Visionary Territory business owner wins top award

Media Release, 23 September 2013

The owner of a successful Darwin based optometrist practice who also provides outreach services to remote indigenous communities in Arnhem Land has been named the 2013 Telstra Northern Territory Business Woman of the Year.

Helen Summers launched Helen Summers Optometrist. Eyecare Plus Darwin in 1998 with only her own savings and second-hand equipment. She also won the Business Owner Award and Business Innovation Award at tonight’s Telstra Northern Territory Business Women’s Awards which were attended by the Deputy Chief Minister, the Hon. Dave Tollner, at the Darwin Convention Centre.

Soon after establishing her Fannie Bay practice, Ms Summers commenced outreach services to regional and remote areas in the Territory including Katherine, Nhulunbuy and Kakadu to ensure vision care was available to typically under-serviced communities.

Ms Summers said the motivation for her outreach services stemmed from her work in Kenya whilst a graduate optometrist where she witnessed the significant impacts it had on education and employment.

“I am passionate about making a difference in the lives of others and striving towards the Vision 2020 goal of reducing preventable blindness by providing vision care in remote Indigenous communities,” Ms Summers said.

Ms Summers’ practice offers an extensive range of products and services including high standard clinical care, comprehensive examinations to manage diabetic vision care and glaucoma, and visual perceptual and neuro-optometry services for children and adults with reading difficulties and autism.

She is set to open a new practice location in December this year that she says will be Australia’s first flagship concept store with Nikon branding using the latest technology and innovations in vision care for consulting, dispensing, retailing and health education. The technology will open up greater opportunities for specialists in Darwin to collaborate with interstate peers and help patients more effectively.

Ms Summers, who has set a personal goal to complete the Oxfam 100 kilometre walk in 2014 for poverty and injustice, is also working on the establishment of a Vision Foundation which would enable ready-made glasses, disused frames and low cost glasses to be donated to people living very remotely and those who have financial difficulty.

Other Award winners include Kathryn James, the Chief Executive of the Territory’s largest employer of apprentices and trainees, GTNT, and Katherine Van Gurp, Director for Business Improvement and Planning for the Northern Territory Police, Fire and Emergency Services.

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

“Judges were particularly impressed by Ms Summers’ great leadership qualities and high level of emotional intelligence. She is well respected in her industry and the community, particularly for her passion for every individual to have access to eyecare and other health services.

“Ms Summers is an outstanding ambassador and a tremendous role model for Australian business women,” Ms McKenzie said.

Winners of the 2013 Telstra Northern Territory Business Women’s Awards are:

Business Owner Award

Helen Summers, Helen Summers Optometrist. Eyecare Plus, Darwin Fannie Bay

Community and Government Award

Kathryn James, GTNT, Darwin
As the Chief Executive of GTNT (Group Training Northern Territory), Kathryn James has taken the not-for-profit company to a position of financial sustainability and empowered senior managers to lead cultural change. GTNT, which provides workforce development solutions for businesses, employs some 380 apprentices and trainees. Judges said Ms James was an inspirational leader, a positive person and a strategic visionary. They commended her for taking the business from ‘sustainability to thrivability’ through the collaborate partnerships she had forged.

Business Innovation Award

Helen Summers, Helen Summers Optometrist. Eyecare Plus, Darwin Fannie Bay

Young Business Women’s Award

Katherine Van Gurp Northern Territory Police, Fire and Emergency Services Darwin
Katherine Van Gurp has made a real difference to the way the service tackles strategic and business planning, and risk and performance management since taking the role as Director for the Business Improvement and Planning branch. Her achievements include the implementation of standardised reporting and planning mechanisms and a process of continual learning across the organisation. Judges said Ms Van Gurp was highly regarded and respected by her peers. They highlighted her credibility, strength and resolve as well as her humility.

2013 Telstra Northern Territory Business Woman of the Year

Helen Summers Helen Summers Optometrist. Eyecare Plus Darwin Fannie Bay
The Northern Territory 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 Queensland 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.