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Relaunch Project cohort revealed

Women in Media, in partnership with Google News Initiative, is proud to announce the new cohort of media professionals who participate in the Relaunch Project next year.

After successfully running the inaugural program this year, Women in Media was overwhelmed with support from the wider industry and delighted to receive a large number of applications for the 2023 program.

The Relaunch Project is designed to assist women with returning to media roles after a career break, and it has three key pillars at its foundation: professional reskilling, personal development and networking.

The six-month program is led by Michelle Francis, who launched the inaugural program, and Jacinta Rose, who was part of the first Relaunch cohort.

“We have been so impressed by the women who have come forward and expressed an interest in the program,” they said.

“The 2023 cohort has come from diverse professional and personal backgrounds, from all across Australia, and have so much to offer the industry as they find their feet again.

“We are particularly excited about the number of women in the cohort who have expressed to us that they want to explore opportunities when it comes to senior media roles and leadership within the industry.”

Google News Initiative’s Uma Patel said the program was a unique opportunity for professional women and the media industry. “GNI is dedicated to creating and supporting a media industry that is forward thinking, including programs like the Relaunch Project,” she said. “This initiative not only empowers women to return to work and build a stronger professional network, but also helps to ensure that the workforce continues to be inclusive, diverse and adaptable.”

Meet the Cohort

Suzi O’Shea

Suzi O’Shea is a Brisbane-based journalist with more than 20 years’ experience in the media industry.

A committed advocate for racial equality, her work predominantly centres on social justice, social change and empowerment.

Suzi has worked with Women of Colour Australia.

Susan Horsburgh

I began my journalism career more than 25 years ago, fetching coffee as a copy kid at News Limited.

After scoring a cadetship with The Australian and working across the newspaper, I became a writer for TIME magazine in Sydney and London, covering everything from politics and business to science and the arts.

In New York, I was a staff writer for People magazine, helping to adjudicate on such pressing issues as the Sexiest Man Alive and writing countless pieces on celebrity weddings, babies and divorces (sometimes all for the one star).

I was living in Manhattan on September 11, 2001, and wrote about that terrible day and its aftermath.

After returning to Australia in 2004 to get married and have babies, I freelanced for The Weekend Australian Magazine and The Age (Melbourne) Magazine, writing profiles and news features, before joining The Australian Women’s Weekly as a senior staff writer in 2010.

That role, which included memorable interviews with Rosie Batty and Kim Kardashian, was made redundant in 2017, and I have been freelancing since then, mostly for Good Weekend, Qantas and The Australian Women’s Weekly.

As someone who loves quizzing strangers on plane flights or in post-office queues, journalism is my dream job.

Whatever the news angle, it’s the human story that moves me most and the so-called “ordinary” people who are usually the most interesting.

I still love journalism, but freelancing for editorial clients is becoming financially untenable.

I wanted to be part of the Relaunch Project to meet some great like-minded women, learn new skills and discover the opportunities out there.

I plan to work for at least another two decades, so I want to make sure there’s success and excitement ahead.

Sherene Strahan

I began my media career as a TV reporter at Taree, NSW where the locals loved telling me Liz Hayes started there and wondering if I would follow in her footsteps which I sort of did but not straight away.

First, I spent three years as a reporter, ending my on-air time as the ABC’s first TV reporter to be based in Alice Springs (1988 – yes, before many of you were born).

Then Sydney beckoned, where I became a producer for Nine News and some TV greats including Ian Ross, Peter Overton and Tracy Grimshaw.

I finally got to work with Liz Hayes after becoming a supervising producer on the Today Show when she was a co-host. She was lovely.

I moved home to Perth and became bureau producer for A Current Affair before leaving TV for children (and life as a peripatetic ADF wife).

Thinking journalism was behind me, I did a couple of degrees and tried teaching, then marketing & communications.

But once a journalist, always a journalist so I returned as a freelancer, content writer and some-time field producer for US-made shows about sharks.

I’m also a content strategy consultant for women entrepreneurs and small business owners.

It feels good to bring together the experiences and skills of 30+ years, from TV reporting/producing to ex-pat life in Jakarta with the ADF, to marketing a private school.

I am grateful to Women in Media and the Relaunch Project for the chance to grow my professional knowledge, especially about new directions in tech and the media landscape.

I’m keen to develop my feature writing skills – my next career Everest.

