Sharon O'Brien
Sharon O'Brien Scott Kovacevic

11 women of power and influence in the Gympie region

THOUGH there are no women representing the Gympie region politically at a local, state or federal level, there are plenty of women of all ages and from all walks of life with power and/or influence, who are making their marks in the arts, culture, business and politics at a local, national and global level.

This subjective list of women is taken from throughout the Gympie region, and the names appear in no particular order.


Sharon O'Brien
Sharon O'Brien Scott Kovacevic

ONE can never underestimate the power and influence of a spouse or partner, which is why the wife of Federal Wide Bay MP Sharon O'Brien makes this list of powerful and influential women.

Sharon O'Brien mixes with politicians at the highest levels and is the wife of the man deemed to be the most powerful and influential person in this region.

CLICK HERE: Llew O'Brien promises the 'normal bloke' perspective in his role as Wide Bay MP

She is also an active member of the National Party in her own right, and was campaign manager for State MP Tony Perrett during his successful first tilt at state politics in 2015.

Mr Perrett said of her in his maiden speech to Parliament, "(Sharon O'Brien's) extensive knowledge of the electorate, combined with her unwavering commitment to the task, meant a well-coordinated, professional and successful campaign.”


Stacey Lowe
Stacey Lowe Renee Albrecht

THE co-owner and manager of Gympie's Royal Hotel, at the corner of Monkland and Mary Sts, Ms Lowe is adept at marketing and social media and has a large following on Facebook.

The Royal is a popular destination for the younger crowd, and Ms Lowe and her partner Linc's strong public presence in the community adds to the business profile. Ms Lowe is also a member of LIAG, Gympie's Liquor Industry Accord Group, and made Gympie's Power 30 list in 2017.

Her no-nonsense stance on bullies, discrimination and alcohol fuelled violence earned her position at number 24 on the Gympie Power 30 list. In addition, she has used her business location and nature to help Gympie's homeless.

In February of 2017, she hit the headlines for calling out bullies at her establishment who were harassing some of her clients, and earlier this year she did the same to the bullies and trolls of a certain Facebook group.

In the earlier instance, she expelled the perpetrators and then went on to post about the incident to warn other potential bullies to drink elsewhere.


Stay At Home Mum founder Jody Allen.
Stay At Home Mum founder Jody Allen.

JODY Allen is the founder and co-owner of internet sensation Stay At Home Mum, a website offering advice, community and entertainment for young mothers - and so much more.

Her Facebook page has a following of 520,000 people.

The success of the website and Mrs Allen's growing fan base resulted in her making the Gympie Power 30 list in August 2017, and along with husband Brendan, the list of Gympie biggest and most successful families empires.

After launching Stay at Home Mum seven years ago, the entrepreneurial pair are expanding their digital empire with a hyper-local focus.

Tenacious Digital is the new addition to the Stay at Home Mum family, and is geared towards helping others build a successful business brand.

Jody is also on the cusp of starring in her own television show for Channel 7.


Keith Pitt, Deputy PM Michael McCormack, Shelley Strachan and Llew O'Brien celebrate $800 million funding for Section D.
Keith Pitt, Deputy PM Michael McCormack, Shelley Strachan and Llew O'Brien celebrate $800 million funding for Section D. Scott Kovacevic

AS THE editor of the only serious local news source in the broader Gympie region, The Gympie Times, Shelley Strachan runs a daily newspaper and 24/7 website with a reach of 80,000 people.

Her passion and advocacy for the region and those who live here helped secure the $800 million Federal Government dollars needed to fast track the final leg of the Bruce Highway Bypass, a fact acknowledged and praised by Federal MP Llew O'Brien last month when the funding was announced by he and Acting Prime Minister Michael McCormack.

Her campaigning also helped secure a CT scanner for the Gympie Hospital early last year. In that same year she was selected to travel to Canberra and represent regional Queensland as part of the national push for media law reform at a special gathering with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

Ms Strachan has lived and worked in the Gympie region much of her life and has been editor of The Gympie Times for the past two and a half years, preceded by three years as deputy editor. In the past four years The Gympie Times has won three PANPA Newspaper of the Year awards (Pacific Asia Newspaper Publishers Association) and been a finalist four times.


Marlene Owen
Marlene Owen Renee Albrecht

THIS Gympie business woman, volunteer, mother and former Citizen of the Year is not afraid to put herself out there, campaigning hard for right when she sees wrong, and volunteering countless hours for multiple Gympie region charities and causes.

When Gympie Regional Council recently threatened to close down Widgee Engineering Mrs Owen was there in the middle of it, pressuring the council and helping to organise and deliver a petition of 2000 signatures that helped turn the council decision around.

She came in at number 23 on Gympie's Power 30 list last year and is a vocal and regular commentator on local politics.

Working around the clock to provide assistance to families who are battling the horrors of cancer, Mrs Owen said the job she does is only possible through the assistance of her team at Supporting Chemotherapy in Cooloola.

"It's a community of us, not just one person, not just me,” she said of her decades of volunteer work, which started with the Red Cross at the age of 25 and helped secure the funding and construction of Supporting Chemotherapy in Cooloola units for families battling the horrors of cancer.


Jellina White
Jellina White

JELLINA White is an astute businesswoman and the owner manager of the Gympie branch of the Bank of Queensland. She is also a strong supporter of many community organisations, charities and clubs.

