WATCH: Mamamia's Women Of The Year.

As 2015 comes to an end we take a look at some of the many, many women who have been leaders, advocates and all-around champions in their fields.

They stand out because they speak their mind, push the boundaries and make us think.

In no particular order, here are Mamamia’s Women of the Year:

The Matildas

In the 2015 Women’s Football World Cup, the Matildas became the first Australian soccer team to get through a knockout stage after beating Brazil.

They lost in the quarter finals to Japan, the world champions.

The Matildas are now ranked ninth in the world. And while the men get the big bucks to lose (they’re ranked 58th), Australia’s most successful soccer team ever couldn’t even get paid a living wage.

But 2015 was the year the Matildas said no more. They went out on strike and forced the Football Federation to take their demands seriously.

As a team they stood together, and as women they stood up for the principle that women’s sports are just as valuable. They were rewarded with a significant pay rise in the new enterprise bargaining agreement settled in November. (They’re still not earning what the men do, but it’s a big step forward.)

Michelle Payne

In 2015 Michelle Payne became the first woman jockey to win the Melbourne Cup, riding Prince of Penzance.


Her victory was made even sweeter by the way she shared the prize with her brother Steven, a strapper for the horse.

The youngest of eight children, Payne’s mother died when she was just six months old. Payne had a horrific fall in 2004, fracturing her skull and bruising her brain, but she continued to climb through the ranks of this male-dominated sport.


Her first major win was in 2009. Payne was only the fourth woman to ride in the Melbourne Cup, and some of the horse’s owners didn’t want her on it. But she took the 100-1 chance all the way to first place.

She’s used her win to push for more women in the industry and highlight the gap between what male jockeys can get away with, as opposed to female jockeys.

Rosie Batty

As 2015 Australian of the Year Rosie Batty continued her campaign to bring an end to domestic violence in Australia. She has been a tireless campaigner for victims of domestic abuse, despite receiving some pretty tasteless criticism from former Labor leader Mark Latham and others.

This year Batty was appointed to an advisory group for the Council of Australian Governments alongside former Victorian Police Commissioner Ken Lay and consistently spoke out for the rights of victims, and the need for more frontline services and support.

All the while Batty was also dealing with the inquest into the death of her son Luke, at the hands of his father in 2014. Throughout the year she stood up to the government on issues including funding for frontline domestic violence services and getting children out of detention.


When Batty hands over the baton in January, she will be remembered as one of the most courageous and determined Australians’ of the year yet.

Carrie Bickmore

In 2015 Carrie Bickmore won the Gold Logie for the first time, on her fourth nomination. She used the opportunity to don a beanie and talk brain cancer research with the Australian public.


The response to her speech was overwhelming and later in the year, Bickmore announced she was setting up a brain cancer charity that would raise money for research. Her husband died from brain cancer in 2010.

Bickmore’s beanies for brain cancer charity was launched at the massive Brainbeats concert in December with a line up that included Ed Sheeran, Rudimental and Vance Joy.

Bickmore has always been open about her experience losing her husband, but in 2015 she harnessed that into an incredibly important campaign.

Sarah Ferguson

If Rosie Batty got people interested in Australia’s domestic violence epidemic, it was Sarah Ferguson’s uncompromising deep dive into the issue that really woke the country up and shattered all illusions.

Hitting Home screened in November and was an eye-opening look at the crisis in our system. Ferguson took months to report the story, spending time in shelters, with families and out late in the night at call outs with police.


She delivered a documentary like no other, and her journalism kept the nation’s attention on this very serious problem. It was the second major documentary event from Ferguson in 2015, the first was The Killing Season, the warts-and-all look at the last Labor government, and the leadership tensions that broke the party.

She has long been one of Australia’s best journalists, but in 2015, Ferguson’s work was at the centre of the national conversation.

