Celebrating Some of Geelong’s Most Remarkable and Inspiring Women

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Celebrating Some of Geelong’s Most Remarkable and Inspiring Women

Words by Talia Rinaldo

It’s International Women's Day and we’re extending our appreciation to the phenomenal women who shape Geelong's landscape with their brilliance, resilience, and innovation. 

Universally celebrated on March 8, this International Women’s Day is urging us all to foster a world where every woman feels valued, respected, and included. When we inspire others to understand and embrace women’s inclusion, we pave the way for a more equitable and compassionate society.

Uniting women (and men) across the globe, today is all about creating a world free of bias, stereotypes and discrimination; a world where difference is valued and celebrated and a world which is equitable and inclusive.

Stay up to date with what’s happening in and around the region here.

In Geelong, we are fortunate to have a diverse array of women who embody the spirit of inclusion in their everyday lives. From community leaders to entrepreneurs, activists to educators, each of these women plays a vital role in shaping our city and inspiring others to champion gender equality.

With that in mind, we’ve curated up collection of inspirational local women, each making remarkable strides in Geelong. Whether you’re reading this article on International Women’s Day or any other day, their stories serve as a testament to the transformative power of women’s contributions.

Demi Duncan and Melinda Baxter: Empowering Mothers Through Missta Mums Pod

Demi Duncan and Melinda Baxter, the dynamic duo behind Missta brand and the extended Missta Mums Pod, are making a difference in our community.

Demi and Melinda are not only business partners but also mothers of three, navigating the complexities of running a business while raising a family. Despite the challenges they face, these two women have carved out a space in the podcasting world to share their experiences and amplify the voices of fellow mothers.

Their podcast, Missta Mums Pod, serves as a platform for candid conversations about the trials and triumphs of motherhood. From discussing the emotional toll of miscarriage to exploring the joys of parenting, Demi and Melinda offer listeners a glimpse into their lives and those of their brilliant guests.

What sets Missta Mums Pod apart is its commitment to inclusivity and authenticity. Demi and Melinda aren’t afraid to get real, sharing their vulnerabilities and celebrating the diverse experiences of motherhood. Through their podcast, they create a sense of community and support for mothers navigating the challenges of parenthood.

So here’s to Demi Duncan and Melinda Baxter, two extraordinary women who are inspiring inclusion and making a lasting impact on the lives of mothers everywhere through Missta Mums Pod.

Amy Lee Carlon: Championing Disability Inclusion Through Creativity

It’s essential to shine a spotlight on individuals like Amy Lee Carlon, an absolutely amazing local photographer with a heart of gold whose journey exemplifies resilience, creativity, and a commitment to inclusion.

Amy is not only an accomplished photographer but also the driving force behind Carlon and Co., a proudly disabled-run and owned company that goes beyond photography to offer a range of creative services. Through her business, Amy aims to build a supportive community and challenge perceptions about disability in the workforce.

Amy’s journey hasn’t been without its challenges. Born with a disability called Distal Arthrogryposis Multiplex Congenita, which affects her mobility, she has faced numerous obstacles in pursuing her passion for photography and entrepreneurship. She’s also very open and honest about her mental health battles. However, her determination and creativity have propelled her forward, leading her to establish a successful business in Geelong.

For Amy, running a business isn’t just about financial success; it’s about creating a space where individuals with disabilities can thrive and contribute meaningfully to the workforce. Through Carlon and Co., she provides not only photography services but also opportunities for other disabled individuals to showcase their talents and skills.

Despite the hurdles she faces as a disabled business owner, Amy remains undeterred. Her story is one of resilience, adaptability, and a relentless pursuit of her dreams. Through her absolutely stunning photography work and candid advocacy, she is challenging stereotypes and paving the way for greater inclusion in the workplace.

And if you ever have the privilege of meeting her, you’ll witness her kindness, sincerity, and warm nature firsthand. Amy’s spirit and determination inspire all who have the pleasure of crossing paths with her.

Jess Robinson: The Heart Behind Baked By Us

When it comes to local gems, Baked By Us stands out as a sweet spot in the heart of Geelong. And leading the charge is Jess Robinson, a baker extraordinaire with a heart of gold and a serious knack for cupcakes.

Knowing Jess for some time now, it’s incredible to see how far she’s come and how her heart just continues to grow.

See, Jess isn’t just a baker; she’s a beacon of inclusivity. At Baked By Us, she’s created more than a bakery—it’s a place where everyone feels welcome and valued. It’s here where young people with disabilities learn the ins and outs of baking, brewing coffee, and serving customers. It’s not just about skills; it’s about confidence and belonging.

