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 Parramatta. 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 Parramatta are:

Alex Long

Multicultural Youth Affairs Network
Dedicated . Passionate . Tireless

Alex Long is a social justice advocate who works tirelessly to help young migrants become future leaders of their communities. She is the inspirational leader of Multicultural Youth Affairs Network NSW, an organisation that supports young people from refugee and migrant backgrounds to build the skills and networks they need to be active citizens in Australia. With the support of a tiny staff, Alex has helped thousands of families around NSW. “We work towards a society where all young people from refugee and migrant backgrounds are connected, influential and valued,” Alex says.

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 Alex is successful, Multicultural Youth Affairs Network NSW will use its grant to employ a part-time youth worker and expand its programs.


Belinda Tabbaa

Autism Community Network
Inspirational . Dedicated . Caring

Belinda Tabbaa is a super volunteer for children with autism and their families, giving up countless hours of her time so others can thrive.As a volunteer coordinator with the Autism Community Network, Belinda oversees many of programs across western Sydney for children with autism and their parents.With a child on the autism spectrum of her own, she runs tailored cooking classes, bowling days for the kids and a regular support network for parents and carers. “Teaching life skills to kids with autism is wonderful,” Belinda says.

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 Belinda is successful, Autism Community Network will use its grant to fund a wellness program for carers and training and support for volunteers.


Draz Brkljac

PCYC Parramatta
Enthusiastic . Devoted . Respected

Senior Constable Draz Brkljac has taken crime prevention to the next level by becoming a mentor to young people. Draz is an NSW Police officer who for the past seven years has worked directly with young people as a youth case manager at Parramatta’s Police Citizens Youth Club. In that role, he has helped countless young people to make positive choices with their lives, acting as a mentor to those who may otherwise lack positive role models. “The core focus is to empower young people to take control of their lives,” Draz says.

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 Draz is successful, the Parramatta Police Citizens Youth Club will use its grant to fund the continuation of the Stand Tall program and provide two job-ready barista courses.


Gabrielle Dracopoulos

Granville & Districts Soccer Football Association
Dedicated . Thoughtful . Inspiring

Soccer is known as the beautiful game, but for Gabrielle Dracopoulos, it is also a game that anyone should be able to play. Gabrielle is a volunteer director of the Granville and Districts Soccer Football Association, which includes 23 grassroots clubs from around Parramatta.It’s Australia’s oldest continuously running soccer association, but Gabrielle has been breathing new life into the league by opening it up to new groups, including new migrants and people with disabilities. “When people begin participating in sport by either playing or volunteering, they are building friendships and new networks,” she says.

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 Gabrielle is successful, Granville and Districts Soccer Football Association will use its grant to subsidise registration and kits for newly-settled refugees and hold more Football4all tournaments.


Jennifer Harris

The Hills School
Humble . Resilient . Selfless

Jennifer Harris is dedicated to helping school students with special needs to be the very best they can be, no matter what obstacles life has thrown in their way. Jenny has been a long-serving volunteer on the parents and citizens committee at The Hills School for students with intellectual and physical disabilities. As immediate past treasurer on the committee, she coordinated fundraisers which helped the school pay for therapy sessions, playground upgrades and equipment. “I get a great deal of happiness helping others but my greatest pride and happiness lies in my family,” Jennifer says.

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 Jennifer is successful, The Hills School will use its grant to buy an outdoor kitchen, an irrigation system, water tank and wicking garden beds for its successful farm-to-fork program, which teaches students how food is grown.


Susai Benjamin

Toongabbie Legal Centre
Dedicated . Committed . Selfless

Solicitor Susai Benjamin believes everyone should be able to access a lawyer when they need one, no matter their financial circumstances. Susai is the founder of the Toongabbie Legal Centre, which provides free legal advice to culturally, socially and economically disadvantaged local people who would otherwise not have access to legal help. Under Susai’s direction, the centre helps about 600 clients a year and also advocates for reforming laws to protect vulnerable people in the community. “We have assisted over 6,000 people who needed legal assistance since 2007,” Susai says.

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 Susai is successful, the Toongabbie Legal Centre will use its grant to buy much-needed replacements for its ageing and unreliable computers.


Recognising all our 2019 nominees

View all of the nominees and their organisation

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