Thank you for voting for your Westfield Local Hero

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Thank you for voting for your Westfield Local Hero

We congratulate all of our finalists and recognise the important contribution they make to the local community. The successful Westfield Local Heroes will be announced on 27 October.

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 2020 nominees for every Westfield centre. Each of the affiliated organisations of the successful heroes will be awarded a $10,000 grant to support their work to thrive. Westfield will award 126 grants across Australia and New Zealand – totalling $1.26 million.


Your finalists for Westfield Eastgardens are:

Bailey Fitzgerald

Maroubra Movement
Driven. Inspirational. Generous

Bailey Fitzgerald had been vice-captain of his high school, had captained representative footy teams and he had a supportive family and friends. But he was also battling severe anxiety and depression. Now, aged just 21, he is giving back and has launched the Maroubra Movement to help others improve their mental health.

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 Bailey is successful, the Maroubra Movement will use its grant to market the seminars, provide food for guests and buy branded merchandise.

If you need support, please phone Lifeline: 13 11 14


Kate Melhopt

South Eastern Community Connect (SECC)
Humble. Selfless. Giving

Kate Melhopt's career spans roles as a psychiatric social worker in New Zealand, working with mentally disordered people in London and trauma work in Sri Lanka. But she is proudest of her achievements in and around Eastlakes as CEO of South Eastern Community Connect, which supports locals of every age. "I feel my work has positively impacted the local community through the provision of a number of services which simply didn't exist before. These include whole-of-life services, as opposed to simply families and aged care 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 Kate is successful, SECC will invest in a community kitchen and cafe as well as supporting their mental health and wellbeing programmes.


Lorin Muhlmann

Bayside Women's Shelter
Dedicated. Compassionate. Selfless

Big-hearted Lorin Muhlmann is the Fundraising Director at Bayside Women's Shelter and faces the task of having to raise at least $200,000 a year to cover rent and operating costs. That's a big ask for a local shelter. While national organisations can rely on big corporate donors, smaller not-for-profits need to work hard at sourcing many smaller donations. But Lorin gets the job done. "I am incredibly proud to be a founding member. Providing short-term accommodation of around three months for women and children leaving violence means we are providing a safe home and potentially saving lives."

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 Lorin is successful, Bayside Women's Shelter will use its grant to contribute to the cost of a caseworker for parenting and art therapy workshops.


Margaret Skagias

CaringKids Inc
Passionate. Dedicated. Caring

While working as a social worker, Margaret Skagias recognised the unique contribution of Australian children who care for their parents or siblings. These often unsung heroes may take on housework, shopping, cooking, personal hygiene care, liaising with health professionals and financial matters. In 2014, Margaret founded volunteer-run CaringKids. She and her team make up toy boxes for young carers so they can feel their contribution and role is honoured and recognised. "There are thousands of special needs siblings and young carers in Australia. They are hidden, unsupported and experience social isolation," says Margaret, who is determined to recognise their efforts.

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 Margaret is successful, CaringKids will use its grant to fund endeavours including the provision of 200 toy boxes to special needs siblings and young carers and the rehoming of about 8000 pre-loved donation items.


Richard Habelrih

Autism MATES
Courageous. Positive. Determined

Richard Habelrih has severe autism, and doctors told his parents he would never speak. But he has proved them wrong and is a popular speaker at schools and conferences. One of the highlights at schools is his Best MATES puppet show. "I play Tommy the Turtle because he is a bit like me. He didn't fit in, so some of the animals don't like him to join their party. It's important to teach kids about being nice," Richard says. He also reminds doctors and teachers that he understands them, so they should speak to him as well as his mum.

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 Richard is successful, Autism MATES will use its grant to create an animated version of his puppet show for viewing at schools and on the internet.


Tracey Ayton

Little Heroes Swim Academy
Dedicated. Selfless. Caring

Highly regarded swimming instructor Tracey Ayton founded the not-for-profit Little Heroes Swim Academy seven ago to provide swimming therapy and aquatic education to children with a disability. Now she has secured funding for a specialised swim centre where children have access to appropriate facilities and families can be together in a relaxed environment.

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 Tracey is successful, Little Heroes Swim Academy will buy an adjustable change room bed, accessible outdoor play equipment and water treatment supplies.


If you need support, please phone Lifeline: 13 11 14

Recognising all our 2020 nominees

View all of the nominees and their organisations

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Please note, due to COVID-19 certain centre services are currently unavailable