Nakkiah Lui

Nakkiah Lui is a Gamillaroi/Torres Strait Islander Woman, and she’s not interested in making you feel comfortable about that. Lui is someone who we should all listen to when she talks about the serious racial problems that we have in this country. But even if you aren’t listening, she’ll still be talking.

In 2015 Lui co-wrote and starred in the second series of Black Comedy, she wrote Blak Cabaret for the Sydney Festival and the Malthouse theatre company, and she wrote and starred in the critically acclaimed Kill the Messenger for Belvior Theatre Company.

In May Lui gave a speech that hopefully made a lot of people think again about race in Australia. And she continues to speak up over and over again for the rights of Indigenous Australians. 

In 2015, Lui was one of the few Indigenous voices that were able to find a voice in our pretty mono-tonal culture, and she was also one of the best Australian voices to listen to, full stop.



Angela Merkel

The Syrian refugee crisis hit Europe, and no one really knew what to do. But German Chancellor Angela Merkel emerged as a calm, just and fair leader who was unwilling to give in to fear-mongering about terrorists or race-based discrimination.

Where other nations squirmed and sought to close their borders, Germany welcomed hundreds of thousands of refugees with grace and compassion.

Merkel resisted calls from within her own party and also from other EU nations to close Germany’s borders. As well as leading the humanitarian charge, Merkel has been a driver of discussions to sure up Europe’s financial position.

She is one of the most powerful voices in the EU, and has not been afraid to use that voice in 2015. Syrians fleeing their war-torn homeland have been the greatest beneficiaries of her steely resolve. Her leadership this year saw her take out the Time person of the year award, only the forth woman to do so.

Annastacia Palaszczuk

If ever there was a tale of a David and Goliath political fight, it was the 2015 Queensland state election.

In January, Annastacia Palaszczuk was the leader of a rag-tag band of Labor MPs who were hoping to win enough seats to field a full cricket side in future parliamentary friendlies.


In February Palaszczuk was the Premier, having pulled off what was perhaps the greatest turnaround in Australian political history. Since then Palaszczuk has produced the first government in Australia’s history with a majority female cabinet, and has quietly gotten on with a job that frankly no one expected her to get.

It was a stunning victory and since settling into the job, Palaszczuk has introduced domestic violence initiatives, instituted political donation reform and signed Queensland up for the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

When Canada’s new Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted about his 50/50 cabinet gender split. Palaszczuk tweeted a picture of the women in her own cabinet with the caption: “More proof it IS 2015! Congratulations to @JustinTrudeau from the 57% female Cabinet.” To which Trudeau replied: “Leading by example. Thanks, @Annastacia MP! Let’s keep it going.”



Gillian Triggs

Australia’s Human Rights Commissioner Gillian Triggs spent 2015 resisting a push to make her quit whilst standing up for the faceless, voiceless, nameless children locked up in immigration detention by the Australian Government.

She was not cowed by an unrelenting campaign against her, she simply ploughed on, calling for children to be released from their island prisons.


Triggs has been attacked, threatened and cajoled, and accused on national television of partisan campaigning. But the report that started it all was critical of both Labor and the Coalition, and Triggs supports neither major party’s policies on refugees.

She has spent 2015 applying her principles across many areas including Indigenous incarceration rates and increased state surveillance.

Triggs was never silenced, even when attacked about personal choices made many years ago in an attempt to discredit her.

Malala Yousafzai

This might not have been the year Malala won the Nobel Peace Prize, or the year she gave her first address to the United Nations.

It also wasn’t the year she first rose to international prominence, or the year she survived an attack on her life. That was 2012, when the then 14-year-old Pakistani schoolgirl was shot in the head by members of the Taliban for attending school and encouraging other women and girls to do the same.

Since then she’s made Time’s influential people list three years in a row, and continued to campaign for women’s education.  In 2015 she declared herself a feminist for the first time, opened a school for Syrian refugee girls in Lebanon and said what everyone else was thinking about Donald Trump.

She was gutsy, fearless and inspiring: as always. And she also turned 18.