explainer

"She inspired me to get up every day": The Mamamia team share their Women of the Year.

This post deals with sexual assault and mental health, and could be triggering for some readers.

2021 has been.... tough.

For the most part, we've been stuck at home for a number of months, juggled mum-life while working full time, slogged our way through the ups and downs of a very innocuous 12 months and succeeded on coming out on the other side better for it.

Whether you're an exhausted university student racing your way through final assessments, a tireless full-time mum, or just a very worn out individual ready to do it all again in 2022: we see you and we commend you.

To say it's been a year to remember, would also be an understatement - but without a doubt, 2021 has been the year of the woman. 

Watch Nobody Speaks To Me Like Mamamia. Post continues after video. 


Video via Mamamia.

And this year, Mamamia has decided to honour those who have inspired us. 

From first-time parents to sportswomen, health professionals and actors - here is who we want to pay homage to in 2021. 

Michaela Coel.

"That Emmy's speech was just... wow."

Michaela Coel. Image: Getty / HBO. 

ADVERTISEMENT

This year, actress and director Michaela Coel won a very well-deserved Emmy for her HBO show I May Destroy You, during the 73rd Primetime Emmy Awards.

Her own personal story was told through the lens of the character 'Arabella', a young writer seeking to rebuild her life after being raped. 

In her powerful speech, she dedicated the award to survivors of sexual assault and writers across the globe.

"I just wrote a little something, for writers, really," she said.

"Write the tale that scares you, that makes you feel uncertain, that isn't comfortable. I dare you. In a world that entices us to browse through the lives of others to help us better determine how we feel about ourselves, and to in turn feel the need to be constantly visible, for visibility these days seems to somehow equate to success—do not be afraid to disappear. From it. From us. For a while. And see what comes to you in the silence."

She concluded: "I dedicate this story to every single survivor of sexual assault. Thank you."

Listen to Mamamia's entertainment podcast The Spill, where they discuss Michaela Coel pulling off a never-before-seen moment with her acceptance speech. Post continues after audio.


Ellidy Pullin.

"She made lemonade out of a really f***ed up situation."

Ellidy Pullin. Image: Instagram @ellidy_

ADVERTISEMENT

In 2020, the world, but most importantly Ellidy, lost Aussie snowboard champion Alex 'Chumpy' Pullin in a devastating accident. 

15 months after his death, his wife welcomed their baby, Minnie Alex Pullin.

Ellidy announced she was pregnant in a "heart-wrenching plot twist" back in June, through IVF.

"Bubba Chump coming this October. Your Dad and I have been dreaming of you for years little one," she wrote on Instagram at the time.

"With a heart wrenching plot twist in the middle, I am honoured to finally welcome a piece of the phenomenon that is Chumpy back into this world!"

ADVERTISEMENT

You can read Ellidy's full story here.  

Grace Tame.

"For continuing to open up the conversation around sexual violence and making women feel seen and understood in their experiences - and how hard it can be to come forward but important."

Grace Tame. Image: Getty / Instagram @TamePunk.

Grace Tame has become a well-known figure in Australia, after publicly sharing her own harrowing story of sexual assault when she was just a teenager. 

ADVERTISEMENT

Earlier this year, Grace was crowned Australian of the Year for her campaigning and advocacy work for survivors of sexual assault, and within just the span of the year she has become the voice for a nation. 

Grace and journalist Nina Funnell set in motion the #LetHerSpeak campaign, in an effort to change a Tasmanian law which prevented survivors of child sexual assault from identifying themselves in the media.

Her tireless work is nothing short of astonishing, and her dedication to opening up the conversation around sexual violence has ultimately impacted the way Australians come forward with their own stories.

Listen to Mamamia's podcast No Filter, where Mia Freedman and Grace Tame discuss her experience of being crowned Australian of the Year. Post continues after audio.


Brooke Boney.

"[She forced] people who don't watch the ABC/SBS to hear and care about First Nations issues. [She's] changing the stereotype of the white blonde woman being the only acceptable face on commercial Aussie TV."

Brooke Boney. Image: Getty.

