Media Release, 01 October 2014

A passion to improve the community services that not-for-profit organisations deliver to Queensland’s most vulnerable people has seen Anne Cross, CEO of UnitingCare Queensland, named as the 2014 Telstra Queensland Business Woman of the Year.

Ms Cross was also named Community and Government Award winner at the 20th annual Telstra Queensland Business Women’s Awards which were attended by the Hon. Jann Stuckey MP, Minister for Small Business and the Hon. Tracy Davis MP Minister for Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services, at the Sofitel Brisbane tonight.

A former front line social worker who held senior positions in government and non-government organisations across a broad range of rehabilitation, disability, aged care and community services, Ms Cross was appointed to lead a major and challenging transformation of UnitingCare Queensland in 2003.

The not-for-profit chief now has responsibility for over 100 separate hospitals, aged care and community services facilities, leading a team of 16,000 staff and 9000 volunteers; which would put the workforce she manages in the top 10 list of regional Queensland cities if measured by population.

Her governance, enthusiastic belief in community services and high personal credibility have driven a successful merger of UnitingCare’s myriad community services into a mature and integrated organisation.

She says: “I care about the wellbeing of people and communities and am driven by the contribution not-for-profit organisations make to the social and economic life of Australia.”

Leading a values-based culture of respecting the dignity of individuals, Ms Cross added: “Several years down the track we have made the executive role changes required, established shared services, common values and mission, and other strategic frameworks.”

Ms Cross predicts the major drivers of change in the health and community services sector in coming years will include increasing client expectations and empowerment, growing market contestability with new entrants including multinationals, and technology that will change delivery of services.

She is the only private health and non-government sector person appointed to the Queensland Health Program Renewal Board which is responsible for oversight of the transformation of Queensland Health.

Other winners include two women who have quite literally ‘been flying’ through their careers – Business Owner Award winner Captain Jan Becker, CEO of international helicopter training and air transport operations business Becker Helicopter Services, and RAAF Squadron Leader and pilot Samantha Freebairn, who won the Business Innovation Award for developing a scheme to attract, retain and support women as military pilots.

Elizabeth Harper, CIO of engineering consultancy GHD, won the Private and Corporate Sector Award while Skye Anderton, founder of Ruby Olive Jewellery, which is sold in over 100 independent boutique stores across Australia, was named the Young Business Women’s Award winner.

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 last 20 years, I am confident that the 2014 Queensland 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 Anne Cross as an incredible business woman with a unique leadership and vision.

“Anne has implemented a huge change program that has transformed what was a distressed and multi-faceted UnitingCare Queensland. She has been responsible for significant structural reform, while being articulate and values-driven in a business that is the largest non-government employer in Queensland.”

Previous winners of the Telstra Queensland Business Woman of the Year Award include Rosemary Vilgan, CEO of QSuper, and Therese Rein, Managing Director of Ingeus Limited and CEO of Assure Programs.

The Queensland 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 Queensland Business Woman of the Year

Anne Cross, UnitingCare Queensland, Brisbane

Business Owner Award
Captain Jan Becker, Becker Helicopter Services Pty Ltd, Marcoola

Jan Becker’s business journey combines two professional passions – flying helicopters and midwifery. As CEO of Becker Helicopters for the last18 years, she drives technological innovation and new revenue streams in an international helicopter training business. After recently helping to train midwives in Tanzania she also plans to become a neonatal specialist resuscitation instructor. Telstra Awards judges said she was an exemplar of a business owner and a model of lifelong learning. She demonstrates a unique balance of leadership through innovation coupled with the desire to give back to the International community.

Private and Corporate Sector Award
Elizabeth Harper, GHD, Brisbane

Former software developer Elizabeth Harper was inspired by great CEOs and encouraged by mentors to drive business improvement and service excellence across a range of industries. Passionate about supporting women to excel, she is CIO of GHD, a leading engineering, architecture and environmental consulting company and manages a team of 205 IT professionals operating in 10 countries. Awards judges said she was a role model in a non-traditional female career showing strong values, leadership and mentoring while driving a culture of service delivery and strong engagement for global internal and external clients.

Community and Government Award

Anne Cross, UnitingCare Queensland, Brisbane

Business Innovation Award
Squadron Leader Samantha Freebairn, Royal Australian Air Force, Amberley

Samantha Freebairn is an operational C17 Globemaster pilot flying combat and humanitarian relief missions and the RAAF’s first female pilot to return to operational flying after maternity leave. She created the Graduate Pilot Scheme to encourage more women to apply for pilot training. It focuses on their recruitment, retention, support and progression within the RAAF. Telstra Awards judges said it has substantially increased recruitment rate, profiled female pilots and is now part of Griffith University Aviation course. They described her as persistent with an engaging personality and an ability to see a problem clearly and use ‘hard’ analytical skills and ‘soft’ personal skills to work with others to put a solution in place.

Young Business Women’s Award
Skye Anderton, Ruby Olive Jewellery, Brisbane

Young entrepreneur Skye Anderton launched her primary brand, Ruby Olive Jewellery, in 2010 and sells via her website and through more than 100 independent boutiques across Australia. Telstra Awards judges said she clearly demonstrated the reasons for her success – passion and authenticity – and was focused on delivering a customer experience that includes surprise and delight. She understands the importance of consistent branding of her business and product range and has worked hard to develop business skills to complement her more natural creative skills.

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