Laura O'Reilly: Westfield Local Heroes 2019

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Laura O'Reilly: Westfield Local Heroes 2019

Sister gives others opportunities her brother never had

Passionate. Entrepreneurial. Determined

Laura O'Reilly grew up seeing the world through the eyes of her brother Shane, who had profound cerebral palsy.

Although Shane was a dynamic young man with computer skills, there were desperately limited post-school opportunities for him.

This inspired Laura and her other brother, Jordan, to create a business that could help Shane reach his potential. Sadly, Shane died in 2011.

The siblings’ goal lives on in Fighting Chance, a non-profit organisation they set up to collaborate with others to build sustainable social enterprises that provide much-needed opportunities for people with disabilities.

Laura is the CEO and is surprised and honoured to have been voted a Westfield Local Hero “given the calibre of the other candidates”.

She says her work is highly personal. “It’s about creating a world for others that I wish my brother had lived in. There is really nothing to surpass the feeling you get from helping someone or contributing positively to a person’s life. It’s super-rewarding.”

So far, Fighting Chance has developed two social enterprises: Jigsaw and Avenue.

Jigsaw is a document and data management business that offers services to government and commercial clients. It is aimed at fundamentally changing the way people with disability receive job training and transition to mainstream employment.

Avenue is a co-working space that supports adults with profound and severe disability to work in the sharing economy, either in micro-enterprises or on their own business idea.

Both support Laura’s steadfast conviction that “all people have a contribution to make to society, and that no person should be excluded from using their talents in the economy simply because of their disability”.

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.

“Because of the community voting for me, Fighting Chance is able to buy new computer equipment for our community. It means a great deal to me to have been successful but it means a lot to the people that we support as well,” says Laura.

For further information on the Westfield Local Heroes program, click here.