Meet your Westfield Local Hero Finalists

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Meet your Westfield Local Hero Finalists

In the first year of the Westfield Local Heroes program, we have received an overwhelming response and many heart-warming stories after asking the Airport West community to nominate individuals who they believe promote social wellbeing and harmony in their communities.

We congratulate every one of our nominees and recognise the important contribution they make to the local community.

The community has now cast its vote, the outcome of which will determine the three successful 2018 Westfield Local Heroes for Westfield Airport West. Each of their affiliated organisations will be awarded a $10,000 grant to support their work, program or activities.

The successful Westfield Local Heroes will be announced on 13 August.

Your six finalists for Westfield Airport West are:

Sarah Akamo: Grace: West Melbourne Families against Domestic Violence Inc.


Friendly. Humble. Humanitarian.
Sarah provides support to women and children affected by domestic violence in the form of physical ‘Grace Care Packages’, which consist of non-perishable/long life pantry items, toiletries, sanitary and hygiene items in a reusable grocery bag. As the Founder of Grace, Sarah is at the forefront sourcing and collecting donations, preparing and distributing Grace Care packages on a regular basis, to community support providers who support women affected by domestic violence, as well as women’s refuges and local government Maternal and Child Health Nurses.
The demand for Grace Care Packages has grown considerably and if successful, the $10,000 grant would be used to fund 24 x Grace Care Packages per month for the next 12 months to help vulnerable women and children in the Airport West community.

Marisa Debattista: Second Chance Animal Rescue (SCAR)


Inspirational. Proactive. Dedicated.
Marisa created the SCAR outreach pet program to help underprivileged pet owners to care for the needs of their loved companion animals when they could not. She provides care for homeless and unwanted dogs and cats, supports the community to be responsible pet owners and contributes to a society where companion animals are valued, have a loving home and are treated with compassion and respect.
If successful, the $10,000 grant would enable the SCAR outreach program to run for an additional six months with confidence knowing that another 200 families would benefit from lifesaving surgeries for their pets, preventative veterinary care and supplying much needed pet food and essentials to disadvantaged families and their pets.

Gareth Hanlon: Westmeadows Football Club


Courageous. Altruistic. Dedicated.
Gareth has been the President of the Westmeadows Football Club since 2016, and is passionate about creating a dynamic and positive culture and a space for social inclusion. A strong believer in gender equality, in 2017 he oversaw the introduction of women’s teams into the club, starting with an U15 and U18 girl’s teams, which has now grown into an U9s, U11s, U13s, U15s and the club’s first Women’s side for the 2018 season.
If successful, the $10,000 grant would be used to update the female facilities at the Club to ensure equality with the men’s facilities including the addition of a baby change area and improved private change rooms, as well as to improve disability access at the club.

Katie Koullas: Yellow Ladybugs (YLB)


Passionate. Inspiring. Bright.
Katie is on a mission to improve the lives of autistic girls and women by raising acceptance and awareness about the female presentation of autism in the education, employment, medical and general community. As the CEO of Yellow Ladybugs (YLB), she passionately oversees all aspects of YLB’s advocacy and event management, including the creation of social events where girls can come together and have the opportunity to meet and bond over their similar journey.
If successful, the $10,000 grant will be used to run four events to directly assist autistic girls in the Airport West local area, enabling the establishment of local peer connections.

Ana Mrnjaus: Western Melbourne Volunteer Branch of Make-A-Wish


Welcoming. Nurturing. Motivated.
Ana is the president of the Western Melbourne Volunteer Branch of Make-A-Wish Australia, which grants wishes to seriously ill children, having a significant impact on their physical, mental and emotional health and wellbeing. For eight years, Ana has worked tirelessly to grant wishes to seriously ill children with life threatening illnesses and over this time has granted 79 wishes, with 25 more wishes currently in progress.
If successful, the $10,000 grant will be applied to individual wishes of wish children in the Airport West local community and making these wishes come true, with examples including ‘I wish to be a firefighter for a day’, ‘I wish to play with an elephant’ and ‘I wish to go on an adventure with my favourite superheroes’.

Veronica O’Brien: Roxburgh Rise Primary School


Passionate. Devoted. Caring.
In her role as the Community Hub Coordinator at the Roxburgh Rise Primary School, Veronica works to create a welcoming, safe and supportive space for families from diverse cultural backgrounds, especially new arrivals, refugees and migrant families with young children. Veronica is deeply committed to providing moral and emotional support for the 55 refugees families at the school, through the Women’s Voices Program and Playgroup for 0-5 year old’s, which offers families the ability to connect, learn and share experiences.
If successful, the $10,000 grant would be used to fund the continuation of the Women’s Voices Group and Playgroup programs to allow additional families to participate, learn and connect.

Recognising all our 2018 nominees

View all of the nominees and their organisations

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