STUCK IN THE MUD: Mary O'Brien from Are You Bogged Mate? is passionate about raising awareness, removing the stigma and providing support to country blokes and has been names as one of Chinchilla News’ most influential women for 2019.
STUCK IN THE MUD: Mary O'Brien from Are You Bogged Mate? is passionate about raising awareness, removing the stigma and providing support to country blokes and has been names as one of Chinchilla News’ most influential women for 2019.

PART ONE: Meet Chinchilla's most influential women

THE Western Downs region is brimming with successful, inspiring and down to earth womenwho go above and beyond their line of duty every day.

Chinchilla News have compiled a list of over 20 women who deserve a little recognition for striving to achieve great things within our community.

Meet our region's most influential women:

1. Louise McMahon

Owner of MFE Chinchilla (Maintenance Fabrication and Engineering) and Haven Farming alongside her husband Greg, Louise is also an active board member of the Chinchilla Community Commerce and Industry Inc. and a mother of three young boys.

When she started investigated farming Angus and Wagyu beef Louise approached it as a fun hobby - something interesting to do with her family. Now 10-years on, Haven Farming has become a fully established family business and has been selected as a part of Shell QGC's 2019 Emerging Exporters Program. Louise hopes that in her time in the program, she will be able to expand the business to reach an international market and make them a competitive force to be reckoned with.

 

HER LITTLE HAVEN: Louise and Greg McMahon with their three sons, Vincent, 2, Mitchell, 7, and Hugo, 5 on their Angus beef property just outside of Chinchilla. Picture: Kate McCormack
HER LITTLE HAVEN: Louise and Greg McMahon with their three sons, Vincent, 2, Mitchell, 7, and Hugo, 5 on their Angus beef property just outside of Chinchilla. Picture: Kate McCormack

It hasn't been easy for the family, growing a business from the ground up but Louise believe they have developed a model for a business from their diverse levels of experience in agriculture and business that makes them stand out in the crowd.

"It's our willingness to learn and be adaptive," she said.

"We're certainly not a big player, and we don't have all the experience in the ag industry, but we have a hell of a lot of business experience in other areas."

2. Tanya Errey

When it comes to the wider Chinchilla community there aren't many people who are as generous and welcoming as Uniting Church pastor, Tanya Eerey.

This year Tanya has helped organise multiple preloved clothing sales, a Great Outback BBQ for drought affected farmers and is currently helping organise The Target and UnitingCare Christmas Appeal within Chinchilla.

 

Ian Errey, Iven Hewett, Kym Slape, Michael Draper, Sherry Draper, Carol Chandler and Tanya Errey from the Chinchilla Uniting Church.
Ian Errey, Iven Hewett, Kym Slape, Michael Draper, Sherry Draper, Carol Chandler and Tanya Errey from the Chinchilla Uniting Church.

The Appeal is launched in all Target stores in early November each year and aims to make Christmas more special for the thousands of Australians who, for various reasons, are unable to celebrate Christmas.

Alongside the team from the Chinchilla Community Centre, Tanya is working hard to ensure 40 people within the Chinchilla community can have a brighter Christmas this year.

3. Mel Weller

This busy mother of two is a teacher by day and a fashion designer in her spare time. Mel's brainchild "Melenco" is a fun, feminine fashion label dedicated to delivering well-made, ethical and timeless fashion for women to enjoy for years to come.

 

Melenco owner and designer, Mel Weller at her Spring season launch.
Melenco owner and designer, Mel Weller at her Spring season launch.

The born and bred Western Downs local launched the boutique business in December last year to get her creative juices flowing again after having children.

Mel places a large focus on outsourcing ethically with her pieces produced in a factory in Vietnam by craftsmen and craftswomen who are well treated and well paid.

She is also anti-fast fashion and instead champions for pieces that will endure seasonal trends for years.

 

Lauren Fendley, Mel Weller Asha Josland and Tawnie Benecke showcasing four of this season's cutest ensembles at the Meleco Spring launch.
Lauren Fendley, Mel Weller Asha Josland and Tawnie Benecke showcasing four of this season's cutest ensembles at the Meleco Spring launch.

"I'd much rather buy less and buy well. I still have and wear many pieces from my previous label which are now at least 8 years old," she said.

"I think the classic nature of my designs helps them take them through seasonal fashion changes without looking outdated."

