Victoria's first female Governor presents State's first inspiring women fellowships

3 December

Standing: inaugural inspiring women fellows Dr Maria Liaskos, Dr Catherine Satzke, Dr Emily Nicholson and Dr Natalie Hannan
Hon Philip Dalidakis Minister for Small Business, Innovation and Trade, The Honourable Linda Dessau AM, Governor of Victoria, veski chair Professor Ian Smith and Victorian Lead Scientist Dr Leonie Walsh

Four Australian women who may have compromised attaining the full potential of their research careers in order to raise young families have been given the financial support they need, and most importantly backing from their institutions, to continue their work as the inaugural inspiring women fellows, presented by the first female Governor of Victoria this week.

The inaugural inspiring women fellowships, funded by the Victorian Government through the Office of the Lead Scientist and delivered by veski, ensure outstanding female researchers get the support they need to juggle career and carer commitments and remain competitive in their fields of endeavour.

The flexible funding of up to $150,000 each over three years, as well as financial support from their institutions and a commitment from management to support their leadership potential, allows these women to remain competitive by tailoring support mechanisms to suit their situations and make the juggling act possible.

From a highly competitive field, the inaugural inspiring women fellowships were presented to mothers and researchers:

  • Dr Maria Liaskos from The Hudson Institute of Medical Research’s Centre for Innate Immunity and Infectious Diseases who will hire a research assistant to continue the momentum of her current research program.
  • Dr Catherine Satzke from the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute who will remain connected with her work in the Infection and Immunity area and the Pneumococcal Research group by employing a research assistant who can act as her ‘hands’ for research while she is away from the laboratory.
  • Dr Natalie Hannan to support her continued work at The University of Melbourne’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology and allow her to travel to, and actively participate in, key international meetings with the support of a carer for her young family.
  • Dr Emily Nicholson who will continue working part-time at Deakin University’s School of Life and Environmental Sciences, supported by a dedicated postdoctoral researcher, and be able to host a workshop in Melbourne bringing key players in her field to Australia.

The four inaugural inspiring women fellows will choose exactly how to allocate their funds to maximise career opportunities and ensure greater connection with their research while taking career-breaks and returning to work, giving them the ability to participate in important international conferences with the support of carers for young children, and the ability to employ a research assistant who can be their hands in the lab while they’re at home raising their young families.

According to Victorian Government Lead Scientist Dr Leonie Walsh - a key player in the development and selection of the inspiring women fellowships in partnership with veski, the field of applicants for the funding was extremely strong and the four successful and high potential leaders will shine a light on the talent pool in Victoria which is at risk of going untapped without adequate support.

“With so many inspiring women across the state, it was an extremely difficult task to choose just four; however, the successful applicants for the inaugural inspiring women fellowships stood out with regards to what they have delivered in their careers to date and their future potential.  We believe they demonstrate the leadership necessary and will be role models helping to pave the way for the thousands of inspiring women following behind them,” Dr Walsh said.

“In order to affect the cultural change we need within our institutions, businesses, government and community organisations to support more inspiring women, we must take bold steps and give talented researchers like Maria, Catherine, Natalie and Emily the chance to reach their full potential and help take society and the economy forward.”

veski chief executive officer Ms Julia L Page says the support and commitment of the institutes hosting the inaugural inspiring women fellows is integral to their success, which is why they must commit to providing a cash contribution of 10 per cent of the total funding awarded each year as well as leadership opportunities and professional mentoring for the duration of the fellowship.

“Everyone has a role to play in supporting Victoria’s future female leaders, and while the funding from the inspiring women fellowships will give these women the flexibility to support their research; the ongoing success is linked with the institutions providing leadership opportunities and support from across all levels of management,” Ms Page said.

“As well as directly supporting the four recipients of the inaugural inspiring women fellowships, this program will stimulate wider conversations among our state’s institutions and encourage more organisations to take real action in supporting this pool of talented inspiring women.”

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