Emerging Leader of the year Winner

Marijke Fotia

Volunteer West

Marijke Fotia, Regional Programs Manager for Volunteer West, oversees the design of new opportunities for volunteers and organisations in Melbourne’s west. Marijke constantly champions the remarkable diversity of volunteering within the community by building platforms and collaboration and empowers organisations through the Volunteer Managers Network.

In 2021 Marijke helped implement the $1 million VolConnect program through state government funding, addressing the needs for volunteer-to-job pathways in Melbourne’s west and setting up frameworks for ongoing meaningful support for communities operating within the region.

Through strong and empathetic leadership, Marijke facilitated the scaling up of Volunteer West’s operations from four staff members at the beginning of 2021 to a team of 25 during the VolConnect period. This led to the implementation of specialised programs being deployed to serve 179 actively engaged organisations in the community.

Marijke has previously worked in a range of sectors including international health, emergency management volunteering, international volunteering and the arts with a strong focus on partnerships and collaborative practices across her career. Outside of work Marijke has recently completed her Master of Health and International Development and enjoys cross stitching, gardening, and going for walks along Kororoit Creek. She is a staunch advocate for people living with Migraine.

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Tanya Diessel

Gold Coast Community Legal Centre

I was born and raised on the Gold Coast, Queensland and currently work as the Coordinating Solicitor of the Gold Coast Community Legal Centre (GCCLC). I have been part of the Centre since 2011 where I commenced as a law student volunteer before gaining employment as a solicitor once I completed my studies and was admitted in 2013. The GCCLC is a not for profit CLC where we provide free legal and social work advice to the Gold Coats community, with a specific focus on assisting the more vulnerable and disadvantaged residents of the Gold Coast.

My role focuses on providing assistance to clients as well as working closely with the Centre Director in enhancing ways to continue to expand services to the community. Over my time at the Centre, I have grown passionate about ensuring the community has access to justice and services to assist when they do not have any other means or resources to help resolve an issue.

I have been honored over the years to have received acknowledgements for my contribution to the Centre and community such as receiving the 2016 Emergent Woman Lawyer of the Year, 2018 Baton Bearer for the Commonwealth Games Baton Relay and the 2020 30 under 30 Lawyer of the Year in the Community Legal sector.


Shana Lewis

Stepping Stone House

Shana Lewis is the General Manager of the award-winning charity Stepping Stone House which provides accommodation and personal development for homeless and disadvantaged children and young people so they can become independent and the very best they can be. Shana started her career providing residential services in the Disability sector before moving across to the Youth sector for the last 8 years. Graduating with a Bachelor of Psychology from Macquarie University she has incorporated her knowledge of therapeutic care into the design and provision of residential services that deliver exceptionally high outcomes for vulnerable and at-risk young people experiencing homelessness.


Jen Clark

International Women's Development Agency

Jen Clark models an empowering and collaborative leadership style as Asia Program Manager – Leadership, Power and Civic Space at International Women’s Development Agency (IWDA). For over eight years, Jen has been an ally to the dynamic feminist movement of Myanmar, drawing upon IWDA’s locational power to amplify and empower Myanmar women’s rights organisations. She puts into practice IWDA’s Feminist Movement Strengthening Framework, aiming to step up to leverage resources and access for women’s rights organisations, stand with feminist movements or step back when others are better placed to lead.

From February, when the military unlawfully seized power in Myanmar, Jen has elevated the voices of diverse women leaders from Myanmar in Australian advocacy spaces, including providing their testimony at a parliamentary hearing. Jen has collaborated with wide-ranging Australian-based human rights groups, including Women Activists Myanmar (WAM), calling on the Australian Government to take urgent action.

Jen manages innovative programs advancing women’s political leadership. Following Myanmar’s 2015 elections, she co-designed and jointly implemented the country’s first women’s political mentoring program. This program paired women parliamentarians in Myanmar with those in Australia and built relationships between the MPs and Myanmar’s women’s movement, contributing to a record number of women being elected in 2020. Jen continues to support the legitimately elected women in Myanmar and diverse women’s rights activists, who are now at the forefront of the underground resistance movement shaping Myanmar’s democratic future.


Sylvia Liu

Fusion Culture Group

Connecting people and bridging cultures is my passion. I became a volunteer in 2010 and founded the Fusion Culture Group to do just that using my key skills, including over 20 years of Tai Chi experience, people and language skills, laughter techniques…

I adopted non-verbal communication methods to enhance an inclusive connection enabling those who do not speak English to also experience the joy of friendship and learning. Laughter, contemporary Tai Chi, gestures exploration, theatrical magic, stage performances, special events, etc., have proven to be effective and fun ways to foster a sense of belonging, camaraderie, self-confidence, appreciation of cultural diversity, and the capacity to care about others. Many FCG members have become volunteers themselves helping others in the community.

Due to the pandemic, in April 2020, I started Tai Chi with Laughter and Sky English via Zoom connecting people and international students in Australia and around the world to address the isolation, physical and mental illness issues. Getting our seniors online was extremely challenging, but now there is a high number of seniors joining our three Zoom programs weekly. I have produced many Zoom events, including “Music Around the World,” “Lunar New Year Celebration,” “ABC Laughter.” These global events are popular because they are fun and promotes the wellbeing of body, mind and spirit.