ADVERTISEMENT

Gamilaroi Gomeroi woman Brooke Boney is changing breakfast TV for the better. 

She is proud of her upbringing, proud of her mob and she is acutely aware of how underrepresented Indigenous Australians are the media space. And her impact began in the small town of Muswellbrook, New South Wales. It's where she grew up, in housing commission with her family where she was the eldest sibling of six kids. 

Abruptly, Brooke changed the stereotype of women in Australian commercial TV, most notably when she explained on national television why she was in favour to change the date of Australia Day.

"I can't separate the 26th January from the fact that my brothers are more likely to go to jail than they are to go to school," she said at the time. "Or that my little sisters and mum are more likely to be beaten or raped. And that started on that day."

While having a chat with Mamamia co-founder Mia Freedman on the No Filter podcast, Brooke explained her reasoning for using her platform on breakfast TV to share her beliefs. 

"Like I’ve said before, this is the best country in the world, but we can be better. We can be better by not owning the things that have happened in the past, but acknowledging the hurt that they’ve caused and that it’s more difficult for some people than it is for others," she said. 

"And that’s not because I’m Aboriginal and someone else isn’t, or that someone else grew up poor and someone didn’t. It’s that the things that have been done to us continue to affect us.

"And that’s why there aren’t any other Aboriginal people on commercial breakfast television, because it’s a bloody hard slog. It’s not easy to overcome the things that come with being Indigenous."

It is clear her Indigenous identity and her hometown holds a special place in her heart. And it became even clearer when she explained earlier this year that the people she looks up to most is her family.

ADVERTISEMENT

"When you read the statistics and you see how hard it is to overcome disadvantage in Australia, I think about how hard my grandparents worked and my mother worked to put me through school and then uni," she wrote in a post to Instagram.

Listen to Brooke Boney's full chat with Mia Freedman on the No Filter podcast. Post continues after audio.

Simone Biles.

"For putting her mental health first and opening up that conversation."

Simone Biles. Image: Getty.

24-year-old American gymnast Simone Biles is considered one of the greatest athletes the world has ever seen. 

And her decision to bow out of the Tokyo Olympics just minutes into the team final caused a mixture of not only criticism and disappointment, but hopeful support from those around the globe.

While she did not go on to take the gold for her country, what she did bring home was something far greater: an open conversation surrounding the important of mental health. 

At the time of her competing, her team had announced she'd pulled out due to a "medical issue." 

She would later share that it wasn't a physical ailment that had prevented her from continuing on. 

"Physically, I feel good, I'm in shape," she told the US Today Show. "Emotionally, that kind of varies on the time and moment. Coming to the Olympics and being head star isn't an easy feat, so we're just trying to take it one day at a time and we'll see."

ADVERTISEMENT

Later in an Instagram post, the athlete wrote: "It wasn't an easy day or my best but I got through it. I truly do feel like I have the weight of the world on my shoulders at times. I know I brush it off and make it seem like pressure doesn't affect me but damn sometimes it's hard. 

"The Olympics is no joke!"

At the height of her career, in arguably the most intense competition the world, she put her mind and body first - before scrutiny, before public perception and before the immense pressure that comes with competing in the Olympic Games.

"Put mental health first, because if you don't, then you're not going to enjoy your sport and you're not going to succeed as much as you want to," she said at the time.

"It's okay sometimes to even sit out the big competitions to focus on yourself, because it shows how strong of a competitor and person that you really are, rather than just battle through it."

Listen to Mamamia Out Loud, where Holly, Jessie and Mia discuss why Simone Biles quit. Post continues after audio.


Dr. Kerry Chant. 

"She inspired me to get up every day during the worst parts of lockdown - if she could get up every day and stand up at a press conference, then I could push forward too. But not only that, she displayed great leadership, and didn't buy into the noise of politics and questioning around her. She stuck to the facts and science, and when her glasses broke - she handled it like an absolute boss."

Dr Kerry Chant. Image: Getty. 

Dr Kerry Chant, the face of the NSW Covid response, has become a public figure of sorts - not just for giving those across NSW the hard news they needed to know during the worst of the pandemic, but for the way she has not folded under pressure - from neither media nor the public. 

