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 Eastgardens 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 Eastgardens. 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 Eastgardens are:

Peter Cooley: First Hand Solutions Aboriginal Corp


Passionate. Dedicated. Unselfish.
Peter is the CEO of First Hand Solutions Aboriginal Corp and has been working with Aboriginal youth for the last 15 years to help them reconnect to culture and build them into strong community leaders. Peter facilitates youth Leadership camps, road trips and cultural exchange trips. He also delivers leadership programs for Indigenous youth in juvenile justice centres around Sydney. Peter has recently created a new social enterprise called IndigiGrow which is a native bushfood and plant production project located in La Perouse public school including development of a unit of work for students. The grant would go towards employing young Indigenous people in the IndigiGrow project.The more investment in this initiative the bigger the impact and benefits are in the local Indigenous community.

Lara Galea: The Shack Youth Services


Caring. Giving. Dedicated.
Lara coordinates The Shack Youth Services' Shack Tutoring program. Shack Tutoring is an early intervention and prevention program, supporting disadvantaged young people from year 6 up to year 12. The program provides young people with access to free tutoringand educational support. Lara works tirelessly to enrol young people in the program and works alongside UNSW to ensure as many young people as possible arematched with a tutor. Each week, Lara attends all tutoring sessions to engage young peopleand families. The $10,000 grant would help The Shack open a Drop-In service, which would provide a safe and inclusive space for young people to connect, enjoy recreational activities, gain access to healthy food options and complete homework tasks. It would also contribute to running events for attendees, as well as purchasing new equipment and covering advertising costs to increase awareness of the program

Randa Habelrih: Emrich MATES


Passionate. Inspiring. Leader.
Randa is passionate about shifting the focus from autism awareness, to autism acceptance and inclusion. Through her work at Emrich Mates, Randa helps to provide opportunities and events which celebrate the strength of the individual and reset the standards of inclusion. Randa organises multiple events for all her MATES initiatives such as Leaders2MATES, ModelMATES events, Autism and ME conferences as well as online support groups for parents, and Autism MATES Awards which revolve around empowerment and changing the victim mindset that is often associated with disability and challenges. The $10,000 grant would help Randa reach more schools by enriching the program and having a stronger impact on children from the community.

Kylie Ostle: Mum Society


Honest. Passionate. Dedicated.
Mum Society is a community group supporting women to better navigate the inevitable changes in life, career, business and parenting. They advocate for mums in business, mums experiencing discrimination in the workplace and they celebrate companies that areprogressive and have flexible and family friendly workplaces. Each month, they host a TEDx style talk for mums over a fully catered brunch. Children are welcome and in fact encouraged and supported with the on-site creche. They are about connection and about supporting women when they need it most. Kylie has sourced 450 flexible jobs for mums to re-enter the workplace within companies that understand the value and needs of a young family. If chosen as a Westfield Local Hero, the grant would support projects that Kylie is planning including ‘The Mat Leave Project’, an online platform to help mums maximise maternity leave, and ‘Pay-it-forward-Legal’, a legal support network for mothers facing discrimination in the workplace.

Sophie Panigirakis: Bayside Women's Shelter


Up beat. Positive. Hard working.
Every night, more than 52,000 women are homeless as a direct result of domestic and family violence. Women’s Community Shelters’ research shows that for every shelter bed they have available, there are five requests for it. Bayside Women's Shelter will shelter 30 women and their children per year escape domestic violence and homelessness. Sophie is a volunteer board member for the establishment of the Bayside Women's Shelter. The Shelter, opening in 2018, aims to provide transitional accommodation to women and their children who are homeless and leaving domestic and family violence. Since joining the Board 18 months ago, Sophie has worked tirelessly to develop the Shelter's public profile, engaging with local communities, media, council and with the broader community. The grant of $10,000 will be used to help establish the Shelter, purchasing goods and services where needed (electrical items, furniture, or a security system for the shelter).

Samantha Payne: The Pink Elephants Support Network


Beautiful. Supportive. Tenacious.
1 in 4 pregnancies in Australia end in miscarriage, however even though so many couples experience this loss, there is limited support available for them. Through The Pink Elephants, Samantha has created a network for others experiencing the same grief, as well as producing support literature and online resources to help guide couples through the emotional turmoil of loss and infertility. Sam is the co-founder and does so many different tasks to ensure the success of the charity from writing content to contacting press for reach and also networking with hospitals and GP's to distribute the care kits. The $10,000 Local Heroes grant would enable The Pink Elephants network to increase their reach to more suffering parents through marketing and advertising.

Recognising all our 2018 nominees

View all of the nominees and their organisation

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