Her business and she herself has taken out multiple local business awards over the years, including Business of the Year, Employer of the Year and Top Gun Woman of Excellence award.

It was in 1987 that Ms White commenced her banking career at the BOQ Gympie (where she was born and raised). In a male dominated industry she worked hard to climb the corporate ladder, working in numerous branches throughout the state until she became the only female Regional Manager in Australia, travelling throughout, NSW, Victoria and the ACT, working closely with new BOQ franchisees.

During her time with Corporate BOQ , Ms White was awarded the Managing Directors Award, Branch of the Year and Branch Manager of the Year.


Cindy Vogels
Cindy Vogels Patrick Woods

DESIGNER and milliner Cindy Vogels' creations have graced the head of Lady Gaga in performance, and very recently, the red carpet of the Steve Irwin gala in Beverly Hills.

Cindy has a strong social media presence and has excelled at promoting the Gympie region through her role as ambassador.

Her hard work and talent was also recognised last year, when she won a prestigious spot in the lead-up to Brisbane Fashion Month, an opportunity which put her fashion label Racy and Lucky before hundreds of thousands of people. She was also the designer behind many of the head turning fashions worn by the stars at last year's CMC music awards, dressing eight of the artists and special guests.


Sgt Lisa Manns (far right) with Nshara Kingston, Sgt Maria Nalder and Snr Cnst Rolly Poole.
Sgt Lisa Manns (far right) with Nshara Kingston, Sgt Maria Nalder and Snr Cnst Rolly Poole. Alistair Brightman

GYMPIE police Sergeant Lisa Manns has been one of the prosecutors in Gympie Magistrates Court for several years now, helping to bring to justice countless law breakers in this community.

As one of the two police prosecutors in this region, her power lays in her dedication and effectiveness in seeing wrong doers brought to full justice, and the high esteem with which she is regarded by her peers in law enforcement.


Caitlyn Shadbolt performs at former high school Gympie High in Gympie.
Caitlyn Shadbolt performs at former high school Gympie High in Gympie.

IT WAS inevitable Gympie's most recent export, Caitlyn Shadbolt, would make the cut, having also made Gympie's Power 30 list last year.

CLICK HERE: Caitlyn up against country royalty at CMC awards

Long before she came fifth on reality TV show The X- Factor in 2014, she was fronting the Gympie High School Band, and making a name for herself locally with her powerful country music vocals and guitar.

Since her national exposure, her career has gone from strength to strength starting with an exclusive record deal with ABC/Universal Music Australia in July 2015.

Two of her singles 'Maps Out The Window' and 'Shoot Out The Lights' hit number one on the Country iTunes chart, Airplay chart and CMC Video Charts.

Soon after her self-titled EP was the highest selling CD at the Gympie Music Muster in 2015, taking it into the Top 10 on the Aria Country Albums Chart.

Since then she's been nominated for several Golden Guitars, has performed with country music greats both in Australia and overseas in Nashville, Tennessee, won the CMC New Oz Artist of the Year in 2016 and has performed at two CMC Rocks events with international artists such as the Dixie Chicks, Little Big Town and Kip Moore.

Throughout her career to date, she has been proud to call Gympie home, and extols the virtues of her small town upbringing at every opportunity, have a broad influence on her growing fan based and through her exposure through national newspapers and television.

Caitlyn and her partner from Thirsty Merc also recently threw their support behind the Gympie anti-bullying campaign being led by Murray Benton.


Ruth Modin
Ruth Modin Scott Kovacevic

NO COUNTDOWN of movers and shakers in the Gympie region would be complete without the unofficial mayor of Rainbow Beach, Ruth Modin.

Mrs Modin has been in business in Rainbow Beach since the 1980s with late husband Milton, who both moved to the area from Alberta, Canada.

In addition to Mrs Modin's business savvy she is a self-made community activist whose fearless championing of all things Rainbow Beach has helped make the town what it is today.

One her greatest achievements to date helped transform the town in the 1980s, when she came up with the idea for the Rainbow Beach Fishing Classic.

Tired of seeing fishermen calling through on their way to the then big Fraser Island fishing competition, she thought Rainbow Beach should have its own.

Interviewed during last year's classic, she recalled the inspiration.

"I thought, why can't we do one of these? Only I'm going to include women and children and make it a family thing,"

A lot of people met Rainbow Beach thanks to that one idea, in the 1980s.

In October of last year, a fire, which appeared to start in the cafe section of the building, burnt down both the cafe and Mrs Modin's store.

But Mrs Modin fought through the hardships and after six months the cafe and her store were rebuilt.

That means the seaside town once again has its newsagent, early morning convenience store and a cafe next door.

"So I'm still here and in businesses, after 35 years," she said.


Sandy Brosnan
Sandy Brosnan Renee Pilcher

RAINBOW Beach business woman Sandy Brosnan is a fierce campaigner for her community.

CLICK HERE: No more beach fees for local Rainbow residents

When she was president of the Rainbow Beach Progress Association her determined optimism about the future of the coastal community helped the business community move forward from its disappointment at the court ruling against the controversial Rainbow Shores Stage Two development plan.

She continues to be an outspoken member of and for her community and, in that way, to influence the ebb and flow of public opinion.

Gympie Times

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