International Women’s Day: Inspirational Women of the Climate Council

08.03.24 By

International Women’s Day is a day to celebrate the achievements of women everywhere. Here at the Climate Council we want to give a shout out to some truly inspirational women in our ranks whose work is highlighting the need for urgent action on one of the most important issues of our time: climate change.

Experts in their fields, these leaders are playing a huge role in pushing for action on climate change in Australia. They appear frequently in the media, contribute to Climate Council publications, write landmark reports and speak at keynote events. 

True inclusion and belonging require equitable action, and we see how important this is in the face of climate change. We need to move fast this decade to prevent catastrophic climate change, but we need to move together, and in ways that leave communities stronger, healthier and more equal. We cannot solve this crisis with the same approaches and power structures that have caused it. Empowering women and girls needs to be at the heart of climate action.

Dr Kate Charlesworth, Councillor

An image of Climate Councillor Dr Kate Charlesworth

Dr Kate Charlesworth MBBS (Hons), MPH, FAFPHM, PhD is a public health physician in Sydney. After working as a hospital doctor in Perth and Sydney, Kate completed much of her training in public health medicine in the UK.

She worked as a Research Fellow at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and then at the Sustainable Development Unit (SDU) in Cambridge. The SDU is a world-leading unit tasked with reducing the carbon footprint of England’s National Health Service. Kate has also completed a PhD in low-carbon healthcare, and has authored 15 peer-reviewed papers. Kate now works in the NSW public health system as a medical specialist in environmentally sustainable healthcare – the first such role in Australia.

Kate regularly appears in the media and has contributed to several Climate Council publications including:

A new guide for parents: managing eco-anxiety in your kids

Kicking the gas habit: how gas is harming our health

Hollie Cheung, Researcher

Hollie’s research has investigated climate-related financial risk for banks and levers to transform decision making, such as defining the public interest and enabling constructive discourse. Hollie is passionate about social and climate justice, and creating a more equitable world for people and the planet. At the Climate Council Hollie’s research focuses on clean transport and shifting our system toward public and active travel, alongside electric vehicles.

Hollie has contributed to several Climate Council publications including the following:

Shifting gear: The path to cleaner transport 

Dollars and Sense: Mitigating climate risk in a warming world

Dr Annika Dean, Senior Researcher

Dr Annika Dean

Annika has a PhD from the Climate Change Research Centre at the University of New South Wales and previously worked as a lecturer on climate change and energy policy at the University of New South Wales. Her research has mainly focused on climate change impacts and adaptation in Australia and the Pacific Islands, including climate change impacts on human health

Annika has contributed to several Climate Council publications. including:

Mission zero: How today’s climate choices will reshape Australia

Australia’s Clean Industry Future: Making things here in a net zero world

Cheryl Durrant, Climate Council Fellow

Cheryl Durrant

Cheryl has more than 30 years’ experience in the national security sector, including specialist Army intelligence and Defence capability and preparedness roles. Cheryl led the Defence Department’s Global Change and Energy Sustainability Initiative from 2013-2016 and established the position of the Australian Defence Force’s Climate and Security Advisor in 2016. She was the lead author for Defence’s submission to the Senate Inquiry on the implications of Climate change for Australia’s national security.

Cheryl is currently an Adjunct Associate Professor at the University of New South Wales, an executive member of the Australian Security Leaders Climate Group, and a member of the Global Military Advisory Council on Climate Change. She serves on the Boards of Climate Subak-Australia and Resonate Together-UK

Cheryl regularly appears in the media and has contributed to several Climate Council reports, including:

Rising to the challenge: addressing climate and security in our region

Climate change is a security threat the government keeps ignoring. We’ll show up empty handed to yet another global summit

Dr. Joëlle Gergis, Councillor

Dr Joëlle Gergis

Dr Joëlle Gergis is an award-winning climate scientist and writer. She is an internationally recognised expert in Australian and Southern Hemisphere climate variability and change who has authored over 100 scientific publications.

Between 2018 and 2021, Joëlle served as a lead author on the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on the Climate Change’s Sixth Assessment Report – a global, state-of-the art review of climate change science. 

Joëlle was the recipient of the 2019 AMOS Science Outreach Award, a national science communication prize awarded by the Australian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society (AMOS), Australia’s peak professional body for climate science. 

She is author of Sunburnt Country: The future and history of climate change in Australia and Humanity’s Moment: A Climate Scientist’s Case for Hope.

Joelle has contributed to the following Climate Council publications:

Mission zero: How today’s climate choices will reshape Australia

Climate Whiplash: Wild swings between weather extremes

Prof. Lesley Hughes, Director and Councillor

Professor Lesley Hughes

Professor Lesley Hughes is a Distinguished Professor of Biology and former Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research Integrity & Development) and Interim Executive Dean of the Faculty of Science and Engineering at Macquarie University. Her research has mainly focused on the impacts of climate change on species and ecosystems.

She is a former federal Climate Commissioner and former Lead Author in the IPCC’s 4th and 5th Assessment Report. She is a founding Councillor with the Climate Council of Australia, a former Director for WWF Australia, and a member of the Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists. She is now a member of the Climate Change Authority.

Lesley regularly appears in the media and contributed to several Climate Council reports, including:

Climate Whiplash: Wild swings between weather extremes

Code Blue: Our Oceans in Crisis

Nicki Hutley, Councillor

Nicki Hutley is a highly experienced economist, with expertise in macro and microeconomic forecasting and analysis gained over three decades of practice in financial and investment markets and in economic consulting. Nicki is particularly interested in the intersection of economy, society and environment. Nicki is also a longstanding council member of the Economics Society of Australia (NSW), and a Board member for One Million Women and the Financy Women’s Index. 

