Media Release,  03 July 2020

Jo Thomas named Telstra Queensland Business Woman of the Year


30 April 2020: Jo Thomas, Chief Executive Officer and Creative Director of contemporary art house Metro Arts, is the 2020 Telstra Queensland Business Woman of the Year.

Ms Thomas supports and mentors artists to help them realise their creative potential, present their work to audiences and build their careers.

Boasting a colourful career of producing, acting, mentoring and advocating, Thomas’ driving force behind her work is the belief that everyone should be exposed to culture. She is passionate about seeing more diverse voices and stories reflected in contemporary arts.

“My particular leadership approach is one of entrepreneurship, calculated experimentation and nimbleness, taking advantage of opportunities but always balancing these with the needs of our clients and the arts community,” said Ms Thomas.
Thomas also won the For Purpose & Social Enterprise Award, which celebrates leaders and employees of organisations making a positive difference to the world around them
For 25 years, the Telstra Business Women’s Awards have recognised more than 3,000 exceptional women in leadership, who are transforming the way we lead businesses from all corners of Australia and across all industries.

Alex Badenoch, Telstra’s Group Executive of Transformation & People and Telstra Business Women’s Awards Ambassador, congratulated the Queensland winners, who are all inspiring examples of leaders challenging the status quo within and beyond their industries.

“Ms Thomas’ approach to leading Metro Arts demonstrates an optimistic focus where the arts are a powerful medium to bring about change and influence access, inclusion, participation and outcomes for all. She is a clear and visionary leader who has much to give not only to the arts sector, but also to the future of advancing women in leadership,” Ms Badenoch said.

Also recognised as winners of the 2020 Telstra Queensland Business Women’s Awards were:

  • Small Business Award: Julie Verner-Mackay, Founder and Human Success Director, aXcelerate Julie Verner-Mackay founded cloud-based student management system, aXcelerate. She is passionate about establishing a flexible and positive workplace culture.
  • Medium & Large Business Award: Yinzhu Quan, Pioneer Lab member, Rio Tinto Joining Rio Tinto as an engineer, Yinzhu Quan was selected to be one of just six members on its Pioneer Lab - a panel working on 10-20 year-long strategies and new visions for the company.
  • Public Sector & Academia Award: Jeanette Allom-Hill, Group Executive Business Performance, Sunshine Coast Regional Council Working at the Sunshine Coast Regional Council, Jeanette Allom-Hill is responsible for a portfolio including finance, IT, human resources, procurement and property management.
  • Emerging Leader: Onica Mhaka, Project Coordinator, Height Dynamics Onica Mhaka’s passion, vision and leadership has seen Height Dynamics, a safety equipment supplier, achieve great success.
    “For a quarter of a century, the Telstra Business Women’s Awards have advocated for women in business, helping to promote gender equality in the workplace and recognising the women who are paving the way for future generations,” Ms Badenoch said.

“These women are setting new benchmarks for what it means to be a successful business person, championing inclusion and innovation as they do so.”

-ENDS-


Telstra Media contact: Danita Goodwin, State Media Manager (QLD)

E: media@team.telstra.com

Reference number: 041/2020


Full descriptions of the 2020 Telstra Queensland Business Women’s Awards winners:

Jo Thomas 2020 Telstra Queensland Business Woman of the Year Award and 2020 Telstra Queensland Business Women’s For Purpose & Social Enterprise Award winner

Jo Thomas, Chief Executive Officer and Creative Director of Metro Arts, supports and mentors artists to realise their creative potential, present their work to audiences and help build their careers. Jo’s journey to Chief Executive Officer of Metro Arts has been joyous and varied. She left Toowoomba for Melbourne to pursue a performance career and was fortunate enough to land an internship with the esteemed Shakespeare & Company in Massachusetts, USA. Boasting a colourful career of producing, acting, mentoring and advocating, Jo’s driving force behind her work is the belief that everyone should be exposed to culture. She is passionate about seeing more diverse voices and stories reflected in contemporary arts. She fosters talent and creates pathways for artists and artistic work, including displaced and underrepresented communities and artist-groups. Jo is committed to mentoring and supporting emergent artforms and artists as she believes they are the art-forms of the future which will articulate a new way forward. In the last three years, Jo and her team have supported more than 800 artists to create 24 new Australian performance works and 58 new exhibitions.

Julie Verner-Mackay

2020 Telstra Queensland Business Women’s Small Business Award winner

Julie Verner-Mackay’s role as Human Success Director of aXcelerate is crucial because she believes that, without a commitment to staff, staff don’t have a commitment to their clients. Julie made the decision to establish her own business largely as a result of working in a challenging and highly inflexible workplace where her hard work and determination were not appreciated. Because of this, she is passionate about establishing a flexible and positive workplace culture. Julie plays a big role in the recruitment process of aXcelerate and takes pride in the team she has cultivated. Together, the team works to provide timely and quality responses to clients, ensuring that their businesses can operate without interruption.

Yinzhu Quan

2020 Telstra Queensland Business Women’s Medium & Large Business Award winner

Joining Rio Tinto as an engineer, Yinzhu Quan was selected to be one of just six members on its Pioneer Lab - a panel working on 10-20 year-long strategies and new visions for the company. The Brisbane-based Pioneer Lab was established to help Rio Tinto explore new ideas and innovations to propel the business forward. Becoming a Pioneer Lab member was a position well-suited to Yinzhu, who is a believer that being more open to risk and exploring uncertainties is essential to encouraging innovation. Yinzhu is passionate about bringing more women to mining, especially to operational and managerial roles. When facing challenges as a manager, Yinzhu puts people into the center of every decision and often finds challenges then disappear or become easier to overcome.


Jeanette Allom-Hill

2020 Telstra Queensland Business Women’s Public Sector & Academia Award winner

Group Executive Business Performance at Sunshine Coast Regional Council, Jeanette Allom-Hill, is responsible for a portfolio including Finance, IT, Human Resources, Procurement and Property Management. Bringing her prior experience from businesses including Microsoft, The Boston Consulting Group, NBN Co Optus,Treasury and Transport, Jeanette joined the Sunshine Coast Regional Council in 2018. She is considered an expert in portfolio and change management having established and chaired the community of change professional for the public sector and often speaks on the subject at specialist conferences. She is a certified coach and is passionate about helping executives turn their talents into strengths. She is continually finding the right balance between grace and grit in her work and she does this by being committed, accountable and delivering real results.

Onica Mhaka

2020 Telstra Queensland Business Women’s Emerging Leader Award winner

Zimbabwe-born Onica Mhaka has overcome challenges and hardships to become a Project Manager at Height Dynamics. Ten years ago, Onica Mhaka moved to Australia with no support network and had to quickly learn a new culture and language. Fearless and determined, she immersed herself in the workforce and embraced the challenge. It didn’t take long for Onica to thrive in the workplace and become an integral team member at Height Dynamics. Onica’s passion, vision and leadership has seen Height Dynamics achieve 95 per cent staff satisfaction, 90 per cent client satisfaction, zero lost time injuries and 10 per cent business growth – huge achievements for the first African-female employee in a predominantly Caucasian male industry. Onica builds trust through empathy. She takes a personal interest in people's stories and gives her team personal and undivided attention – you won’t see Onica looking at her phone while she’s talking to you.