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 Penrith are:

Belinda Leonard

Nordoff Robbins Music Therapy
Committed. Selfless. Generous

Belinda Leonard helps heal more than 1300 children and adults a week with evidence-based music therapy. Belinda has been CEO of Nordoff Robbins for over seven years and is proud it has grown to be the biggest employer of music therapists in Australia. “I work with people with disabilities, mental health challenges and other difficulties to deliver therapy programs that make a real and tangible difference to their ability to live in the community and participate as fully as possible,” she says. “I have also established a successful internship program, providing employment for five new graduate music therapists a year.”

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, Nordoff Robbins will use its grant to fulfil Belinda’s long-held dream of establishing an all abilities choir.


Cecily Michaels

Leep NGO
Passionate. Hardworking. Selfless

Cecily Michaels is committed to ensuring that nobody in Penrith is left behind by the digital age. She is the dedicated CEO of a small not-for-profit that enlists volunteers to help disadvantaged people learn computer and internet skills. Since 2015, Cecily and her team have recruited and trained more than 94 Tech Mates mentors who have supported more than 800 people. "People who lack digital literacy are literally shut out from society," says Cecily. "Government agencies such as the ATO, Medicare, Centrelink and the NDIS demand that their customers use their online MyGov platform, upload apps and communicate electronically."

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 Cecily is successful, Leep NGO will use its grant to host a digital inclusion summit in Penrith.


Dave Graham

RuffTRACK Limited
Empowering. Selfless. Giving

Farmer Dave Graham leads a transformational youth re-engagement program based around working with animals as diverse as horses, alpacas, and poultry. This innovative program has led to extensive reductions in youth crime in the region, re-engagement in education and skills-based training, and a huge decrease in family violence. "My job is to lead them and guide them to make better life choices," says Dave. "The mums talk about a reduction in negative behaviour, the schools report improved attendance and attitudes, and the police talk about less need for intervention. "Most of all, the community perception of these young people is changed to a positive one."

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 Dave is successful, RuffTRACK Limited will be able to help more young people.


Julia Shoesmith

Wentworth Community Housing
Compassionate. Ethical. Dedicated

Community worker Julia Shoesmith firmly believes everyone has a right to a home. Julia reaches out to people living rough and does what she can to build trust and help them find support. Locals may remember an encampment of people sleeping rough in Judges Car Park in Penrith. As a senior caseworker for Wentworth Community Housing, Julia and her team got to know every person and connected them to housing and health services. "I feel my work positively impacts the community as a whole as it is not only assisting people into homes and supports but also assisting to restore community facilities to their original purpose," Julia 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 Julia is successful, Wentworth Community Housing will use its grant to provide accommodation to people who would otherwise have been excluded. It will also fund home starter packs.


Michael (Mick) Kovacs

NSW Rural Fire Service
Trustworthy. Passionate. Dedicated

Volunteer firefighter Michael Kovacs joined the NSW Rural Fire Service 30 years ago when he was 14. Michael volunteers between 20 and 30 hours a week while continuing to serve as an NSW police officer. During the recent bushfire emergency, Michael started fighting fires in August 2019 and did not stop until the end of January. "I personally dragged residents out of burning buildings and escorted them through fire to get them to safety," Michael says. "It’s a great pride in serving the communities in their time of need and assisting them to return to some form of normality".

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 Michael is successful, the NSW Rural Fire Service will use its grant to buy a trailer and training equipment.


Tricia Hitchen

The Haven Nepean Women's Shelter
Selfless. Amazing. Tireless

In her 25-year police career in Western Sydney, retired Chief Inspector Tricia Hitchen was touched by the pain domestic violence can cause. That's what drives her to work as hard as she can to keep The Haven Nepean Women's Shelter running. As a board member, Tricia spends a great deal of time fundraising for the two-year-old shelter. The real-life stories Tricia tells at community groups, social functions, schools and businesses raise awareness about the many types of domestic violence. The effort is worth it, she says, because it saves 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 Tricia is successful, the shelter could use the grant to fund its outreach program for women who have left the shelter.


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