster response across the Pacific,” she said.
“So Julie Bishop, I’m going to be calling you next week now I’ve got this.”
Mango industry titan Marie Piccone won the entrepreneur award. Photo: Supplied
Dr Ball, who also won the Corporate and Private award, beat out a strong field of contenders including Queensland Fire and Emergency Services Commissioner Katarina Carroll, who became the first woman in the role this year after coordinating the Queensland Police Service’s widely praised approach to the G20 summit.
British-born but “Aussie by heart and spirit”, Dr Ball used the plight of UK author Mary Ann Evans, who was forced to write as George Eliot to be taken seriously, to highlight how far equality had come.
Catherine Ball says her drones have huge potential to assist humanitarian projects. Photo: Supplied
“But there’s always more to be done and we’d be lying to ourselves if we actually thought we were living in a true meritocracy,” she said.
“And one day maybe my daughters will look and be confused as to why I was the only woman in the room while I was doing what I was doing.”
The theme of women thriving in male-dominated industries carried throughout the evening.
Susie Upton took home the young business woman’s award for youth counselling service Child Aware. Photo: Supplied
An inspirational speech from Fiona Wood, 2005 Australian of the Year, inventor of a life-saving spray-on skin and Bali bombing burns treatment hero stole the show early on.
She spoke inspirationally of the many times she was told she couldn’t do something because she was a woman or mother before she eventually managed to prove people wrong.
“I was told (early in my career) ‘well you can’t do that. Women don’t do surgery’ and i said ‘well I’m really good at embroidery, does that matter?'” Dr Wood recounted.
“That’s when I really learnt that engaging with negative energy is a waste of time.
“There are people that believe absolutely that that’s what should have happened. That’s irrelevant to me.
“The smart way was to go and find people who would say ‘actually yeah, we’ll give you a go’.”
Mango industry titan Marie Piccone was a congratulated by a table of proud men as she claimed the entrepreneur award for turning a once-proud mango brand around.
And social enterprise award winner Fiona Jose spoke about how humbled she was by the quiet leadership of Aboriginal women in her community.
“We have strong, amazing Indigenous male leaders in Cape York and around the country and that’s fantastic,” she said in accepting the award for her work with Aboriginal empowerment organisation Cape York Project.
“But we have this group of women that quietly and unassumingly lead from behind and they are the drivers of so many causes for our people.”
HR Junction managing director Belinda Brosnan won the startup award and Susie Upton took home the young business woman’s award for youth counselling service Child Aware.