Marilyn Forsythe

BPW Australia President

1999             BPW NSW Communications Officer

2001 - 2006     BPW NSW State President  

2005 – 2008    Chair BPW International UNIFEM Committee

2006 – 2007   Chair BPW Australia National Council Review                 

2014 – 2017   BPW International Sub Regional Coordinator Oceania

2016               Chair BPWI Global Compact Signatory Campaign

Clubs:       BPW Parramatta 1998 - 2012

                    BPW Cessnock 2012 – Current

Occupation: Health Service Manager

Marilyn joined BPW Parramatta in 1998 after looking for a women’s organisation that focused on: women’s rights in relation to gender equity; a society free from violence; and gender-balanced representation on decision-making committees at all levels. Within nine years of joining BPW, Marilyn was elected President at the Parramatta National Conference in 2007.

While working in a number of Public Hospitals in NSW, Marilyn had a twenty year union involvement representing staff, particularly female staff, with disputes with management in the NSW public health system. In 2011 Marilyn was made a Life Member of the Health Service Union of New South Wales.

From 2007 when the new BPWA Board was elected, it was a time of change for BPW Australia and the Australian Community. In 2010 Julia Gillard was elected as the first woman Prime Minister and in 2011 Quentin Bryce was appointed the first woman Governor General.


  • A new membership category of Student Membership with a reduced member fee
  • BPW Australia wrote to every member of the House of Representatives to request their support to pass the Paid Parental Leave Bill which was duly passed.
  • In 2009 President Marilyn Forsythe wrote to Barack Obama, United States President to congratulate his Government on the overturning of the Abortion Gag that was a health policy that prohibited funding to foreign aid organisations that provide abortion services.  The same policy  was in effect in Australia. A copy of the letter was sent to Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and within one month the Australian policy was overturned
  • Sandra Cook, BPW Australia Director of Policy, was elected as Chair of Economic Security for Women Alliance
  • Establishment of the Equal Pay Day National Alliance and website with over 100 members including unions, academics  and non-government organisations
  • BPWA was the second BPW International Federation to establish an Equal Pay Day campaign and to run events that raised awareness of the 17% pay gap in Australia between women's and men's average salary.
  • The establishment of the BPW Australia Keys to Achievement personal and professional development program for members. Fifty members achieved the highest level of Gold Status
  • BPW Australia was accepted as a signatory to the United Nations Global Compact and became a partner of the Global Compact Network Australia
  • BPWA became a Community Partner with the White Ribbon Foundation that seeks to change the attitudes and behaviours that lead to and perpetuate men's violence against women, by engaging boys and men to lead social change.
  • Re-birth of  BPW Melbourne which had not been operating for many years
  • The Charter of BPW Strathfield in partnership with Faye Helou, BPW Australia Woman of the Year
Establishment of several new national awards that recognised the outstanding achievements of individual members and clubs:

Pat Harrison Award 
Named after Past BPWI International President, Dr Pat Harrison. The award recognises the most outstanding Club President.

Beryl Nashar Outstanding Woman of Achievement Award 
Named after Past President of BPW Australia and Past President of BPW International, Beryl Nashar. The award recognises a member who has made an outstanding achievement to BPW Australia during the term between National Conferences
    BPW Australia Power to Make a Difference Award 
    The award is for a club that had made a significant improvement for women through advocacy, action or leadership; it parallels a similar BPWI Award

    • Declining membership due to the number of clubs that closed principally due to the aging of members
    • The continuing challenge of club members not wanting to stand for Club Executive positions which caused many clubs to flounder.
    • Very few clubs were started in the period from 2007 to 2013
    • Young  women under 35 years did not see BPW membership as an essential tool to progress their career or simply did not have time to attended meetings
    • Communication between the National Board and the states suffered when all the State Divisions, except BPW Western Australia, were closed.


    2011 BPW International Award - Power to Make a Difference through Advocacy for Women (second Place) shared with Sandra Cook.  The Award was for the campaign to create a National Equal Pay Alliance for equal pay for women.

    2014 BPW International Award – Power to Make a Difference through Action (second place). BPW Australia becoming a signatory to the United Nations Global Compact.

    2013 BPW International Certificate of Honour

    2014   Edna Ryan Award for activity that advance the status of women.

    BPW Australia Board 2007 to 2010

    President Marilyn Forsythe

    Director of Policy Sandra Cook

    Director of Operations  Jasmyn Mumme

    Director of Finance Lyn Moran (Resigned 2008)

    Kay Morrison (2008-2010)

    Director Young BPW    Alicia Curtis

    Executive Secretary  Sharon Hill

    Marketing Officer Bridgette Engeler Newbury

    State Representative Qld Debbie Rychvalsky

    State Representative NSW Sandra D’Souza (Resigned 2010)

                                       Kay Morrison (2010)

    State Representative VIC Diana Barnet

    State Representative SA Valerie Bonython

    State Representative WA Arlene Quinn

    State Representative NT Heather Veal

    Immediate Past President Kay Morrison

    BPW Australia Board 2010 to 2013

    President Marilyn Forsythe

    Director of Policy Sandra Cook

    Director of Membership Liz Flatters (Resigned 2011)

    Mary Dean (2011-2013)

    Director of Marketing Bridgette Engeler Newbury

    Director of Finance Heather Veal

    Director Young BPW Sara Lynch

    Executive Secretary Debbie Rychvalsky

    State Representative Qld Michelle Halvorsen

    State Representative NSW Margaret Tipper

    State Representative VIC June Kane

    State Representative SA Perla Soberon-Brittle

    State Representative WA Jasmyn Mumme

    State Representative NT Lia Finocchiaro     

    Thank you to the women behind the BPW Australia Past President History Project:
    Project Leader, Past President Marilyn Forsythe (2007-2013), 
    Past President Kay Morrison (2004-2007), Margaret Tipper, BPWA Executive Secretary (2016+), Robyn Duncan (BPWA Public Officer), Trish Clifford (BPW Central Coast) and Jean Murray (Immediate Past BPWA Executive Secretary) for their assistance and research.  The Past President History will continue to expand as information becomes available about the National Presidents since 1947.  

    Please submit further information and photos to

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