Leonie Noble is a force for change. She uses her role as President of the National Rural Women’s Coalition to influence and create space for women both in Australia and internationally.
For Leonie, “It all started when I married a fisherman.” Being a fisherman’s wife in Western Australia meant spending 5 to 6 months a year at the Abrolhos Islands. It was during one of these stints, after yet another government edict which had a significant impact on the local fishing community, that Leonie lost patience. She felt the government should be consulting prior to delivering their changes. So, she rounded up the local fisher folk and started an organisation which in rapid time grew and became the voice of the Abrolhos with governments consistently consulting in a respectful and professional way.
After much letter writing, their voice was heard, and the Minister came to visit. He was impressed with the Abrolhos community and their stewardship but in the case of Leonie, the then Minister for fisheries felt if she wanted greater input then she would need to become part of the team that developed policy. Soon she was allocated to a number of boards and committees. As the only woman in attendance, she was often confused with the tea lady. One time, she recounts, she was greeted with, “It’s great to have you here Leonie, now can you make the coffee.” To which she replied: “No thanks, but I will have a tea with one sugar.”
Leonie is passionate about stopping bullying behaviour and discrimination regardless of who is displaying it. She is immensely proud of the culture her team has created at the National Rural Women’s Coalition (NRWC) of which she is the National President. They work with Rural Regional and Remote women, Indigenous and migrant women, the LGBTQI+ community, and Women with Disabilities to name a few. Leonie says, “We do this because we believe that by empowering women, we empower a community. The lessons of equity and equality, and the difference between the two, become easy lessons to take home and be shared with and by everyone.”
Many of her other actions were driven by the desire not to be the token woman and to help other women obtain a voice. She soon discovered awards were a wonderful way to give women a profile which allowed them access to sponsors, governments, and open doors. In the seafood industry, to balance the men recognised for lifetime achievements, she created the Women in Seafood’s Honour Role. This launched in 2019 with an inaugural twenty women recognised.
As President of Women in Seafood Australasia (WISA), she automatically became part of the Rural Women’s Coalition. It was her roles in WISA and the NRWC that aided Leonie’s application to become an Australian Delegate to attend the APEC WEF in Peru. As part of the delegation, she realised many of the issues women face are the same across the globe. Whilst there she connected with the Chilean delegation and soon became a mentor for their women from the seafood industry.
Since then, Leonie has not looked back. For the past decade, she has been working in the Civil Society Human Rights arena fighting for equality and equity across the globe. This is through speaking at forums such as international conferences and attendance at the UN Commission for the Status of Women (CSW) in New York each year and the Economic and Social Commission for the Asia Pacific in Bangkok. She humbly comments about how much of an impact the Australian Rural Women’s contingent has had on some of the global policies and that Australia is highly regarded on the world stage.
These days, she is still not taking no for an answer and continues to find new ways to open doors for civil rights and women’s leadership and influence in many locations. Her advice is, “Do what you need to do, make it happen, and don’t worry about what others think.”