About Us

The Women’s Leadership Institute Australia (WLIA) 

The Women’s Leadership Institute Australia (WLIA) is a not-for-profit organisation, founded by Carol Schwartz AO. WLIA is the research and advocacy arm of the Trawalla Foundation, focused on finding the best levers for change to achieve equal voice, equal representation and equal recognition for women in Australia. 


We fundamentally believe in the value of more female leaders. This is about optimising outcomes for our country by ensuring that men and women together share power, leadership and decision making. 


We believe that we must grow the critical mass of female leaders in politics, business and the media to truly disrupt and change the way decision making is done. Equal representation will shape culture, decision making, collaboration, and ultimately reflect community issues in a more fulsome way.  

Our Values

  • We’re independent and apolitical

  • We’re agile and entrepreneurial

  • We’re bold and courageous

  • We’re pragmatic and collaborative

How We Work

  • We amplify and advocate

  • We leverage our expertise and networks

  • We scan the world for best practices and bring them to Australia

  • We partner to test and demonstrate

The Board

Our board works to inspire and affect systemic solutions to achieve gender equality in leadership.


Carol Schwartz AO is one of Australia’s most dynamic business and community leaders with a diverse career across property, the arts, finance, investment, entrepreneurship, government and health. Carol is highly regarded as a public commentator and agitator on issues of gender equality, women’s leadership, governance and business.

Carol has been recognised for her leadership via a range of honours including her 2019 appointment as an Officer of the Order of Australia, an Honorary Doctorate from Monash University, induction into the Australia Property Hall of Fame, and a Centenary Medal. Carol was also named one of Australia’s most influential women in the Australian Financial Review and Westpac’s Inaugural 100 Women of Influence Awards and inducted into the Victorian Women’s Honour Roll.

Carol has chaired and participated in numerous listed and private company boards, and has also chaired major government boards and conducted significant inquiries on behalf of government. Carol’s current board roles include the Reserve Bank of Australia, EQT Holdings Limited, Qualitas Property Partners and Skalata Ventures.

Throughout her career Carol has been a passionate advocate for women in leadership, particularly in business, politics and the media. As Chair of the Trawalla Foundation and the Women’s Leadership Institute Australia, she has catalysed a range of practical solutions, including the Pathways to Politics Program for Women, the Panel Pledge, and the Women for Media database. Carol is also the Founding Chair of Our Community, a member of the Harvard Kennedy School’s Women’s Leadership Board, and the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership Advisory Board, Kings College.

Founding Chair


Denis Moriarty AM is Group Managing Director of Our Community and a Trustee of the Trawalla Foundation.  He has a strong background in executive and change management in both the government and private sectors. His early career in the 1980s was as a bureaucrat tearing down pictures of Queen Elizabeth in government offices and pushing through government reforms and privatisation as a Deputy Secretary and Commissioner.

Denis' inspiration for starting Our Community came through his involvement in not-for-profit boards, which led to a realisation that technology and knowledge could be democratised to accelerate social sector reform. This thinking was crystallised during his 18-month participation in the Vincent Fairfax Ethics in Leadership Awards, run through the Ethics Centre.

Denis was awarded a Member of the Order of Australia in the Australia Day Honors list in 2020 for his significant service to the community, to social welfare, and to public administration. Denis also received the Centenary Medal in 2001 in recognition of him establishing Our Community.

He describes himself as a social capitalist - believing markets, wealth and giving can be revolutionary when they are combined with a progressive social agenda. He loves that the biggest philanthropists in the world exist primarily through their amazing business acumen.

Denis believes we (including governments) need to be constantly reminded that while we often delight in and promote the value of our "communities", we forget they are often just an abstract notion, and that it's the 600,000 community organisations in Australia that are the true catalysers of communities. That is why the mission of Our Community is to build stronger communities through stronger community organisations.

Non-Executive Director & Secretary


Vanessa Nolan-Woods is General Manager, Regional and Agribusiness NSW and ACT, Commonwealth Bank. Vanessa commenced as General Manager, Regional and Agribusiness Banking in August 2018.  In this role she is responsible for managing more than 180 staff and 4,000 clients overseeing the Regional Business Banking operations for the state of New South Wales and ACT.

