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Tamara Sheward

TropicNow writer

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Eco-entrepreneur named Cairns Region Woman of the Year


Passionate eco-entrepreneur, community role model and smasher of gender stereotypes Kate Fern has been named this year’s Cairns Region Woman of the Year.

The annual award, presented this morning at the Cairns Regional Council’s International Women’s Day breakfast, recognises the exceptional achievements of local women.

Ms Fern is the driving force behind The Power of Pallets, a program that upcycles unwanted wooden pallets into items that are sold to raise funds for the FNQ Hospital Foundation.

The program also provides a Work-for-the-Dole opportunity, giving long-term unemployed people the chance to develop skills that will assist them in gaining ongoing employment.

At the presentation this morning, Mayor Bob Manning said Ms Fern’s program reduced waste, encouraged creativity and job skills and supported a great cause.

“Most of the pallets would otherwise have ended up in landfill,” Cr Manning said.

“Kate has stepped in to salvage these pallets and give them new life as furniture, cubby houses or other items, all while supporting an important local charity.”

In addition to tackling waste and unemployment with The Power of Pallets, Fern has developed further Work-for-the-Dole programs through the establishment of training café Eato’s, the Manoora Community Garden and a project to produce a calendar for YAPS.

Having achieved a successful career in construction and hardware, Ms Fern is accustomed to breaking through gender stereotypes.

“Kate is a shining example of a woman who has the drive and determination to set her own path,” Cr Manning said.

“This is matched by her tremendous compassion for others, demonstrated by her support of many charities.

“She is truly a wonderful role model and an asset to our region.”

The ceremony also named Cairns author Carla Schesser the region’s Young Woman of the Year.

The young entrepreneur, public speaker and author of #Success - Mastering the Basics to a Happy, Healthy & Wealthy Life was recognised for her achievements in helping other young people to succeed in life, and hailed for her passion in inspiring and educating people to live a life they loved.

Ms Schesser published her first book at the age of 19 and is now working to implement a program into high schools that aims to provide the tools that will empower youth to take control of their future.