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 Plenty Valley. 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 Plenty Valley are:

Alex Fabiani

Global Care
Hardworking . Loving . Cheeky

Alex Fabiani never declines anyone seeking a home-cooked meal.In 2010 he founded the Community Kitchen South Morang, which is sponsored by a local church in the Global Care network. The program provides 120 meals every Tuesday to people in need. It also gives out 40 food parcels containing basics and items for children’s school lunches, including treats.“We don’t say no to anyone,” says Alex. “Our community meals kitchen is not just for food, it’s a place for social interaction and to feel wanted. Our motto is we are all in this together.”

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, the Community Kitchen South Morang will buy new kitchen equipment and put some of its funds towards covering costs, including fuel for its pick-up bus so it can help more people.


Gurinder Kaur

Khalsa Education Society
Passionate . Selfless . Committed

Gurinder Kaur just wants everyone to get along.She is a volunteer with the Khalsa Education Society, which visits schools and workplaces to familiarise people with turban Sikhs wear to represent equality. The program includes turban tying stalls, where non-Sikhs can try one on and get to know more about the religion. The program helps to break down stereotypes and misconceptions that sometimes lead to bullying of Sikh children, Gurinder says. “Sometimes there can be a negative association between turbans and terrorism. The program enhances respect and mutual understanding.”

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 Gurinder is successful, The Khalsa Education Society will be able to offer more workshops in schools and workplaces and develop educational videos and leaflets.


Leonie White

Thomastown Secondary College
Grit . Determination . Inclusive

When she started at the school 43 years ago, there was high unemployment nationally and particularly for the youth in the northern suburbs. There was a view that success was only possible for a few. This impacted on students’ self-esteem and aspirations. But after banning the word ‘disadvantaged’ and focusing instead on all that was possible, students started to thrive. In 2018, 91 per cent of students who applied for a tertiary place received a first-round offer and 97% of Year 12s had positive exit destinations. “Students are not only motivated to achieve, they do,” says Leonie

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 Leonie is successful, Thomastown Secondary College will use the funds for student leadership training to support younger students as well as those who are quiet or from immigrant cultural groups.


Matthew Odgers

Links Community Group
Leader . Dedicated . Interested

Matthew Odgers is bringing people together through the flourishing public garden that has become a proud landmark in Lalor. There are no individual plots, and everyone is free to enjoy the space. Matthew has also helped create gardens for local schools and organised free workshops. “New families moving into the area have a way to get to know their neighbours,” says Matthew, who founded the Links Community Group with the intention of starting the garden.“Refugees and new migrants get to know their new town is safe and inviting,” he 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 Matthew is successful, Links Community Group will use the funds to transform their old tram into a community hall.


Melissa Flentjar

Lalor Running Club
Courageous . Inspring . Selfless

Melissa Flentjar was overweight and depressed, but she changed her life when she started running, lost 48kg and stopped smoking.She wanted to share her healthy new lifestyle with others, so she organised a regular local park run and set up the Lalor Running Club. These enable beginner and intermediate runners and walkers to exercise together in a safe and social environment. Now Melissa has funding for a regular 5km Saturday morning walk and run managed by volunteers.“Over 10,000 people in the Epping North area will be able to participate,” 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 Melissa is successful, the Lalor Running Club will fund membership, uniforms and training to 120 new members.


Sousan Hawalla

Drummond Street Services
Selfless . Compassionate . Honest

Sousan Hawalla is dedicated to helping women refugees and asylum seekers to find their feet in Australia. She works at Drummond Street Services, where she established a social group for vulnerable women who are struggling to settle into their new country. The Bright Morning Women’s Group sessions provide a safe environment for the women to discuss issues they are having with cultural differences, family violence, parenting, financial matters and tenants’ rights. “The group alleviates some of the social isolation and provides a safe environment for the women to learn, ask questions and connect,” Sousan 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 Sousan is successful, Drummond Street Services will offer skills and employment training for the group’s members as well as sessions on parenting and respectful relationships.


Recognising all our 2019 nominees

View all of the nominees and their organisation

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