Tara's Thoughts

International Women's Day

March 08, 2019

We are a city of extraordinary women. Who lead the way. Who make change. Who are the change.

Last night we honoured ACT women at the 2019 Women of the Year Awards, with special congratulations to ACT Woman of the Year Emma Sckrabei, ACT Young Woman of the Year Morgan Marshall, and Dr Aunty Anne Martin AM as ACT Senior Woman of the Year. Marcia Williams received the Ministerial Award and Helen Petrou was awarded an honourable mention.

All these women's stories are worth hearing, understanding and sharing. As the proud nominator of Morgan and Helen, here's what makes them so special.


Morgan has inspired a new generation of women to pursue STEM subjects and careers through her tireless work with Robogals Canberra. Robogals is part of an
international student-run organisation that aims to inspire and empower young women to consider studying engineering and other related fields. Each year Robogals teaches more than 1000 girls about robotics, digital literacy and computational thinking.

During her term as president of Robogals Canberra, Morgan not only led robotics workshops in schools, but helped break down barriers faced by young women
pursuing STEM careers by putting industry partners in touch with Robogals volunteers and creating opportunities for networking and professional development. These efforts have given Canberra women connections that will serve them long into their careers, diminishing the daunting task of breaking into male-dominated sectors. Morgan’s outstanding work as a role model for young women in STEM was acknowledged at the RobogalsSINE 2018 Awards & 10th Anniversary Celebration in September where she received the Legends of Robogals Award. Under her leadership, Robogals also won Chapter of the Year and Best Initiative Awards. This is where I met her.

Morgan’s contribution is not limited to Canberra thanks to her work as regional mentor to Robogals’ Asia-Pacific chapters. This role was created after Morgan observed that chapters in this region were not receiving the same level of support as chapters in Australia due to cultural differences.

I know you will agree what a deserving recipient she is!


In a heavily male-dominated service, Helen Petrou was one of ACT Ambulance Service's longest serving officers, spanning 19 years. She was an intensive care
paramedic who topped her class in her studies. She then cross-trained and worked as a clinician in the ESA Communications Centre. In her period with ACTAS she assisted thousands of Canberrans. In late 2018, Chief Officer Howard Wren presented a National Medal and ACTAS Long Service Medal to her family. In addition, Ambulance 135 (the number matching Helen's staff number) was unveiled with a dedication to Helen on the front doors.

However, Helen was more than just her extraordinary paramedic career. I first met Helen at the Hawker primary fete in 2016, where Helen and her mother were not only running the craft stall, but had between them created every item available. Fairy dust, paper flower posies, jewellery, zombie rocks, fairy wings, lanterns. It was no surprise that there was a swarm of children and parents around this stall; by far the most popular. Helen had been running the craft stall for many, many years, spending the years between crafting all of the items for sale.

Helen's force was felt beyond the Hawker fete, with it strong in the broader Hawker primary community. She is remembered as a firm friend, supporter and nurturer to children, teachers and other parents. Nothing was ever too hard. When a parent had a marriage break up, Helen would turn up without being asked with soup.

On top of this, she was an extraordinary cook and in 2017 hosted a high tea to raise almost $4000 for a charity she held very dear, the Tara Costigan Foundation.

Helen was a single parent raising her daughters Eliza and Virginia. She was and remains a role model to her daughters, fellow parents, her colleagues and her friends. She epitomised "women can do anything", whether it be succeeding in male-dominated industries or supporting other women and their protection.

Helen died in August 2018, aged 48, following a short battle with cancer.

I - and many others - think about Helen and her contribution all the time. I am so glad she has been recognised and her memory honoured in this way, and that her daughters, mother and friends were there to be part of the celebration last night.

Happy International Women's Day!