✦ With March celebrating International Woman’s Day we thought we would take a moment to reflect on and revisit some of the wonderful women we have met and had the pleasure to interview during the past 12 months here at Brilliant-Online.
We acknowledge that EVERY woman is a superstar and we wish we had the time and resources to conduct an interview with every single one but, alas, it is not feasible. However, we have been truly fortunate to get the chance to meet many fantastic women, offering us an opportunity to take a peek into their individual lives and stories.
We decided to let the public decide who we would profile as our Fantastic Five Females in the spotlight by selecting the five most viewed and popular stories featuring women as the focus during the past 12 months. In no particular order they are as follows:
English expat Toni lives in Phuket and dedicates much of her time to helping man’s best friend find a loving home. She left her homeland just over six years ago after numerous trips to the popular Thai destination, during which she volunteered at charity dog shelters and foundations whose goal was to help protect street dogs on the idyllic island in the Andaman Sea.
However, the life of a street dog (or ‘Soi Dog’ as they are known in Thailand) is very far from idyllic, which is why Toni is on a one-woman crusade to help distressed and abandoned canines find a better life by way of adoption. She runs ‘Toni J for the Animals’, a volunteer led practice that helps man’s best friend find a permanent home, a real, loving home, a million miles away from the hardships and endless suffering they regularly endure on the streets.
She receives no funding or outside support, relying on her own business as a raw vegan, fitness and mindset coach, plus the occasional help from friends. However, this has not in anyway deterred her and she has helped numerous four-legged friends find safety, peace and salvation in homes all over the world.
Not content with only helping less fortunate dogs, Toni also provides best-in-class guidance on health and fitness through her Rawlicious business, helping people become better versions of themselves while leaving a more positive footprint on the enviornment and the animal world around us.
Toni is a force of nature with a positive, infectious energy that never diminishes and a heart of gold that is focused on helping others in a world that desperately needs it right now.
Remaining in Phuket, our next fantastic female really packs a punch – literally!
Originally from Sydney, Celest was drawn to the balmy shores of Phuket not by a love of nighlife and partying but by the national Thai sport of Muay Thai. A self-confessed dodger of anything even remotely physical or exercise-related in her earler years, she took to the explosive sport nicknamed the “art of eight limbs” for the eight parts of the body that are used for striking like a duck to water and hasn’t looked back since.
Training at the renowned Phuket Singha Muaythai Gym, she honed her skills to such an extent that she made history by becoming the first female fighter to enter the ring for a bout at the hallowed grounds of Lumpinee Stadium in Bangkok, where female fighters had been barred from competing until 2021.
Since then she triumphed in the Fairtex Road to ONE tournament, which saw her overcome three separate opponents to secure a six-fight contract with Asian martial arts powerhouse ONE Championship worth US$100,000. Not content to sit still and admire her accomplishments, Celest then proceeded to win her first fight with ONE when she defeated Thai fighter Kalaked Por Muangpetch with a technical knockout on February 24th.
Celest has been instrumental as part of a drive to change attitudes and open up opportunities for women in the sport yet remains such a humble and modest young lady, never forgetting to show respect and thanks to those that have helped her on her journey thus far. It’s a journey that absolutely has more to come, which we hope you will be able to read all about in Brilliant-Online.
Christina is a shining example of what constitutes being a modern day Australian. Hailing from Malaysia, she arrived Down Under 30 years ago with very little in her bank account and with two daughters in tow. Over the years, a dogged determination combined with passion and sacrifice saw her establish herself as a highly respected member of the community, built on what she refers to as ‘a climate of trust’.
She is a huge advocate of being open to and understanding difference, to learning and adapting and to progressing in order to become a more rounded and complete collective. Connection, inclusivity, equity, fairness and trust are all buzz words in her vocabulary.
Today she wears many hats; she is the Chief Operating Officer & Principal (VIC) of North Shore Coaching College, a national education business across 70 Campuses in Australia and Hong Kong. She also holds the role of President for the Asian Australian Family Association (AAFA), Multicultural Attaché of the Mental Health Foundation Australia (MHFA), Board Director of the Chinese Association of Australia (CAV), President Elect (VIC) at Women Chiefs of Enterprises International (WCEI) and mentor to RMIT University, among numerous other positions. Phew!
Passionate about fostering connections and creating a legacy of giving and service to the community, she serves as a mentor and visible, accessible role model to many. It’s safe to say she has excelled and progressed both personally and professionally over the years and is held in very high reverence today within her local community.
You can read Christina’s story here.
TG’s Educators in Wauchope
Ok, maybe we’re bending the rules a little here as our next focus is on a team of brilliant women as opposed to just one individual. However, that’s what the team at TG’s Child Care is all about – simply being brilliant!
Award-winning TG’s Child Care is one of Australia’s leading early learning - preschool and long day care provider for children aged 6 weeks to 6 years, with five centres in NSW and one in QLD. Started by Gayle Kee and her husband Trevor almost two decades ago, the business prides itself on providing a safe, fun, engaging environment for children, with their trusted and respected reputation built with purpose, expertise and care.
The success of the business is very much built on its employees, who consider themselves one happy family and whose mantra “Playing is Learning for Life” underpins everything they do. This is something constantly echoed by Meg Barnden-Hyde, affectiontely know internally as the ‘Mother Hen’, who has been instrumental in growing the six centres to what they are today.
If you’re a local resident in Wauchope the chances are you absolutely know the name and the immaculate reputation that preceds them, with their three centres in High Street, Hastings Street and Riverbreeze a mainstay within the local community.
Although Gayle is the diriving force behind TG’s, it would be remiss to not acknowledge the fantastic team work carried out by the centre’s educators as a whole, who provide such an unrivalled service within the local and wider community.
Dianne Davison from Mrs York’s Garden
The Floral Reserve of Mrs York’s Garden has been long-admired by people from all over Australia since its opening in 1968, making it firmly established as a major Port Macquarie tourist attraction.
However, the beauty of the blooming garden we marvel at today was almost lost after the attraction fell into disarray and neglect. It wasn’t until 2014 when the “Friends of Mrs York's Garden” convened to restore the gardens to their previous splendour. The main aim for the group is to retain the area as a place of natural beauty where residents and visitors can come to enjoy exercise, picnicking and relaxing and for education about the littoral rainforest ecosystem. Heading the initiative is group President Dianne Davison who has been instrumental in the regeneration project.
Dianne oversaw the development of a Master Plan in conjunction with Port Macquarie Hastings Council (PMHC) which saw site preparation undertaken and the planting of approximately 6000 endemic littoral rainforest and coastal headland plants and mulching and the regeneration of a critically endangered ecosystem connecting a corridor between the North Shore and the Sea Acres Heritage Listed Gondwana pockets of rainforest.
The progress has been impressive, as has the response within the local community. “We have had five high profile opening events attended by the Mayor and local MP’s, the NSW Governor (April 2021) and have had media exposure through a number of outlets,” Dianne told us last year. “We were nominated in the Community Group of the year awards in 2016, won the award in 2018 and received a major Keep Australia Beautiful award in 2019.
“We would like to connect with members of the business and corporate community, as well as individuals,” Dianne explained. “Those who may wish to help in this restoration by donating funds, offering in kind help or sponsoring a project that we have in mind. The Friends of Mrs York’s Garden believe our project is a very worthwhile one that business and community members would benefit from being associated with and committed to its progress.”
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