Step inside this absolute haven, and you’re greeted with a burst of pink and a menu bursting with flavour. From lemon curd to unicorn fairy bread, every cupcake tells a story of empowerment and community.

It’s no surprise that Jess was awarded the Women in Community Life Award for Human Rights last year. Her dedication to creating a more inclusive society is evident in everything she does. Outside of her work with Baked By Us, she’s also an advocate for mental health, sharing her own struggles while also voicing the inadequate access for mental health support for people with ADHD in Australia.

With Jess at the helm, Baked By Us isn’t just a bakery—it’s a movement. It’s about showing the world that everyone deserves a seat at the table, one cupcake at a time.


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Sisters Gail Asbell and Charelle Cuolahan: Pioneers of Empowerment at Upstate Studios

In the bustling fitness landscape of Victoria, Upstate Studios shines as a symbol of empowerment and inclusivity. Founded in Geelong back in 2009 by sisters Gail Asbell and Charelle Cuolahan, Upstate isn’t just about workouts—it’s a movement breaking barriers and championing women’s success.

Driven by their shared passion for yoga and holistic wellness, Gail and Charelle envisioned Upstate as more than just a fitness destination. It’s a sanctuary where individuals embark on transformative journeys toward self-discovery and empowerment. Their commitment to female leadership is evident; Upstate has been proudly led by a 100% female management team since day one. Recognising the challenges women often face in the workforce, Gail and Charelle prioritise providing full-time career opportunities, fostering a culture where women feel confident and supported to thrive.

Beyond the studio, Upstate actively supports causes championing women’s rights and entrepreneurship. From sponsoring events to collaborating with like-minded organizations, they’re a driving force for change in the community.

Upstate Studios really is an absolute hub of empowerment, not just today, but every day of the year. With plans for expansion and continued dedication to gender diversity, Gail and Charelle are paving the way for women to thrive in the fitness industry and beyond.

Check our our interview with Gail, exploring just how Upstate is redefining success for women across the state below. 

Empowering Women Every Day: How Upstate Studios Is Redefining Success for Women in Victoria

Lucinda Goodwin: Capturing the Soul of Music Through her Lens

In a sector often beset with challenges related to gender, Lucinda Goodwin is a source of inspiration, fearlessly pursuing her dreams in a male-dominated industry and championing females along the way.

If you’re a dedicated Forte reader or a Geelong local with a love for music, Lucinda Goodwin’s name likely rings familiar. A beloved figure in the Australian music scene and a Geelong household name, Lucinda can be found at almost any gig or festival, skillfully capturing the essence of artists with her warm and vibrant photography. Throughout her 13+ year career, she has earned a reputation for capturing the euphoria of the stage, peeling back the layers of backstage, and amplifying the identity of musicians. Her impressive portfolio boasts encounters with music royalty such as Sir Elton John, Ed Sheeran, Foo Fighters, and Fleetwood Mac, among many others.

Despite her impressive list of accolades and famous faces, Lucinda’s connection to her hometown of Geelong remains unwavering. She continues to work closely with local musicians, documenting their achievements and celebrating their talents—a testament to her commitment to her community.

In recognition of her outstanding contributions to the local music scene, Lucinda was most recently honoured with the Ross Lipson Award at the Queenscliff Music Festival. The award not only acknowledges Lucinda’s remarkable work but also commemorates Lipson’s legacy and vision of providing opportunities for young women in the music industry. Lucinda’s dedication to her craft, coupled with her unwavering support for female artists, makes her a deserving recipient of this honour.

In the words of Lucinda herself, “Keep going to live local music, buying merch, and support your female friends hustling to make it in the music industry, be it on stage or behind the scenes, we need to see more girls represented everywhere.” Lucinda’s story is not just one of success but also of resilience, determination, and a steadfast commitment to uplifting others in her community.

Tarryn Love: Empowering First Nations Artists in Geelong

Amid the global celebration of International Women’s Day, one woman stands out for her remarkable contribution to Indigenous arts in the local community: Tarryn Love, a proud Gunditjmara Keerray Woorroong artist from south-west Victoria. 

For Tarryn, art isn’t just about self-expression; it’s a vehicle for remembering, reclaiming, and revitalising Indigenous heritage. Under the collective of Koorroyarr, meaning ‘granddaughter’ in her Mother Tongue, Tarryn’s work reflects the distinctiveness of Gunditjmara ways of Knowing, Being, and Doing. Through her practice, she seeks to explore her identity while centering language and fostering connections with her family, Ancestors, and community.