4. Jess Gawne

This is another busy mum who has found the time and drive to launch her own business. Jess is a big advocate for ditching the diets and opting for realistic, achievable life changes her clients can actually enjoy living by through launching her highly popular 60-day challenges.

"But the challenge isn't about cutting all the little pleasures out of your life. If you're a chocoholic like me you don't need to completely ban yourself from the occasional piece of chocolate,

"Part of my goal as a PT is to educate my clients on how to develop new lifestyle habits while still enjoying a fun lifestyle," Jess said.

 

Damien Hammermeister, Jess Gawne and Cindy McGregor at the MAX Fitness Father's Day challenge.
Damien Hammermeister, Jess Gawne and Cindy McGregor at the MAX Fitness Father's Day challenge.

"I always tell my clients you can't pour from an empty cup. The most important thing is to ensure you are keeping yourself topped up physically and emotionally.

"The beauty of keeping the challenge at the 60-day mark means you can't get bored or restless, but it's still enough time to see results."

5. Mary O'Brien

Mary is a passionate advocate for agriculture and men's mental health. After spending most of her life surrounded by the agricultural industry and stoic Aussie farmers, Mary decided to launch Are You Bogged Mate which aims to help connect country men with support services and breakdown the stigma associated with seeking help.

 

STUCK IN THE MUD: Mary O'Brien from Are You Bogged Mate? is passionate about raising awareness, removing the stigma and providing support to country blokes.
STUCK IN THE MUD: Mary O'Brien from Are You Bogged Mate? is passionate about raising awareness, removing the stigma and providing support to country blokes.

Based out of Dalby, Mary's journey started with an article she wrote titled "Are you bogged mate?" where she asked farmers around the country to share their photos of their very best bog - which spread far and wide gaining international attention.

Mary's practical (and highly entertaining approach) struck a chord with men of all ages and backgrounds and helped highlight the fact there is a disconnect in the way depression is being communicated to country men.

6. Sonia Stenhouse

This small-town coach is making big progress in the world of weightlifting, growing the club to approximately 14 members and helping many of her athletes achieve personal bests and receive medals in competitors nationally and internationally.

2019 been an extremely busy year for the Saints Weightlifting coach mentoring athletes for Queensland in all three national titles as well as the Australian junior team that went to Samoa.

STANDING STRONG: Sonia Stenhouse Weightlifting instructor from Miles.
STANDING STRONG: Sonia Stenhouse Weightlifting instructor from Miles.

Stenhouse also coaches Miles weightlifters, Kylie Salisbury and Chloe Kerwick who competed in competed in the U23 and junior national championships at Sydney Olympic Park back in August.

Salisbury displayed both her physical and mental strength, walking away with a snatch personal best of 62kg, a total personal best and a gold medal in the F76 junior category, while Kerwick lifted a snatch personal best at 77kg and walked away with a silver medal in the F87 U23 category.

"I see it as a real honour to be able to do that and it's something they will always remember, so I see my job as making sure they always walk away having the best experience possible."

 

Kylie Salisbury with Queensland Coach Sonia Stenhouse and Chloe Kerwick at the U23/Junior Nationals Weightlifting in Sydney.
Kylie Salisbury with Queensland Coach Sonia Stenhouse and Chloe Kerwick at the U23/Junior Nationals Weightlifting in Sydney.

7. Candice Mason

Entrepreneur extraordinaire, Candice launched her small business "My Felt Lady" during the resources downturn in 2016 and hasn't looked back since.

Candice's online store sold nearly 20,000 sheets of Australian and New Zealand-made 100 per cent merino wool felt to customers in the US, UK, France and even India and Saudi Arabia in 2018 alone and the business has continued to reach new heights this year.

My Felt Lady founder Candice Mason started her business in Chinchilla in 2016.
My Felt Lady founder Candice Mason started her business in Chinchilla in 2016.

"I found out that a majority of felt came from Australian and New Zealand merino felt and thought 'great - I've found my product and I've found my niche'," she said

The wool, while sheared in Australia and New Zealand, is shipped to Europe for refinement before being shipped to Chinchilla.

Candice was part of the Business Navigator Pitch Challenge in 2018 and encourages innovators and businesspeople to use the challenge as a way of growing their skills.

Have your own business start up or expansion idea? To apply for the 2020 Pitch Challenge, head to the website here.

 

Stay tuned for part two of the region's most influential women, coming soon.


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