Community safety champion takes out top Western Australian business award

Media Release, 30 September 2013

A public servant who drove the business case for the introduction of GPS tracking devices for dangerous sexual offenders has been named the 2013 Telstra Western Australian Business Woman of the Year.

Sonja Cox, Director Operational Performance, Policy and Planning in the State’s Department of Corrective Services also won the Community and Government Award at tonight’s Telstra Western Australian Business Women’s Awards at the Perth Convention & Exhibition Centre.

Other Award winners include Donna McColl, founder of Happy Feet Fitness, Tracey Barnes, State manager of BOQ, Hayley Warren, founder of HALO Medical Devices, and Kelly Haywood, a Maritime Logistics Officer with the Royal Australian Navy.

Moving to Western Australia in 1996 from the Department of Justice in Victoria, Sonja Cox had roles in community corrections, adult custodial and victim services before she was elevated to her current role responsible for the policies and procedures underpinning the management of Western Australia’s 10,000 community based offenders and prisoners.

In 2009, she was charged with evaluating the use of GPS tracking devices to monitor sex offenders released back into the community. Her work was vital in the passing of new laws this year by the WA Government which allow GPS tracking of offenders who are fitted with tracking devices and monitored 24 hours a day, seven days a week, at the WA Police operations centre.

The technology, which was implemented with a $6 million budget, provides location visibility and raises an alarm if the wearer enters an exclusion zone or attempts to tamper with the device.

Ms Cox said the GPS tracking program has delivered key outcomes since its rollout in May 2013 in regard to increased community safety, better partnerships with the WA Police and increased accountability of some of the State’s most high risk offenders.

“I am now involved in exploring further options for this technology including its application to violent offenders and arsonists,” she said. “Increasing the case management tools available to work with these groups of offenders will result in greater victim protection, more vigilance with case management and surveillance and protection of areas of the State through the closer management of arsonists.”

Ms Cox received parliamentary recognition for her achievement in the development of a robust and contemporary suite of performance indicators for the Corrective Services Department.

Kate McKenzie, Group Managing Director Telstra Innovation, Products and Marketing and Telstra Business Women’s Awards Ambassador, said: “The Western Australian winners were inspirational business women with extraordinary achievements.”

“Judges were particularly impressed by Ms Cox’s strong and successful leadership in a complex environment. They also praised the holistic approach to family, self and the community that was evident in her personal journey.”

Winners of the 2013 Telstra Western Australian Business Women’s Awards are:

Business Owner Award

Donna McColl, Happy Feet Fitness, Secret Harbour
An ability to inspire and motivate young children led Donna McColl to become an area manager and instructor for a national dance company before building her own business aimed at addressing childhood obesity. She launched Happy Feet Fitness in 2008 with three child care centre as clients. Today the business has 40 instructors delivering programs in 400 centres in WA, Victoria and Queensland. Judges were impressed by the business growth, financial success and national expansion achieved by Ms McColl within five years. They praised the impact her business had on society through programs targeting childhood obesity and illness.

Private and Corporate Sector Award

Tracey Barnes, BOQ, Perth
As State Manager for the Retail and Online Banking division of BOQ, Tracey Barnes transformed a division that had experienced above industry average staff turnover, challenging sales growth and five leaders in as many years. By introducing ‘EQ Programming’ and ‘Customer Connection Methodology,’ she increased sales while improving customer satisfaction and reducing staff attrition by more than half. Judges said Ms Barnes’ leadership vision had empowered and engaged managers and staff and turned the business around. She had identified the opportunity for BOQ to introduce products and services platforms to challenge the Big 4 banks.

Community and Government Award

Sonja Cox, Department of Corrective, Services Perth

Innovation Award

Hayley Warren, HALO Medical Devices, Subiaco
As founder of HALO Medical Devices, Hayley Warren developed a digital goniometer for therapists, doctors and veterinarians to measure joint movement and help recovery from injury. Ms Warren’s device uses laser beams, an advance that should overcome many of the shortcomings manual devices present. Her innovation won the People’s Choice Award on the ABC’s New Inventors program in 2010. Judges were impressed by her success in taking a concept from start-up out to market by creating a global distribution network. They said her idea solved a 40-year-old problem and praised her success in winning investment backing.

Young Business Women’s Award

Kelly Haywood, Royal Australian Navy, Rockingham
Lieutenant Kelly Haywood spent eight years as a Combat Systems Operator before becoming a Maritime Logistics Officer in 2005. She’s had four deployments to Christmas Island as part of border patrol operations and received two Commanding Officer Commendations and a Silver Command Joint Task Force Commendation for her efforts. Judges said Ms Haywood had harnessed personal adversity and tragedy to inspire others at work and in the community. They were impressed at her breaking of leadership barriers in the Navy and her performance when entrusted with large scale multi-million dollar logistics projects.

2013 Telstra Western Australian Business Woman of the Year

Sonja Cox, Department of Corrective Services, Perth

The Western Australian winners proceed to the national finals in Melbourne on 14 November.

CommBank’s Women in Focus program, which opens doors to opportunity for women across Australia, is an Official Partner of the Telstra Business Women’s Awards. The Bank is proud to present each of the category winners with $4,000 prize money. Telstra recognises the WA Business Woman of the Year with a major prize of $10,000.

More information on the Telstra Business Women’s Awards can be found on the Telstra Business Women's Awards website.