And I’m keen to invest in supporting other women as I have been, and continue to be, supported.

Selina Joseph

I am a skilled television producer with more than 25 years of experience both here and in the USA.

As a writer, field producer and post producer, I can take a project from concept to creation and delivery.

I jumped headfirst into a media career fresh out of my Arts degree, first as a freelance journalist and then moving into television as a segment producer on Good Morning Australia with Bert Newton.

In the early 2000s, I lived in New York City, working first as a producer at Martha Stewart Living, and then for NBC News’ Today Show.

When I returned to Australia, I took time off to have a child, and while I was able to re-enter the workplace and I have worked consistently, my career has never advanced to a level that reflects my capabilities and experience.

Most recently, I have been freelancing at Lux Media, a production company specialising in brand-funded travel television programs such as Luxury Escapes.

Prior to that, I was series producer on Everyday Gourmet with Justine Schofield and produced integration segments for the Chemist Warehouse brand-funded TV show, The House of Wellness.

I want to be part of Women in Media’s Relaunch Project because I believe it will give me the skills I need to sell myself and take my career to the next level.

I believe The Relaunch Project will also open my eyes to opportunities I may not have thought of along the way, and give me the confidence to say, “Yes, I can do that!” and really believe it.

Sarah Elks

Sarah Elks is a senior reporter for The Australian in its Brisbane bureau, focusing on investigations into politics, business and industry.

Sarah has worked for the paper for 15 years, primarily in Brisbane, but also in Sydney, and in Cairns as north Queensland correspondent.

She has covered election campaigns, high-profile murder trials, and natural disasters, and was named Queensland Journalist of the Year in 2016 for a series of exclusive stories exposing the failure of Clive Palmer’s Queensland Nickel business.

Sarah has also been nominated for four Walkley awards.

In the past four years, Sarah has taken two year-long breaks from work after the birth of her two sons.

Sandra Moon

Sandra Moon is a regional journalist, writer and a lone parent to a teen and a tween.

A career change away from the demands of the media was suited to raising her young family including several children she fostered.

Since COVID she has started writing a memoir on her lived experience as an adopted person, won the Lismore Writer’s Prize 2021 and appeared at the Kyogle Writer’s Festival.

She has returned to her roots as a journalist and covered the 2022 Northern Rivers floods with News Limited.

She recently accepted a temporary position with the ABC and hopes to find a permanent role that suits her family.

She digs bromeliads, watching cows in the dairy and sitting under the full moon with Gretel her black cat.

One day she wants to visit her ancestral homes of Malta and Sicily.

Rhiannon Elston

I’m a weather and sometimes fill-in news presenter at Sky News. Right now I spend my days studying synoptic charts and tracking fires, floods and other emergencies.

It’s never boring, and I love the energy of the 24-hour newsroom. Before I had two babies in 20 months, I was a correspondent for SBS News and a full-time video journalist, always on the road in the search of a good story.

Mostly travelling solo, I visited every state and territory in the country and quite a few places abroad, covering everything from the state-wide power outage in South Australia to the Indonesian election.

I have a few hard-earned and much-cherished awards carefully stashed in a box in the back of a cupboard, where they will remain for now… they are glass and I have toddlers.

Through the Relaunch Project, I’m looking forward to focusing on my future in an industry I love.

Mary Bolling

Mary Bolling has been telling stories her whole life. A former journalist at the Herald Sun, ABC TV and radio, and Gladstone Observer, and now a communications professional at CQ University, plus a storytime-loving mum of two – she knows how a good yarn can change lives.

Based in Melbourne, Mary is a host and producer of How to Change a Life and IMPACT Research podcasts, sharing big stories and projects from across CQUniversity.

In her spare time, she also co-hosts and produces the hit podcast Gotta Be Done, recapping episodes of kids’ television show Bluey via a rambling look at parenting theory, childhood memories, pop culture references, and dog puns.

Mahsa Fratantoni

Mahsa Fratantoni is an accomplished health journalist and communications specialist who has trained at the World Health Organisation in Geneva.

Prior to taking maternity leave, she reported on medical, science and wellbeing stories as National Health Reporter for The New Daily, and led the publication’s monthly Health Bulletin.

As a CALD woman working in the media industry, Mahsa is particularly passionate about promoting diversity in the media and communication sectors.

