1. Julia Gillard: Our first female Prime Minister had kept silent on sexism directed at her and entrenched in Australian politics since her election but when she finally spoke it wasn’t just Australia, but the world, that stopped and listened. For many of the thousands of women who nominated her she is an inspiration . Throughout a difficult and turbulent year she has taught many of us an important lesson in how to stand up to sexism. It’s not an understatement to call her misogyny speech a watershed moment for women in this country. Photo: Andrew Meares
2. Anne Summers: It is Summers’ past and present research and writing on misogyny that helped create the fertile conditions for Julia Gillard's speech. Her report ''Her Rights at Work: The Political Persecution of Australia's First Female Prime Minister'' was widely reproduced, debated and quoted in publications across the country. It perfectly articulated our discomfort with, not only the sexism directed at Gillard, but its presence in our own lives. Summers' writing, media appearances and presence on social media gives a consistent, intellectual, reasoned and powerful voice to women’s issues in Australia that is so often missing from public debate in Australia.
3. Jane Caro. ''Humour takes the power away from the powerful,'' Caro says and that’s exactly what she did when she responded to another of Alan Jones’s sexist outbursts by starting the hashtag that united Australian women this year #destroyingthejoint. Caro triggered a powerful new social movement but it’s by no means the only reason she makes the list. She was nominated for her unflinching support of women's rights and public education in Australia, her moderation in the face of moral panic and, not least of all, for saying ''vagina'' loudly and repeatedly on Q&A.
4. Elizabeth Broderick: Of the many gender equality battles that Broderick has fought and won, the Sex Discrimination Commissioner is best known for her role in pushing for paid maternity leave in Australia and introducing a target for women on boards and at executive levels in ASX companies. In 2012, Broderick continued to champion women’s rights by heading up a review into sexism in the military culture. The 650-page-report revealed that one in four women in the ADF had experienced sexual harassment in the past five years. The report calls for a dedicated unit to deal with sexual misconduct. Photo: Nick Cubbin
5. Leigh Sales: The Walkley-award winning journalist and 7.30 Report anchor made headlines across the nation after her interview Tony Abbott in August, where she took him to task on the Opposition’s stand over mining tax and carbon tax. This led to Abbott’s admission that he had not read key statements from BHP boss Marius Kloppers. The misogynistic reaction to her hard-hitting interview opened up a wider debate about sexism in Australia and shed light on the Coalition’s attitude towards woman.
6. Germaine Greer: It’s impossible to talk about Germaine Greer, patron saint of modern feminism, without acknowledging her unnecessary and disappointing comments about the size of our Prime Minister’s derriere. Yet Greer remains outspoken, fearless and often unpopular in her fight for feminism. As the keynote speaker at the F Word feminism forum this year she urged women to be more “difficult”, to not settle for the status quo. Finding a more concise solution to the uphill battle that modern women still face is really quite tricky.
7. Clementine Ford: Between her fiercely witty social media presence and prolific posts on Daily Life, Ford has become the go-to feminist for a new generation, unafraid to channel all of her eloquent rage into ground-breaking articles that shape the zeitgeist. Before the dictionary broadened the definition, before the Prime Minister made her speech, Ford articulated with flashing brilliance exactly what it meant to be a misogynist, and in doing so, changed the national conversation. Photo: Melanie Faith Dove
8. Stella Young: Through the honesty and humour in her writing, Stella Young has made a significant contribution to the public discourse on disability this year. As well as being the editor of ABC’s Ramp Up, Young is also a successful comedian, activist and a regular contributor to websites including The Punch and The Drum. This year, Young has worked tirelessly to put the National Disability Insurance Scheme back on the national political agenda. She has also tackled gender issues faced by disabled women including reproductive rights and disabled sexuality from an unapologetic feminist perspective. Photo: Chris Hopkins CNH
9. Destroy the Joint: When Alan Jones told his listeners that Australian women were “destroying the joint” it was, strangely, the greatest gift that could have been given to feminists in 2012. It helped to unify and rally them – most convening at Jenna Price’s Destroy The Joint Facebook page. A place where women (and men) mobilised and convinced advertisers to pull their spending from Jones’s show after he claimed the PM’s father “died of shame''. The delicious taste of the power of the people was perhaps never sweeter than when Jones went to air for six consecutive days advertisement free.
