Media Release, 13 October 2014

A woman who champions workplace flexibility in the male-dominated construction and mining sector has been named the 2014 Telstra Western Australian Business Woman of the Year.

Sharon Warburton, Executive Director Strategy at leading global construction contractor Brookfield Multiplex and a Non-Executive Director since 2013 at Fortescue Metals Group (FMG), also won the Private & Corporate Sector Award at the 20th Telstra Western Australian Business Women's Awards at Crown Perth tonight.

Other winners include two not-for-profit CEOs – the Rise Network’s Justine Colyer, winner of the Community & Government Award, and The Centre for Cerebral Palsy’s Judy Hogben, who took out the Business Innovation Award for her leadership in distributing a powered vehicle for Australian children with cerebral palsy.

Gemma Tognini, founder of gtmedia strategic communications, won the Business Owner Award while Laura McMahon Higgins, who runs training services consultancy Questamon, was named the Young Business Woman winner.

Training as a chartered accountant while working at KPMG, Sharon Warburton moved into the mining and property sectors, thriving in cross-cultural leadership roles in multi-nationals from a young age. At 25, she was the Financial Controller at Hammersley Iron (now Rio Tinto Iron Ore) before assuming a Group Analyst role for Rio Tinto in London.

Her roles after that included mergers and acquisitions management for the then Multiplex Group and strategy experience for Aldar Properties in Abu Dhabi, before returning to Perth and her current role at Brookfield Multiplex in 2011.

A self-confessed ‘reverted workaholic’, Ms Warburton says: “Workplace flexibility is not new. What is unique about Brookfield Multiplex’s approach is its individual rather than one size fits all approach.

“I encourage my teams to think about how they can work flexibly to enhance their well-being and motivation and I aim to give people as much autonomy and flexibility as they want and can manage.

“My philosophy is to create a work environment that stimulates ideas, promotes the value and benefits of team work, is built on the ongoing development of all individuals and is fun.”

Ms Warburton is actively involved in mentoring young women and men through Brookfield Multiplex’s Emerging Leaders program, Women in Mining WA and the Association of Women in Operations. She added: “Construction is no longer just a man's world. Diversity can, and will lead to better outcomes. I am committed to helping improve the female participation and retention rates in mining and construction.”

The co-chair of FMG’s Remuneration and Nominations Committee, she is also a Director of the fundraising not-for-profit foundation of Perth’s Princess Margaret Hospital for Children.

Kate McKenzie, Telstra Chief Operations Officer and Telstra Business Women’s Awards Ambassador said:

“As I reflect on the achievements of the amazing women that have won these Awards over the past 20 years, I am confident that the 2014 Western Australian winners will continue to inspire the next generation.

“They embody what it means to be a Telstra Business Woman’s Award winner - courageous, confident and innovative.”

Ms McKenzie said the Telstra Awards judges described Ms Warburton as a mentor to dozens of people of both genders and praised her support of women progressing in an industry that is exceptionally male-dominated.

“Sharon wears many hats. She juggles motherhood with her senior executive role and directorships of a listed company and a not-for-profit. Her leadership style is one of building the team to empower them to lead.”

Previous winners of the Telstra WA Business Woman of the Year Award include Department of Corrective Services executive Sonja Cox; Julie Shuttleworth, General Manager at Fortescue Metals Group’s Cloudbreak mine; and WA’s former Chief Nurse and Midwifery Officer, Catherine Stoddart.

The WA winners proceed to the national finals in Melbourne on 26 November. For finalists and winners across Australia the awards offer a share in $650,000 in cash and prizes.

2014 Telstra Western Australian Business Woman of the Year
Sharon Warburton Brookfield Multiplex Perth

Business Owner Award
Gemma Tognini gtmedia strategic communications Northbridge
Well-known in WA media and corporate circles, Gemma Tognini left the comfort of a permanent job in 2003 to launch her public relations, media and reputation management consultancy. By following her mantra of thinking big, gtmedia strategic communications works with clients locally, nationally, in the Asia-Pacific and North America. She also provides pro bono services to a number of charities and sits on the WA Board of the Starlight Foundation. The Telstra Awards judges were impressed by Ms Tognini’s record in launching a business in a niche market that survived the GFC and continues to increase in size. They said building relationships was the cornerstone of her success.

Private & Corporate Sector Award
Sharon Warburton Brookfield Multiplex Perth

Community & Government Award
Justine Colyer Rise Network Inc Middle Swan
As CEO of Rise Network, Justine Colyer oversees the delivery of tailored accommodation and practical support for more than 2000 people a year, including people with mental health issues, people with disabilities, youth at risk, the elderly, their families and carers. With 400 staff and volunteers, Rise runs a 24/7 refuge for women under 18 escaping domestic violence and manages more than 100 properties. The Telstra Awards judges described Ms Colyer as a very engaging, highly articulate and accomplished woman with a cause. She has a great mix of private and not-for-profit experience and blends them together to run a business that is going from strength to strength.

Business Innovation Award

Judy Hogben The Centre for Cerebral Palsy Coolbinia
In six years as CEO of The Centre for Cerebral Palsy, Judy Hogben has championed the Centre’s onsite research, design and manufacturing capabilities to benefit families and people with a disability. Through her Early Powered Mobility Project, she established an alliance with UK-based Designability (the Bath Institute of Medical Engineering) to distribute its Wizzybug, a battery-powered, motorised ‘buddy’ that the Centre customises for an individual’s needs. Telstra Awards judges said the mobility device is a ground-breaking innovation that gives children and families a sense of freedom. They said Ms Hogben was a great leader in her community and very authentic and genuine.

Young Business Women’s Award
Laura McMahon Higgins Questamon Fremantle
At just 27, Laura McMahon Higgins left her role as Company Secretary and Legal Counsel of an ASX 200 mining company to run her own business. In late 2012, she bought Questamon, a training and consulting service to the building, construction and mining sectors. Her initial concerns about her youth and gender were unfounded and she has prospered, training more than 1000 people and expanding outside Perth. Telstra Awards judges said Ms McMahon Higgins holds strong credibility in a blue-collar, male-dominated industry. Focused on extending her services to include programs for Indigenous communities, the business has solid financial results and strong potential growth.

More information on the Telstra Business Women’s Awards can be found at