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New Advisors Joining the Australia-Vietnam Leadership Dialogue

The Australia-Vietnam Leadership Dialogue (AVLD) is delighted to welcome Michelle Woolven and Dr Dagmar Schmidmaier AM to our team as Advisors, and announce the return of AVLD co-founder and former board member Cat-Thao Nguyen who will be providing ongoing support as a Special Advisor.

In 2016, Cat-Thao co-founded the Australia-Vietnam Leadership Dialogue, formerly known as the Australia-Vietnam Young Leadership Dialogue, to bring leaders from both Vietnam and Australia to accelerate contributions to prosperity, sustainability and social justice. She served as the Board Chair from 2019 to December 2021.

“AVLD is a unique organisation that creates and nurtures a network of exceptional young leaders of Australia and Vietnam to advance the sustainable development of both nations,” Ms Nguyen said.

“I have been deeply inspired by the dedication of AVLD volunteers and the commitment to sustainability among AVLD alumni. I am delighted to continue working with a group of purpose-driven leaders to achieve our vision and to be the leading non-government voice on Australia-Vietnam relations.”

Ms Woolven and Dr Dagmar have substantial board, executive leadership and operational experience. They are currently Directors of The Thinking Woman & Co, and will be helping AVLD upgrade its organisational architecture for sustainable growth and build strategic partnerships to accelerate the impact of AVLD initiatives.

Speaking on behalf of The Thinking Woman & Co, Ms Woolven shared: “I am honoured that Dagmar and I have been selected to work alongside AVLD and support its strategy for growth and resilience.

“With the support of the AVLD Board and Steering Committee, we are absolutely committed to helping AVLD build on the strong progress achieved over past years and continuing to deliver impactful and sustainable outcomes for all our stakeholders.”

Dr Melissa Jardine, Board Chair of AVLD, welcomes the new Advisors, saying: “Our organisation is embarking on the next horizon of our five-year strategy, we are excited to grow our team with three incredible women leaders.”

“The new Advisors all bring strong business and leadership experience to AVLD, share our values and understand the importance that AVLD places on partnerships. We are thrilled they will help us rapidly build on the great partnerships we already have, especially in the lead up to the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Australia and Vietnam in 2023.”

Launched in 2021, the AVLD 2021 - 2025 Strategic Plan is a collective effort to define sustainability for the organisation, following extensive consultation with important stakeholders in the AVLD community. The strategy signals a new stage as we mature through dramatic global crises including the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change.

Cat-Thao Nguyen, Special Advisor of the Australia-Vietnam Leadership Dialogue

Cat -Thao Nguyen is co-founder and former Chair of AVLD. She is the Managing Director of Global Ready LLC and a Lumina Learning Partner. Cat-Thao Nguyen assists organisations and individuals to lead inclusively and relearn being human in a globalised world.

As a first-generation Australian born to Vietnamese parents, Ms Cat-Thao Nguyen has spent time living in both Australia and Vietnam across her lifetime, and has a keen understanding of the various issues that intersect both countries including trade and education.

Cat-Thao Nguyen has contributed significantly to the bilateral space between Australia and Vietnam. During her career, Ms Nguyen has held a number of senior roles in corporate law, private equity and international education, including Regional Director for Vietnam, Myanmar and Cambodia at UTS College, Managing Head of Ernst & Young Law Vietnam LLC and a Director of the Australian Chamber of Commerce in Vietnam.

Cat-Thao has also served on the boards of Loreto Vietnam, Special Broadcasting Service (SBS) in Australia and NSW Ethnic Communities Council.

In 2015, she published her memoir titled “We Are Here”, chronicling her family’s compelling journey leaving Vietnam by foot across Cambodia and their experiences as new migrants in Australia during the 1980s.

Michelle Woolven and Dr Dagmar Schmidmaier AM, Advisors of the Australia-Vietnam Leadership Dialogue

Michelle Woolven and Dr Dagmar Schimdmaier AM are Directors of The Thinking Woman Co. Both joined AVLD in May 2022 as consultants to help AVLD’s growth and development.

Ms Woolven has extensive experience in operations and business development. Previously, she was the Director of Leader Development for Chief Executive Women (CEW), and prior to this role, Michelle was CEW’s National Program Executive for Australia and Singapore.

Michelle is creative and entrepreneurial – skills which she honed early in her career by managing an Interior Design business and importing homewares from Asia and Europe.

Michelle has qualifications in Leadership from The Said Business School – Oxford University and Entrepreneurship from RMIT, as well as a variety of Design qualifications.

Dr Schmidmaier has been a Senior Executive for over 35 years, including 11 years as the CEO of the State Library of NSW.

She served as Director of the highly successful Chief Executive Women’s Leaders Program, delivering innovative leadership programs in Australia and Asia for 13 years until 2021.

Previously, Dr Schmidmaier was an academic at the Univerisity of Technology Sydney and is a former chairperson of the Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing (CHeBA) - University of New South Wales and Australian War Widows NSW, and was a director of the Alzheimers Australia NSW.

Dagmar was awarded an Order of Australia in 2004 and a Centenary Medal in 2003. The University of NSW awarded her a Doctor of Letters in 1999 and the Alumni Award for Arts/Law in 2006. Dagmar is profiled in ‘A Fair Go, Portraits of the Australian Dream; fifty inspiring Australians’ by Wendy McCarthy AO.


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