Meet The Women Paving The Way To Equal Opportunities

Female Founder’s is a thriving, dynamic community and bi-monthly event that supports and celebrates female entrepreneurs. Held by the Canberra Innovation Network, each event is a unique experience with varying formats and is an opportunity for women-led businesses to learn, connect and share with those who understand.

On Tuesday 12 March from 12:15pm, Female Founders will be having a ‘Ask Me Anything’ format covering the 2024 International Women’s Day theme “Count Her In: Invest in Women. Accelerate Progress”. Centred around supporting women’s economic empowerment the theme is essential for our community to thrive. To celebrate the day, in this month’s Female Founders we want to highlight just some of the inspirational women in our community who are making it all possible.


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Alicia Martin

Alicia Martin is the founder of TaperMate, a platform in development with a mission to help people stop medications that cause withdrawal symptoms. This platform will provide evidence-based information and content to help develop and track a safe medication tapering plan.

Alicia is also a pharmacist with an interest in sleep apnoea, harm minimisation and improving consumer health literacy. She has witnessed the side effects of psychotropic medication withdrawal which has driven her to make a change that supports her community.

Alicia is passionate about finding problems and creating solutions. Big or small, she believes innovation makes problem solving more efficient, enjoyable and valuable.


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Davina Mansfeild

Davina Mansfield is the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Viden, a sovereign professional services and cybersecurity company. Her innovative leadership and strategic vision have propelled both Viden and the broader cybersecurity landscape forward.

During Davina’s journey in cybersecurity, she has embraced a diversity of roles, all leading up to and contributing to her current success. With her dynamic leadership style and forward-thinking approach, she has steered Viden towards innovation and growth in the highly competitive cybersecurity market. Under her guidance, Viden has emerged as a trusted partner for Defence, Government, and industry clients, offering cutting-edge solutions to address complex challenges.

For Davina, the International Women’s Day theme, “Count Her In”, signifies the importance of inclusivity and representation of women in all aspects of the community, including business and innovation. Viden is proud to have a 30% female workforce, with females making up 60% of the Senior Leadership Team.


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Dr Debbie Saunders

Dr Debbie Saunders is an ecologist with a passion for wild creatures, wild places, and innovation. She specialises in threatened species management with a focus on the conservation of Swift Parrots, a critically endangered migratory species. With little to no technology available to study their movements, Debbie was inspired to develop the innovative drone-based sensor technology, Wildlife Drones.

Wildlife Drones is actively engaged in conservation projects across six countries, tracking the movements of some of the world’s most endangered and invasive species. The technology grants researchers access to otherwise difficult terrain, enhancing their ability to monitor wildlife movements.

Beyond Wildlife Drones, Debbie has been working on her latest venture with Co-founders Phil Keaton and Alexandra Kmita. Naturehelm is a location-based biodiversity data intelligence platform for corporates and their supply chains. The company is helping find specific insights and meet the growing regulatory requirements for nature-related financial disclosures.

With her drive and passion, Debbie recognises the importance for innovation, allowing her to make an impact for our natural environment and conservation efforts.


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Dr Karen Demmery

Dr Karen Demmery is a drover’s daughter, a drover’s granddaughter and a drover’s great granddaughter. Her family drove cattle through NSW and QLD at a time when Aboriginal people didn’t get the opportunity to move freely, actively being innovative long before it was called that.

Through her family’s courage and movement, Karen founded Burbirra. The heart of Burbirra is about connection, cultural safety and empowerment. Their mission is to enhance individual’s skills through consulting, training and counselling. They have been delivering cultural awareness and cultural safety training throughout NSW, helping people learn the skills and tools to be more connected and culturally competent, in a safe and secure environment.

Innovation for Karen is about up levelling and expanding her community’s viewpoint. Which is a necessity to facilitating the most amazing innovation. In her words “next level excellence comes through courage!”.

Karen was awarded the Lifeline 2023 Women of Spirit Award with her passion to push boundaries, go first and be courageous. To her, that is what building a business and changing the world is all about!


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Kate Freeman

Kate Freeman is a registered nutritionist who is on her way to transforming the nutrition and wellness market with her App, Ayla Health. Her mission is to support individuals who struggle with their eating habits in achieving long-lasting confidence, optimal health, and well-being.

Unlike other online programs that offer a rigid meal plan or a list of restrictive rules, Ayla Health takes a more personalised approach. They teach one nutrition principle at a time and guide clients in integrating it into their daily lives as a habit. Their approach is designed to promote sustainable and realistic changes that lead to a lifetime of healthy habits and positive outcomes.

Kate is dedicated to motivating people to change their lives for the better through innovation and support.


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Liz Lea

Liz Lea is a dance artist with a long career as a performer, choreographer and producer. She is passionate about making each hour, day and moment count, which is fundamental to her creative process and to surviving financially.

At the present moment, she is developing ShowGO, an App designed to support access and audio description services. This is a huge learning curve for Liz as she up-skills, re-skills and pivots into a Social Enterprise model guided by the Mill House Ventures.

Liz also directs a not-for-profit, The Stellar Company. This International Women’s Day they will be launching a new inclusive, intergenerational dance project called ‘Count Her In’ at Canberra Museum and Gallery on Friday 8 March as part of The BOLD Festival. This project will run over 9 months and recognise the importance of women’s histories and creating connections between women of all ages, their abilities, their families and the wider community, building health, well-being and self-esteem.


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Rachelle Towart

Rachelle Towart is a proud Aboriginal woman passionate about advocating for First Nations people in executive representation. She is dedicated to creating greater diversity and inclusion in these crucial spheres.

Rachelle is the Managing Director at Pipeline Talent and is a member of the Indigenous Business Advisory Group at Supply Nation. She works in creating more presence in senior management positions for First Nations people which is currently at 0.7% according to the 2023 Australia Indigenous Employment Index. The absence of Aboriginal women in directorial positions highlights the barriers that they face.

This International Women’s Day, Rachelle is committed to amplifying voices and contributions for Aboriginal women, encouraging the recognition of their leadership qualities and ability to create pathways. With her dedication, we can pave the way for a more inclusive and representative leadership landscape that truly reflects the rich diversity of our nation.


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Rakshanya Sekar

Rakshanya Sekar grew up in India and moved to Canberra in 2019 for a three-month research project. On completion, she stayed to do her honours and PhD at the Australian National University and is a PhD candidate in the Clear Vision Research group.

Rakshanya is part of the ErythroSight team with a mission to change how patients are treated with vision loss diseases, including age-related macular degeneration using the patients own blood cells as therapeutic. With promising pre-clinical data showing their therapeutic approach to helping patients, they are excited to make a real-world impact on people.

With a passion for carrying out research that has the potential to produce tangible benefits for people in the community, innovation is at the core of driving Rakshanya’s meaningful change.


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Dr Yvette Wooff

Along with Rakshayna, Dr Yvette Wooff is also part of the ErythroSight team and is an early career postdoctoral research fellow.

Yvette’s research background is in vision sciences and retinal degeneration. She has a focus on understanding inflammatory mechanisms underlying disease progression and developing novel therapeutics.

Developing ErythoSight and has been an exciting process for Yvette, as she continues to learn more and more each day. Her passion lies in creating tangible solutions using innovation and commercialisation to change patients’ lives.


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These are just some of the extraordinary women who have made a huge impact in innovation, business and their industries. Continue the celebration and join us on Tuesday 12 March 2024 from 12:15pm for Female Founders. Meet the thriving community of female entrepreneurs and learn how you can support women’s economic empowerment and create equal opportunities.