ADVERTISEMENT

The Chief Health Officer of NSW, a role that she's held since 2008, and in 2021 she was made the NSW Premier's Woman of the Year which is the highest honour in the NSW Women of the Year Awards. 

Brittany Higgins. 

"Any woman who helps tackle sexual violence by publicly discussing their own horrific experience no matter what the personal cost to them (trolls, inter-generational trauma, job prospects, etc.), deserves a medal in my opinion."

Brittany Higgins. Image: Getty / Instagram @brittanyhiggins___.

When Brittany Higgins was 24-years-old, she landed the role of a lifetime at the Parliament House. Just months into the job, she alleged a male colleague raped her after a night out on March 23, 2019, inside the ministerial office of her boss, then-Defence Industry Minister Linda Reynolds.

A fierce defender for awareness over sexual violence towards women and children, Brittany's story has resonated with so many around the nation. 

Brittany's story assisted in triggering the #MeToo Movement in Australia, and in November she and Grace Tame led marie claire's Australian 'Women Of The Year' issue.

When speaking to that magazine, Grace said: "Brittany is fiercely intelligent, and her ability to articulate the situation and maintain diplomacy in the face of total ugliness and abhorrent behaviour is incredible."

Listen to Mamamia's news podcast The Quicky, as they investigate into the failings that led to the alleged assault on Ms Higgins, and what you can do if you are harassed or violated in the workplace. Post continues after audio.

ADVERTISEMENT

Narelda Jacobs. 

"Our good friend at MM - She's been on The Quicky and MMOL a few times and she's awesome! She does so much commendable work."

Narelda Jacobs. Image: Instagram @narelda_jacobs.

Whadjuk Noongar woman Narelda Jacobs works as a journalist for Network 10, SBS and NITV.

In 2019, she was honoured as one of Australia’s 25 Most Influential Gay People. 

As a proud Indigenous figure in the media, she has been at the forefront of pertinent discussions including the debate surrounding advocacy groups calling for January 26th's Australia Day to be changed. 

“I do belong to some of the most beautiful communities that you could ever imagine. And I’m just completely embraced by both of those communities," she told Whimn in 2019.

“You can always reach into your own community and get a hundredfold of love back and support back.”

Listen to her chat with Mia Freedman on the No Filter podcast. Post continues after audio.


Ash Barty.

"For just being a generally great role model in sport and life. Regardless of the results of her games, her attitude is always so impressive. The expectations of her are so high (being world #1 for such a long time and not having won a grand slam in a while, before she won Wimbledon this year), but she always looks like she prioritises enjoying the game (ie in the Olympics doubles) instead of taking herself too seriously. She's so great to watch."

Ash Barty. Image: Getty.

ADVERTISEMENT

When tennis star Ash Barty bowed out from the French Open earlier this year with a hip injury, the nation watched on in anticipation. It's not all too often we see some of Australia's greatest sports people bow out of the race not too far in, but she did and she isn't apologising for it. 

Ash was the first Australian woman in 41 years to make it through to the Wimbledon women's final, and the stamina and grit it took to get her there is not lost on her. 

"I'm incredibly proud of myself and my team and now we get a chance on Saturday to live out a childhood dream," Barty said during the semi-final post-match interview at the time.

"We laugh every day, we smile every day through sometimes the heartache and the best moments as well," she said. 

"I want to share with them and I think, to lighten the mood is the most important thing in my day, coming out here and having fun. Because playing in front of a crowd like this, on a beautiful court, there's absolutely nothing better."

For 25 years, Ash has been a force to be reckoned with. Not just for her tireless efforts in becoming the World No. 1, but for the way she has handled the importance of mental health, comaraderie and good sportsmanship. 

If this post brings up any issues for you, or if you just feel like you need to speak to someone, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service. It doesn’t matter where you live, they will take your call and, if need be, refer you to a service closer to home.

Who was your woman of the year? Let us know in the comments below!

Feature Image: Getty/Mamamia.

Can’t live without your phone or the internet? Take our survey now and you could win a $50 gift voucher!