FOR years, Colleen Condliffe has cheered other women on as their achievements were recognised at the Zonta Club of Bendigo's annual International Women's Day dinner.
She found herself in the spotlight on Tuesday, thanks to the efforts of the Bridgewater community.
Colleen was named the club's Woman of Achievement in acknowledgement of her tireless work on a number of fronts, from improving assets in her community to providing a platform for women in farming.
"I think I'm really, actually shocked," she said, accepting the award.
She suspected a group of women from Bridgewater had put her name forward.
The award's sponsors recognised Colleen's willingness to be a positive force for change.
She was recognised as someone who, if she came across something that struck her as not quite right, would do something about it.
Colleen's involvements throughout the years ranged from paving the way for women's representation on the Loddon Shire Council, to mentoring other women, and from caring for the land to supporting rural farming families who were experiencing hardship.
Bendigo Foodshare's Bridget Bentley and Ginny Tan of SisterWorks were fellow Woman of Achievement Award finalists.
The Woman of Achievement Award recognises women's leadership and the positive impact those leaders have on their communities.
The International Women's Day dinner raises support for Zonta Bendigo's scholarships and awards, several of which were presented on the night.
More than 140 people attended the dinner, which was in Bendigo's All Seasons Hotel.
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Amelia Bailey, of Bendigo Senior Secondary College, was presented with the Zonta Young Women in Public Affairs Award.
Dakota Cumming was awarded the Gwen Symons Scholarship, with Olivia Hausler-Cannon named as runner-up. The award aims to encourage young women to complete their VCE studies.
Eva Jan was awarded the Ann Horrocks STEM Award for a second year, while Natasha Smith was named as the recipient of the Heather Winderlich Nursing scholarship.
Zonta Bendigo's annual International Women's Day dinner is in its 30th year.
Club president Janet Cobden thanked the event's sponsors for their support.
"Our sponsors have ensured that we will secure the funding to continue our scholarship programs," she said.
The evening was a celebration of the International Women's Day theme, "Choose to Challenge".
The theme intends to encourage people to call out gender bias and inequality.
"We can all choose to seek out and celebrate women's achievements. Collectively, we can all help create an inclusive world," the International Women's Day website stated.
Zonta Bendigo keynote speaker Alexandra Gartmann, of Rural Bank and Bendigo and Adelaide Bank, spoke to some of the forms gender bias and inequality had taken in her life and career, and some of the ways she and those who had shared her journey had challenged them.
The evening's lasting message was one of empowerment, encouragement and support for women and girls.
March 8 is International Women's Day.
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