Six finalists for the 2023 Coffs Coast Woman of the Year

Last year’s International Coffs Coast Woman of the Year Award. Jade Naidu (second from left), accepts the award with 2021 winner (left) Emma Aspden and finalists Lorraine Penn (second from right) and Sarah Poole (right). Photo: Carolan Buckmaster Photography.

SIX amazing women have been selected as finalists for this year’s Coffs Coast Woman of the Year, to be announced at the International Women’s Day Breakfast on March 8.

Three major Coffs Coast women’s groups, Zonta Coffs Harbour Inc, BPW Coffs Coast (Business and Professional Women) and the Coffs Coast Business Women’s Network (BWN), collaborate to create and present the event.

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Jas Rawlinson, an extraordinary woman who has dedicated much of her life to helping others through trauma, family and domestic violence and even human trafficking, will share her personal experiences as the guest speaker.

Lily Isobella will again be the Master of Ceremonies and the theme for 2023 is #EmbraceEquity.

The finalists are Doris Cowan, Jo-Anne Brown, Rani Foreman, Sophie Bird, Vigeeta Chauhan and Yvonne Richards.

Ms Chauhan is the Regional Coordinator for the Coffs Harbour Humanitarian Settlement Program which supports newly arrived refugees to the region with respect to housing, employment and business establishment.

Her arrival from Fiji, fourteen years ago, gave her personal awareness of the challenges of settling into an alien community.

Ms Brown is the CEO of Baringa Private Hospital and the Ramsay Surgical Centre and set up the Mental Health Unit at the hospital.

She began her career as a registered nurse and works to provide medical services to the Coffs Coast community that they would otherwise have to travel outside the area to seek.

Ms Brown encourages her colleagues to give back to the community through activities such as raising funds for Pete’s Place, women’s refuges and the Soup Kitchen.

Ms Foreman is a dedicated advocate for expectant women and is committed to diversity and inclusion.

Constructing gift baskets for her friends when they had their child grew into her business, which focuses on the mothers and what they need post-partum.

Ms Foreman is also the designer of ‘The Village’ Coffs Coast which offers an online business directory, support groups, and online forums, along with events where guest practitioners share their knowledge to create connections within the community.

Ms Bird, the owner of ‘Tallow and Tide’, Coffs Harbour, has a philosophy to shop locally and ethically.

This is the underlying ethos of her business, which supports local and ethical designers, including craftspeople.

As well as balancing motherhood, running a business and life, Ms Bird was able to garner support for the people of the Lismore area after the floods from the Coffs Coast community.

Ms Richards saw a need for social networking for newcomers to the Coffs Coast and, after retiring, founded ‘Go Girls’ Coffs Harbour, for women over 55.

‘Go Girls’ conducts activities such as monthly dinners, picnics, group travel, exercise classes, the theatre, shows and special events such Melbourne Cup Lunch to bring local women together to enjoy each other’s company.

It has raised funds for many organisations and charities such as Hope for the Homeless, St Vincent de Paul, Pete’s Place, Salvation Army, Coffs Coast Cancer Council, and Breast Cancer.

Ms Cowan has surmounted many personal life challenges, leading to her advocacy for others less fortunate in the community.

She works energetically in a large range of projects, such as organising the Christmas Lunch for the homeless each year, which attracts approximately 110 guests and 45 volunteers.

“Despite a slow start, there were numerous applications, and the committee had a very difficult job selecting the finalists from so many high-quality applicants,” IWD committee member Lyndall Weatherby said.

The Coffs Coast Woman of the Year will receive $1,500 for her project, with the runner-up receiving $1,000.

Tickets to the Coffs Coast International Women’s Day Breakfast can be purchased at

By Andrew VIVIAN

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