Young Women Leaders of Nillumbik Awards


The annual Young Women Leaders of Nillumbik Awards recognise and celebrate the contribution of young women in Nillumbik to their communities.

2024 Young Women Leaders

At our International Women’s Day event on Thursday 7 March 2024, we were thrilled to honour some of Nillumbik’s most exceptional young people as part of the Nillumbik Young Women Leaders Awards.

These awards recognise the invaluable contributions of young women and gender diverse people aged 12-25 in Nillumbik across a range of different categories.  

Learn more about our talented winners: 


Young Woman of the Year

Maali Kerta-Rice (she/her), 18, Hurstbridge

Maali’s exceptional leadership within the Eltham High School's Student Voice and Leadership Team and the Nillumbik Youth Council in 2023 showcases her unwavering commitment to social and environmental responsibility.

Maali has spearheaded numerous initiatives such as the kitchen garden and composting system at Eltham High School, which have significantly reduced waste, educated peers and shaped attitudes towards environmental causes.

Maali’s advocacy extends beyond school, as she has been instrumental in delivering projects for young people in Nillumbik including the Youth Strategy, Youth Summit and Youth Hub, fostering a sense of belonging and empowerment among local young people. Maali's advocacy and determination has created positive change that will continue to benefit the community long into the future. 


Young Sports Leader

Zoe Draper (she/her), 20, Doreen

As a coach, player, mentor, and leader, Zoe has made significant contributions to her local club, Hazelglen, and the broader community. She coaches multiple junior domestic netball teams, mentors new coaches, and is committed to nurturing young talent. Additionally, Zoe ventured beyond her comfort zone as the inaugural rep coach for the 15/Under team at the Netball Victoria State Associations Championships, which resulted in all players being invited to trial for the Netball Victoria Talent Academy. 

Zoe's commitment to her sport extends to philanthropy, as she organised a successful netball tournament to raise funds and awareness for Type 1 Diabetes, a cause close to her heart. Her initiative raised over $4,000. Zoe's leadership, passion, and dedication make her an inspiring role model for young athletes. 


Young Community Leader

Stephanie Rujak (she/her), 14, Eltham North

Stephanie is the co-founder of Hayden's Helping Hands, an initiative aimed at alleviating homelessness in Melbourne. Since its inception in 2015, Stephanie has demonstrated exceptional leadership by organising weekly outreach, seasonal initiatives, and educational programs. They aim to not only improve living conditions for those experiencing homelessness but also increase awareness within the broader community.

Now, the organisation assists approximately 200 individuals each month, providing essential relief and raising awareness about homelessness. Stephanie’s work not only directly benefits recipients, but by raising awareness in schools and engaging with young volunteers, she has become a role model for the next generation of young leaders. 

Young Gender Equity Leader

Niamh Coffey (they/them), 17, Eltham North

Niamh has been at the forefront of championing gender equity and raising awareness amongst young people. As a member of the Nillumbik Youth Council, and through leadership roles at their school, they have led multiple initiatives for the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence Campaign last year.

Niamh played a lead role in planning the 16 Days Open Mic Night in 2023, which resulted in tangible outcomes such as increased awareness of gender-based violence in the community and opportunities for female and gender-diverse performers at events.

Niamh’s advocacy within their school has also improved channels for student input within the school. This year they’ll be leading the school’s Feminist Collective and working with the Rainbow Alliance, demonstrating their ongoing dedication to amplifying diverse voices. 

Young Climate Action Leader

Adele Sato (she/her), 12, Research

Adele has shown remarkable leadership and dedication to sustainability through her drive to implement the Big Green Project at Research Primary School.

The project involved the successful integration of composting and recycling practices within the school. Adele's proposed the project to her school principal with a detailed plan, and even went as far to organise multiple fundraisers and personally approached the local Member of Parliament, Vicki Ward MP, to secure further funding.

Adele’s, perseverance and passion has created an impact extending beyond the school grounds, with her example inspiring students and their families to adopt eco-friendly practices at home.

Young Creative Leader

Charli Lewis (she/her), 24, Diamond Creek

Charli has been a member of the Diamond Valley Singers (DVS) since 2019, and has demonstrated exceptional leadership and creativity within the organisation. Transitioning from performing to management roles, she has co-directed and choreographed multiple productions.

Over her time Charli has welcomed individuals of all ages and abilities within the DVS community. Her active promotion of the group through social media has introduced a whole new group of young, creative, enthusiastic people to DVS.

Charli's unwavering support and leadership of fellow members has allowed many young people to find their passion and grow their skills in the creative arts.