At the heart of Tarryn’s mission is the YOOKAPA program—a groundbreaking initiative designed to nurture and support First Nations artists on Wadawurrung Country in Geelong. Grounded in the principles of giving and receiving, YOOKAPA provides Indigenous creatives with essential resources, including time, space, mentorship, and support, to explore and expand their artistic endeavours.

Creating a culturally safe space where genuine connections are formed, and a sense of belonging is fostered, artists of all ages and backgrounds come together at the program’s base of Platform Arts, sharing their stories, collaborating on projects, and finding inspiration in each other’s presence. 

For Tarryn, YOOKAPA isn’t just a program; it’s a lifeline for Indigenous women seeking to express themselves and connect with their community.


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Julia Hogarth: Sparking Creativity at Sonder Studio

Some individuals radiate such warmth and positivity that likening them to sunshine feels perfectly fitting. Meet Julia Hogarth, a Geelong entrepreneur whose infectious energy and passion for creativity are lighting up the local scene. As the founder of Sonder Studio, Julia is on a mission to champion others, encouraging them to chase their dreams and uplifting them with her vibrant spirit.

Julia wears many hats – she’s a coach, community creator, stylist, and advocate for self-determination. While she makes an impact with her coaching sessions and workshops, it’s at Sonder Studio where she truly shines. Here she has created more than just a co-working space; it’s a vibrant hub where dreams are nurtured and celebrated. With its celebratory, slightly quirky vibe, Sonder fosters a supportive environment for creatives to thrive together.

Julia’s journey to bring Sonder Studio to life was a heartfelt endeavour, fueled by a vision of community, high fives, and celebrations. Already, Sonder Studio has witnessed moments of triumph, from dream homes to career shifts, all celebrated with joy and camaraderie. In every possible way, Julia’s work embodies the spirit of inclusivity, supporting women on their journey to success.

As we celebrate International Women’s Day, Julia stands as a beacon of inclusion and empowerment. Through Sonder Studio, she creates a space where diverse voices are welcomed, celebrated, and uplifted. With her infectious energy and unwavering support, Julia inspires others to chase their dreams and reminds them that they are capable of achieving greatness.


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Merrin Schnabel: Empowering Women in Business and Community

Merrin Schnabel is a force to be reckoned with—a dedicated mother, influencer, brand ambassador, and passionate advocate for women in business. As the founder of the Geelong Women’s Business Club, Merrin has created a dynamic platform for women to connect, inspire, and empower each other on their entrepreneurial journeys that just keeps continuing to grow every year.

With a firm belief in the potential of every woman to achieve greatness, Merrin established the Geelong Women’s Business Club as a beacon of support and encouragement. Through a series of engaging events, networking opportunities, and mentorship programs, she fosters a vibrant community where women can thrive in both their professional and personal lives – not only here in Geelong but now even across the country.

Merrin’s commitment to making a difference extends beyond the business realm. She actively partners with charities and non-profit organizations to amplify their voices and support their causes. Her dedication to giving back to the community serves as a shining example of compassion and generosity.

At the heart of Merrin’s mission is a deep-seated desire to uplift others and create positive change in the world. Through her tireless efforts, she inspires women – every kind of woman or those who identify –  to embrace their potential, pursue their dreams, and make a lasting impact on society.


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Lana Purcell: Empowering Communities Through Food

Lana Purcell stands out in the community for her outstanding contributions to promoting food security and dignity through her organisation, Feed Me Bellarine.

As the co-founder and CEO of Feed Me Bellarine, Lana leads efforts to provide food parcels and meals to individuals experiencing vulnerability in their lives. Her mission revolves around promoting the basic human right of food security, ensuring that everyone has access to healthy food with dignity and respect.

Not only does Lana oversee the operations of Feed Me Bellarine, but she also serves as a mentor and role model to its volunteers. She empowers women by providing pathways for them to utilise their skills in logistics, marketing, food preparation, hospitality, empathy, and small business start-up.

Feed Me Bellarine, established in 2019 by Lana and head chef Ant, addresses food waste while supporting those in need. Their approach tackles food insecurity while also addressing mental health and community engagement. By rescuing and repurposing food waste with care and dignity, they provide nutritious meals to vulnerable families and communities, creating a positive impact on both food security and mental well-being.

Through Lana’s leadership, Feed Me Bellarine has become more than just a food rescue organisation; it has evolved into a community space where volunteers and visitors alike can connect, share, and support each other. This emphasis on community connection has had a tangible effect on the mental health and well-being of those involved, highlighting the importance of both nourishing meals and human connection in building strong, resilient communities.

This list is barely scraping the surface of the amazingly talented bunch of women we have in our region but it sure does have us feeling inspired. Happy International Women’s Day.