Maria Palumbo, a Port Pirie born businesswoman has been recognised for her success in the social services sector, and has been announced as a finalist for the Telstra Business Women's Awards.
Currently the chief executive officer for Junction Australia, Maria started her life in Port Pirie and used the country city to find her passion before excelling ahead in leadership. She started out in a traineeship for Pasminco, now Nyrstar, in commerce which enabled her to work and study in her home town before jetting off to Melbourne to become an accountant.
"It was not until I started having my children that I decided to move back to Port Pirie. I ended up staying for a good seven years and reimmersed myself back in the community," Maria said.
In the community of Port Pirie is where Maria explains her success lies. She started working for Uniting Care Wesley, which is now known as Uniting Country SA, and it was not what she thought it was going to be.
"I was trying to get back into the smelters and as this was happening, this job came up and long story short, I fell in love with the work. I felt like the minute I got there, within six months I had found a sense of purpose," she said. "Before that I just worked to build my career. But this had such a sense of purpose and aligned to me so strongly that my work became more about my work than it was about me and that was 20 years ago."
As a female CEO, Maria says she is thankful for the current CEO of Uniting Country SA, Anthea Pavy, who led the way in female empowerment and encouraged her to take every step possible to be successful. "I would actually say that she had an enormous influence in where I ended up in my career. She has inspired me as a female leader. I just became so inspired by her that I felt I needed to become her myself."
As she worked her way to the CEO position, Maria has had many milestones of achievement where she's been able to look back and be proud of what she's done.
"The highlight for me has been the individual stories that I have come across in my career of people who have started in the most adverse scenarios and seen success. I have been able to secure funding for new projects and new buildings that were innovative in homeless services and a lot of reform in homelessness services."
Maria's board members nominated her for the award and it was not something that she expected.
"We get too busy and don't get time to feel good about what we have done. I didn't ask for the acknowledgement or expect it but it is a really nice thing to have and be able to reflect on," she said.
The awards ceremony is being held on April 2.