Meet your local hero finalists

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Meet your local hero finalists

Read about your Westfield Local Hero finalists

Westfield Local Heroes is a community recognition and grants program, connecting and enriching local communities.

Westfield Local Heroes are nominated and voted for by their communities, with the outcome of the public vote determining the three successful 2019 nominees for Westfield Burwood. Each of the affiliated organisations for the successful three heroes will be awarded a $10,000 grant to support their work to thrive. In total, Westfield will be awarding 120 grants across Australia and New Zealand – totalling $1.2 million.

Your Westfield Local Heroes will be announced here on 1 October.

Your six finalists for Westfield Burwood are:

Aracely Barreras

Inner West Community Drug Action Team
Inspiring . Innovative . Tenacious

Aracely Barreras was raised in poverty in the US; the likes of which, she says, almost guarantees personal and professional failure. She knew the way to succeed was through education, so she completed two degrees and is studying for a post-graduate nursing degree. As she is in Australia on a student visa, Aracely can work only limited hours, all of which she dedicates to improving the lives of at-risk people through the Inner West Community Drug Action Team. One of Aracely’s innovations is a website on which community members can self-refer for assessments and services.

Westfield Local Heroes are nominated and voted for by their communities, with the three top finalists per Westfield centre each awarded a $10,000 grant for their affiliated organisation. If Aracely is successful, Drug Action Team will train extra staff to offer support services to families whose children are at risk. The money would also be used to buy food for families in need.


Bassam Maaliki

Settlement Services International
Determined . Thoughtful . Caring

Year-11 student Bassam Maaliki has been dedicated to helping refugees and other migrants feel welcome in Australia since he was 13 years old. As a second-generation Lebanese Muslim, his difficulties with racism and bigotry inspired him to campaign for change in his community and at school. His first project was an innovative #uBelong badge and key that people wear in solidarity with refugees, migrants, those that feel alone, those that feel unheard and those that feel helpless. Bassam also organised a #uBelong flashmob choir in Sydney, which was an emotional event attended by 800 people.

Westfield Local Heroes are nominated and voted for by their communities, with the three top finalists per Westfield centre each awarded a $10,000 grant for their affiliated organisation. If Bassam is successful, SSI will expand the uBelong here initiative, including the development of a website and app that provide resources and enable young people to interact and to express themselves through writing and art.


Bev Lange

Stepping Out Program
Committed . Dedicated . Confident

When it was time for Bev Lange to move on from her position as General Manager of the Stepping Out Program (SOP), she was so committed to the charity that she took on a board position on a volunteer basis. Stepping Out supports women who have experienced childhood sexual abuse, and Bev chairs the fund-raising committee, oversees marketing and has been instrumental in coordinating and promoting a social inclusion group. “The program focuses on supporting the process of recovery and empowering survivors to achieve independence within their community,” says Bev.

Westfield Local Heroes are nominated and voted for by their communities, with the three top finalists per Westfield centre each awarded a $10,000 grant for their affiliated organisation. If Bev is successful, SOP will increase the number of locations and participants in the social inclusion group.


Biljana Milosevic

Jannawi Family Centre
Ethical . Nurturing . Inclusive

Biljana Milosevic knew from a young age that she wanted to be a social worker. Her passion is social justice and, as director of Jannawi Family Centre, she runs two programs aimed at breaking cycles of family violence and abuse. “My greatest achievement is running an effective charity where significant improvements occur in the lives of the people we work with,” says Biljana, who is the first person in her family to gain a university degree. She and her team work with culturally diverse families to help them provide a safe, happy and healthy upbringing for their children.

Westfield Local Heroes are nominated and voted for by their communities, with the three top finalists per Westfield centre each awarded a $10,000 grant for their affiliated organisation. If Biljana is successful, Jannawi will upgrade its website to raise awareness about sexual abuse and offer useful information to the community about the impact of domestic and family violence on children. It will also provide free training in its evidence-based approach to external professionals.


Jackie Walters

Inner West Neighbour Aid
Compassionate . Personable . Resilient

Jackie Walters is committed to helping older people to live independently and stay socially connected to their community. She leads a compassionate team at the Inner West Neighbour Aid charity who provide services such as assisted shopping, exercise classes, day outings, pet care and social visits to more than 300 older people. More than half of the clients live alone, and for many Neighbour Aid is their only link to the outside world. “We help people build friendships and maintain their health and wellbeing, which assists in reducing loneliness, depression and anxiety,” says Jackie.

Westfield Local Heroes are nominated and voted for by their communities, with the three top finalists per Westfield centre each awarded a $10,000 grant for their affiliated organisation. If Jackie is successful, Inner West Neighbour Aid will extend its intergenerational activities, which include assisted shopping, lunches and dance performances.


Paula Nicolas

St Merkorious Charity
Passionate . Caring . Visionary

When Paula Nicolas started cooking meals in her kitchen for six families, she had no idea her initiative would grow into a major local charity distributing thousands of meals a week. Paula founded St Merkorious in 2013 and provides cooked meals to the disabled, elderly and homeless, and food hampers to people who can cook for themselves but are unable to afford essential items. Her charity embraces each client on a personal level. “We chat and, most importantly, we listen. We know the stories of each and every client,” says Paula.

Westfield Local Heroes are nominated and voted for by their communities, with the three top finalists per Westfield centre each awarded a $10,000 grant for their affiliated organisation. If Paula is successful, St Merkorious will fund 38,000 meals for the poor, which is a 10-week supply.


Recognising all our 2019 nominees

View all of the nominees and their organisation

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