Vanessa’s career spans more than 25 years in the banking sector. She began with CommBank’s graduate programme, securing her first position as a Rural Officer with Commonwealth Development Bank of Australia and has previously held positions in Business and Corporate Banking.

Vanessa joins Regional and Agribusiness Banking from Corporate Financial Services team where she led the Specialised industry team including, Health, Professional Services, Retail, Women in Focus and Social Impact Banking. This team worked across the entire Business Bank franchise and was responsible for delivering unique service propositions to customers.

Originally from Leeton, located in the Riverina region, Vanessa brings a passion for the regional people, businesses and communities into her role leading the Regional Business Banking team.

Vanessa holds a Bachelor of Commerce majoring in Economics and Management and serves on the board of the Women's Leadership Institute of Australia.

Non-Executive Director and Treasurer


Director of Our Community.

​Kathy has a background in journalism and communications, and a long-standing passion for equality and social justice. She contributes to strategy formulation and implementation at Our Community, as well as overseeing content and publications.

​Kathy joined the Our Community team in its formative years, working alongside the founder and board to meet the challenges of pursuing the dual goals of social benefit and profit. With her expertise in ethical business, she has played a key role in many significant Our Community initiatives, including GiveNow, Australia’s first donations platform, SmartyGrants, Australia’s leading grants management system, and the Institute of Community Directors Australia, which provides practical support to not-for-profit directors.

​Kathy has served on a range of not-for-profit boards and committees on a voluntary basis. In 2014 she became an Eisenhower Fellow, travelling to the United States for seven weeks to complete a study of social impact projects. The questions she asks most often include ‘What’s the evidence that it works?’ and ‘How will we know if we are making progress?’

Non-Executive Director


Ruby Schwartz is an audio producer and researcher working with Schwartz Media’s  7AM Podcast. Prior to that, Ruby was based in New York and worked with Pineapple Media and is a recent graduate of the Transom Story Workshop, a nine-week course for audio storytellers in Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

Ruby has worked as a research assistant and podcast producer for the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Melbourne. She has also co-hosted a weekly intersectional feminist news and current affairs program on 3CR community radio, produced audio stories for FBI Radio's All The Best, and written for the Sydney Morning Herald's Daily Life.

Ruby completed her Bachelor of Arts degree with Honours at the University of Melbourne in 2016. She wrote her thesis on gendered cyber harassment and women's experiences online.

Non-Executive Director


Cathy Truong is Executive Director of GiveNow. She has worked in the third sector for the past fifteen years, with a focus on effective philanthropic practices and capacity building for non-profit organisations.

Most recently, Cathy was Executive Officer of the Trawalla Foundation. Cathy remains active on not-for-profit boards, including the Women’s Leadership Institute Australia, the Queen Victoria Women’s Centre Trust, and Social Ventures Australia’s Social Impact Fund (Investment Committee). She is a member of the Impact Investment Australia Working Group.

In the past Cathy has worked with the Social Impact and Leadership & Learning teams at Social Ventures Australia. She was responsible for the project management of numerous projects for SVA, ranging from the social enterprise reporting framework through to the introduction of the new online financial training tool designed to support non-profit CEOs and executives.

Cathy’s experience in the non-profit sector also includes roles as the Capacity Builder Manager for the Foundation for Young Australians and as an Executive Director of Our Community. Prior to this, she held senior positions in the corporate sector including Co-Founder & Product Director for Wishlist.com.au and as Senior Consultant at PriceWaterhouseCoopers Management Consulting (Telecommunications & Information) in the Melbourne, New York and Hong Kong offices.

Cathy’s past board roles include those with Urban Seed, Spina Bifida Foundation of Victoria and local education councils.

Non-Executive Director

"Twenty-five years ago, I spoke at a conference of 500 or so business leaders and I asked the question out loud “Where are the women?” 25 years later, I am still asking that same question! I’m passionate about the value of more female leaders, particularly in business, politics, and the media...We need to grow the critical mass of women in leadership to ensure that both men and women bring their diverse experience to the table, and work together in leadership and decision making to optimise the outcomes for our country."


The WLIA Team

Leadership and strategy:
Sarah Buckley


Content and special projects:
Ella Mitchell

Events and administrative support:
Lara Richardson

Finance and reporting:
Jessica Bonacini & Cristina Franco