HealthWISE qualifies for one of 60 projects across Australia: Federal government’s Women’s Leadership and Development Program

Women across our region will have the chance to improve their business savvy and develop leadership skills, as local organisation HealthWISE hosts nine free events in six locations over the next three years. An initiative designed to empower women in their career journeys through the meeting of minds and sharing of ideas, The Exchange is one of 60 projects across Australia to have qualified for the Commonwealth Government’s Women’s Leadership and Development Program.

“It’s great to be recognised by the Commonwealth Government as an important initiative for women’s leadership, and for this initiative to be able to continue across NSW and QLD,” HealthWISE Chief Executive Officer Fiona Strang said. Each Exchange event features a panel of women from a variety of disciplines who share their business successes, challenges and tips with attendees.

The Exchange was created by Ms Strang in 2019 when she was seeking opportunities for herself and her mostly female senior management to meet with and learn from other rural women who had experienced business growth or changes. She found that networking opportunities were limited for country women, who are significantly underrepresented in management positions in the private sector.

According to the 2018-19 Gender Equity Agency Report, women make up only 31.5% of key management positions and just 17.1% of CEOs, despite making up half (50.2%) of the workforce and achieving the same educational outcomes as their male counterparts.

The funding will allow HealthWISE to sustain the movement and expand its reach, with the opportunity for 480 regional women to attend events over the next three years.

Ms Strang is thrilled that the initiative can continue, free of charge, for women all over the HealthWISE footprint in New England North West NSW and Southern QLD. The Exchange will be introduced to a Queensland audience for the first time on August 5 in Ipswich, followed by a return to Tamworth on October 21. Events will also be held in Armidale, Toowoomba, Narrabri and Moree in 2022 and 2023.

From Kate Watson, the host of wildly popular news podcast The Squiz, to florist Jane Lampe, to UNE lecturer Sue Watt; the guest speakers have been diverse. Previous events held in Armidale, Tamworth and even on-line during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic – have all
been filled to capacity.

The Exchange will be introduced to a Queensland audience for the first time on August 5 in Ipswich, followed by a return to Tamworth on October 21. Events will also be held in Armidale, Toowoomba, Narrabri and Moree in 2022 and 2023.

“Panellist Penny Crawford, who has developed a boot specifically for the mining industry, using the knowledge she acquired across many years as a podiatrist, realised that developing this footwear would solve many problems for people in her local area,” Ms Strang said. She felt Penny’s ability to see a need in the market and find a way to fill it was emblematic of The Exchange’s focus on taking on new career challenges.

Feedback from participants and contributors has been overwhelmingly positive, with many women inspired to seek significant career advancement. One 2019 attendee resigned from a middle management banking role and founded a new, thriving law business. Two 2020 participants decided to run for office as elected officials, and many others have gone on to new roles and training.

The Women’s Leadership and Development Program is part of the government’s commitment to support the re-opening and recovery of Australia’s economy. Senator the Hon Marise Payne, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Women, said the projects funded have a focus on boosting women’s employment opportunities and supporting their safety.

“These projects are estimated to benefit around 40,000 Australian women nation-wide, including women from diverse backgrounds and those at high risk of long-term unemployment,” Ms Payne said.

To learn more about upcoming Exchange events, visit or contact event coordinator Louise Ingall at HealthWISE on 02 6766 1394 or email You can also keep updated by following @theexchangehw on Facebook or Instagram.

Media contacts for The Exchange: Louise Ingall – 02 6766 1394

The Exchange is an initiative of HealthWISE and will continue  with support from the
Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet’s Office for Women

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