Nicki is a frequent commentator in the media and is a regular guest on both The Drum and The Project and has contributed to the following Climate Council publications:

Australia’s Clean Industry Future: Making things here in a net zero world

G’day COP27: Australia’s global climate reset

Amanda McKenzie, CEO

Amanda McKenzie

Amanda regularly appears in the media and has been CEO of the Climate Council since its inception in 2013.

Amanda is a prominent Australian environmental leader and one of the best-known public commentators on the climate crisis in Australia.

Previously, she was the Senior Communications Advisor at the Climate Commission and in 2013, alongside Professor Tim Flannery, co-founded the Climate Council following Australia’s largest-ever crowdfunding campaign at the time. 

Previously, she co-founded the Australian Youth Climate Coalition and has served on renewable energy expert panels for the Queensland and Northern Territory Governments. Amanda was the founding Chair of the Centre for Australian Progress and is a former Board Director at Plan International Australia and the Whitlam Institute. She holds an Honours degree in Law from Monash University and an Arts Degree from Melbourne University. Amanda has won numerous awards including being recognised as one of Westpac’s 100 Women of Influence and a finalist in the Telstra Young Business Woman of the Year Awards.

Dr Jennifer Rayner, Head of Advocacy

Jennifer Rayner

Jennifer is the Climate Council’s Head of Advocacy, leading policy and political engagement across all levels of Australian Government. She has worked as a Chief of Staff and senior policy advisor to leaders across the Australian and ACT parliaments, with a focus on advancing a positive climate climate agenda across the spectrum of government activity.

Jennifer completed her PhD in Political Science at the Australian National University and holds further degrees from Macquarie University, the University of Canberra and the University of New England. She is the author of two books focused on intergenerational inequality and the economic prospects of workers in transitioning industries – both considerations which are central to designing equitable and inclusive actions to tackle the climate crisis.

Jennifer regularly appears in media and has contributed to the following publications: 

Dollars and Sense: Mitigating climate risk in a warming world

Beating around the bush: How Australia’s national environment law is failing climate and nature

Carol Schwartz, Board Chair

Carol Schwartz

Carol is highly regarded as a public commentator and agitator on issues of gender equality, women’s leadership, governance and business.

Carol has been recognised for her leadership via a range of honours including her 2019 appointment as an Officer of the Order of Australia, an Honorary Doctorate from Monash University and Queensland University of Technology, induction into the Australia Property Hall of Fame, and a Centenary Medal. Carol was also named one of Australia’s most influential women in the Australian Financial Review and Westpac’s Inaugural 100 Women of Influence Awards and inducted into the Victorian Women’s Honour Roll. In November 2020 Carol was recognised with the nation’s highest philanthropic honour, the ‘Leading Philanthropist’ Award by Philanthropy Australia.

Throughout her career Carol has been a passionate advocate for women in leadership, particularly in business, politics and the media. As Chair of the Trawalla Foundation and the Women’s Leadership Institute Australia, she has catalysed a range of practical solutions, including the Pathways to Politics Program for Women, the Panel Pledge, and the Women for Media database.

 Dr Madeline Taylor, Climate Council Fellow

Madeline Taylor

Dr Madeline Taylor is a Senior Lecturer at Macquarie University, Deputy Director of the Centre for Energy and Natural Resources Innovation and Transformation (CENRIT) at Macquarie University and Honorary Associate at the Sydney Environment Institute.

Madeline specialises in issues at the intersection of energy and natural resources law within the energy transition, as well as property and commercial law. Her research centres on the transitioning energy regulation and energy policy from comparative and socio-legal perspectives. Her current research focuses on the law concerning renewable energy development and energy justice.

Natalie Walker, Director

Natalie Walker

Natalie Walker is a Kuku Yalanji woman from the Daintree Rainforest who lives and works on Gadigal land in Sydney. Professionally, Natalie has more than 20-years experience across various leadership and non-executive roles in the human services and Indigenous economic development sectors. Natalie has tackled every role with her social purpose spirit – always being driven by the desire to make the world a better, fairer, more equitable place.

She is the founder of Inside Policy which advises governments on social and economic policy with the aim of changing the world one policy at a time. Prior to founding Inside Policy, Natalie had various roles including inaugural CEO of Supply Nation, CEO of the Aboriginal Employment Strategy, and management consultant within KPMG’s government advisory group

Natalie is a member of Women for Progress – a group of leading Australian women seeking positive, substantive policy change to improve the lives of all women in Australia. In 2018, Natalie was appointed by the Prime Minister as Australia’s representative to the Business Women Leaders Taskforce of the G20. In 2012, Natalie was named as one of Australia’s 100 Women of Influence

Annette Zou, Solutions Research Director

As Solutions Research Director, Annette develops and implements research and policy development activities to give effect to the organisation’s strategy and objectives. Her expertise lies at the intersection of sustainability policy, integrative and systems approaches, and innovation methodology.

Before Climate Council, Annette worked on developing methodologies and applied research on decision making in complex and uncertain systems at Stanford University in California, United States. She has worked with organisations such as UNDP, Dow Chemicals, The Nature Conservancy, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and various federal and state government departments in Australia.

We asked five other inspiring women, from doctors to those impacted first hand by climate impacts, to tell us one thing that they’d like to see women and girls achieve as we work to solve the climate crisis.