She is currently leading the Stories of Multicultural Australia project, an initiative by the Settlement Council of Australia which seeks to prepare and train refugees and migrants for news commentary.

Kate Smithers

Kate Smithers is a journalist and communications specialist with 15 years’ experience in Perth’s media landscape.

Kate has worked as a Senior Reporter and Presenter for Seven News and Sunrise for a decade where she reported on major local and national news with a focus on politics, court reporting and breaking news events.

She then made the jump to communications working as a Senior Communications Adviser on a two-year campaign to protect the Exmouth region from heavy industry development – and won!

Kate is currently working as a freelance journalist and MC in Perth which allows her to combine her interests in current events, community, sustainability and politics.

Juliet Porter

I’m an award-winning writer and director and mum to two gorgeous kids. I am passionate about gender equality and under-represented voices onscreen so, in 2019, I started a business running workshops for females and non-binary filmmakers.

As a storyteller, I hope to work across various media formats and make media that makes a difference.

Through the Relaunch Project, I’m excited to gain knowledge through the seminars and to work alongside a mentor, to find the clarity and confidence to pursue the career path I have aspired to for so long.

Jessie Klass

I am currently Head of Content and Community for WeAre8.

Previously I headed up the digital team for Fremantle Media and also worked in London as a development producer for the BBC and production companies including Tiger Aspect.

I have two children, which still blows my mind when I write a paragraph like this.

Emilia Mazza

I am a journalist, and lifestyle journalism is my wheelhouse.

My career began in 2014, after finishing a postgraduate diploma in journalism.

Fresh out of university, I landed a job working nights loading the print edition of the New Zealand Herald onto its website.

Although I didn’t get to do much writing at the New Zealand Herald, the job gave me a great digital skillset.

I have since worked as a lifestyle writer for Bauer Media New Zealand and more recently for The Daily Mail Australia.

In 2020 I took a break from working to support an ill family member.

Although I don’t currently have a writing job, I have kept fuelling my passion through studying towards a Master of Creative Writing at the University of Sydney along with taking on freelance content writing jobs.

For me, the Relaunch Project is an exciting next step in reinvigorating a much-loved career.

I am looking forward to developing under the guidance of a professional community as well as surrounding myself with like-minded people.

And I look forward to giving back what is given to me to hopefully inspire others on their journey.

Daisy Dumas

Daisy Dumas is a former Sydney Morning Herald senior writer, now freelancing from her home in the Northern Rivers.

She has worked as a journalist in newsrooms in London and New York and focuses on humanitarian and environmental stories.

Clients include The Guardian, SBS and the ABC.

Claire Slattery

I am a journalist with more than a decade of experience working in media and communications.

I am currently employed at SBS producing radio news and current affairs.

I have previously worked as a reporter with ABC’s flagship radio current affairs programs AM, PM and The World Today.

My first paid job as a journalist was in local news with the ABC in central Victoria, covering cops, courts and councils – a fabulous training ground.

But I first fell in love with radio back in high school when I became involved in a youth program at a community station in Melbourne.

In between times I have worked in lifestyle journalism, as a radio trainer, a speech writer, and a copyeditor.

Journalism has taken me from regional Victoria to southeast Asia, back to Melbourne, with time also spent working in the arts and cultural sectors, as well as in communications at RMIT University.

I have two beautiful kids, including an eight-year-old, and a pandemic baby, now aged two.

While I like to joke that my son learnt to talk from listening to Jon Faine (who was always on the radio at our house), my resume is full of words like “flexible” and “adaptable”, from all the career acrobatics I have performed since having kids.

When I saw the Relaunch Project, it seemed to be handmade for someone like me, and I am thrilled to have been chosen for this year’s intake.

Annabelle Hudson

Annabelle Hudson has worked in media for about a decade, starting off in TV journalism with WIN News Toowoomba.

She has worked across multiple platforms including print, radio and TV but now works for the Australian Government as an Assistant Director of Media and Communications with the Inspector-General of Water Compliance.

Now living in Dubbo NSW, Annabelle welcomed her first child in November 2021 and her desire to continue advancing her career meant she returned to work earlier than she initially planned.

In being accepted into the Relaunch Project, Annabelle hopes to meet other like-minded women who have been in her position; learning to find the right balance between family and work while excelling in both – without having to sacrifice one for the other.


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