10. Tracey Spicer: A gifted journalist who so often this year was able to articulate obvious double standards in a way that deeply resonated with other women. Her piece on Deborah Hutton’s naked appearance in The Women’s Weekly was memorable, as was her calling out the New Zealand PM on his gay quip, but her most important contribution was “Dear Mr Sexist” a letter exposing the sexism she faced in her career as a TV journalist. The piece was replicated and discussed internationally and motivated other female journalists to speak up about their experiences.
11. Penny Wong: Apart from being consistently firm, reasonable, smart and fair in her many interviews and media appearances, one of Penny Wong’s greatest achievements this year for women has been her vocal campaigning to get more women into board rooms. In a speech given earlier this year at the CEDA Women in Leadership series Wong said: “If we’re not fully utilising the capacity and talents of over half of the population, then we’re holding ourselves back.” Indeed. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
12. Sarah Ferguson: If only all journalists were as uncompromising, brave, smart and had as much integrity as ABC Four Corners journalist Sarah Ferguson. The British-born reporter won the gold Walkley this year for her harrowing investigation into the live cattle trade. This year Ferguson has also tackled important issues for women including domestic violence, people smuggling and forced marriages for girls as young as 17.
13. Nicola Roxon: As minister for health last year, Roxon spearheaded a majority decision to reject an appeal against introducing plain packaging for cigarettes. It was the High Court ruling that echoed around the world, with New York mayor Michael Bloomberg calling her a “rock star”. With lung cancer currently the fourth most common cancer, we’d go so far as to call her a crusader. Roxon is now Attorney-General, the first woman to hold the position. Photo: Graham Tidy GGT
14. Annabel Crabb: Witty, clever and warm, Annabel Crabb has had another great year. Her appearances on the Drum, regular columns and popular program Kitchen Cabinet allow her to tackle meaty topics. Crabbl also proves that you can still enjoy baking but not be afraid to give it to a hard-nosed politician. As one reader noted: “She proves that you can bake, wear a dress, be pregnant, sometimes have your lipstick not quite right and still say intelligent things about important matters.''
15. Sophie McNiell: As the new host of Triple J’s Hack, Sophie McNiell is one of the most exciting young female voices of Australian media. McNiell has reported from the frontline of Afghanistan, Lebanon, Iraq, Egypt and Israel. This year, the Walkley-winning journalist continues to cover local and international current affairs that impact on women’s rights around the world. Her writing has appeared in The Independent newspaper, New Matilda and Yen magazine.
16. Marieke Hardy: She describes herself on twitter, (where she has over 80,000 followers) as a ‘bon vivant’ but the hilarious writer, producer and some time actor is being modest. Her Women of Letters project, which she co-produces with Michaela McGuire, has raised tens of thousands of dollars for charity and illustrated that if you create a female-friendly literary space for us, we will come. Photo: Damian Bennett
17. Tara Moss: Is one prolific woman. In 2012 she was a vocal member of panels including “All Women Hate Each Other” at the Festival of Dangerous Ideas, she published Assassin, the sixth book in her Mak Vanderwalll crime series, was the UNICEF patron for breastfeeding for the Baby Friendly Health Initiative and wrote articles that tackled knotty topics such as the stigma that still surrounds breast feeding, whether men should be feminists and women in publishing and the media. Photo: Gary Schafer
18. Chrissie Swan. An earthy antidote to the proliferation of bourgeois, pearl-clutching yummy mummies, Swan's influence lies in simply being herself. Although the mother of two and soon-to-be three does do an awful lot: as well as writing a weekly column in Sunday Life magazine, Swan hosts both Mix 101.1’s breakfast show in Melbourne and the 3pm Pick Up (targeted specifically at women) nationally and anchors network Ten’s Can of Worms.
19. Nareen Young: As CEO of Diversity Council Australia, Young is an important female voice on the issue of cultural diversity within both the workplace and the broader communities in this country, transforming the DCA into an effective advocate for equal opportunity. Before this appointment, she was director of the NSW Working Women’s Centre for seven years.
20. Susan Carland: Has long been a positive voice for Muslim women within Australian society, tackling issues including domestic violence, disability and multiculturalism. Through her community work and media appearances this year, she has dispelled many misconceptions held about the Islamic community and Muslim women, promoting greater tolerance and a more cohesive society for all. Photo: Jon Reid JHR