Women of the West Award 2015

Winners of the 2015 Western Sydney University Women of the West Awards were announced on Friday 6 March at the Western Sydney University International Women's Day celebrations.

winners for 2015

Congratulations to our two winners for 2015.

Pictured on the left is Dr Melissa Radjenovic, winner of the Western Sydney University Young Women of the West Award and on the right is Grace Fava, winner of the Western Sydney University Women of the West Award.

Western Sydney University Women of the West Award for 2015

Winner – Grace Fava

Grace Fava
Pictured with Grace is the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Barney Glover and
the Hon Faye Lo Po', Chair of the selection panel for the award.

Grace Fava, Founder and President, Autism Advisory and Support Service

Grace Fava has been nominated for her incredible devotion and support to those with autism and their families.

Grace is Founder and President of the Autism Advisory and Support Service (AASS), a not-for-profit charity run by parents of children with autism, to support those living with autism and their families. The AASS relies completely on volunteers and survives solely on funding through grants, donations and fundraising.

AASS provides invaluable support to families living with autism by providing therapy play areas, as well as a reference and toy library, individual advocacy for families with no case management, parent support groups to cater for the linguistic diversity of the community, social groups for young adults with autism, as well as a 24-hour autism telephone hotline run by volunteers.

With two autistic sons, Grace's passion and strong dedication to building and leading such a remarkable service comes from personal experience. Her selfless nature means that she personally provides constant support and comfort to families with autistic children.

Grace is constantly raising awareness by lobbying for those with disabilities and by delivering professional development talks to teachers at local schools on how best to cater for children with autism.
Under Grace's leadership, the services have grown and are now available in Liverpool, Bankstown, Campbelltown and Camden.

Highly Commended – Amanda Bowles

Amanda Bowles 

Amanda Bowles, President and Co-Founder, Bears of Hope Pregnancy & Infant Loss Support Inc.

Amanda Bowles, resident of Glenwood, has been nominated for her tremendous contribution to pregnancy loss, and has transformed families in grief.

Amanda co-founded Bears of Hope – a support, education and awareness charity for bereaved parents. The organisation is governed by an executive committee of parents who have personally experienced the loss of their baby.

Amanda has organised support groups and packages, hospital and home visits by Bears of Hope members, phone and email counselling, provision of quarterly newsletters where parents can contribute, and numerous community and fundraising events.

Her compassion and guidance extends even further, as she connects families of the community who have experienced similar situations. Families receive a Bear of Hope donated by another bereaved family, allowing the donating family to give their child's brief life a purpose and lasting legacy, whilst filling the empty arms of another family.

Amanda is an empathetic and strong-willed leader, having experienced the same heartbreaking loss these families suffer.

Colleagues describe Amanda as a woman that 'effortlessly leads the charity with a constant smile and an ever grateful attitude'. Amanda's ability to connect the community in such an empowering way is invaluable.

Highly Commended – Karyn McNeil

Vice-Chancellor, Professor Barney Glover presents Karyn with her award.

Karyn McNeil, Executive Administrator, Woodbury Autism Education and Research

Karyn McNeil, a resident of Baulkham Hills, has been nominated for her remarkable involvement in supporting those in the community who suffer from autism, and their families.

Karyn has worked at Woodbury Autism Education and Research for almost 10 years. The school serves children with moderate to severe autism, which also includes moderate to severe aggressive and self-injurious behaviours. Colleagues have described her contribution as invaluable, stating that the school would be non-functional without her.

She is a constant resource for the families of the children attending the school, providing them with endless support, comfort and care. She also cares for her son, who has severe autism and cognitive delays with aggression.

To help meet the expense of running the school, Karyn tirelessly volunteers her own time to network in the community with corporate and non-profit organisations to raise money and improve the resources of the school and the lives of the students.

She attends numerous meetings at organisations outside work hours and her efforts have successfully raised the profile of Woodbury and autism. Her extraordinary empathy and selfless dedication to the cause is admirable.

Karyn is a member of several committees, including Christmas in the Hills, which helps to raise funds for Woodbury.

Highly Commended – Lila Mularczyk

Lila Mularczyk

Lila Mularczyk, Principal, Merrylands High school

Lila Mularczyk is the Principal of Merrylands High school and has been nominated for her outstanding contribution to public education and advocacy to meet the needs of students.

The daughter of a refugee, Lila fully understands the needs students face in a multicultural society such as Western Sydney. Her experience and passion for improving public education has made her an excellent leader of a school with more than 54 different ethnic groups and a substantial refugee population.

She is currently the President of the NSW Secondary Principals' Council, making significant contributions to the public debates about education services in Greater Western Sydney.

In 2009, Lila chaired the NSW Digital Education Revolution, an initiative that provides high school students with a laptop to stimulate learning and prepare them for success in the 21st century.

She is also a founding member and advocate of the Partners Advisory Group of the Bridges to Higher Education initiative, funded by the Federal Government. Bridges to Higher Education aims to increase participation amongst communities that are traditionally under-represented in higher education.

In 2012, Lila was awarded the Australian College of Educational Leaders Fellowship and a Department of Education Merit Service Award to Public Education. Lila has also been recognised as one of the Sydney Morning Herald's 100 most influential people.

Lila is described as fierce advocate, passionate teacher and exceptional Principal, and leader committed to advancing public education.

Western Sydney University Young Women of the West Award for 2015

Winner – Dr Melissa Radjenovic

Pictured with Melissa is the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Barney Glover
and the Hon Faye Lo Po', Chair of the selection panel for the award.

Dr Melissa Radjenovic, Intern, Liverpool Hospital

Melissa Radjenovic, a resident of Smithfield, is nominated for her exceptional compassion and devotion to improving the health and welfare of the community.

Melissa was an instrumental and founding member of the Rotaract Club of Western Sydney, the 'youth arm' of the Rotary Club of Wetherill Park. She led the group as Charter President, and continues to be a Board member. During her time as Charter President, she established a valuable and ongoing Christmas Gift-Giving program with Fowler Road School. Each year, the Club actively fundraises and rallies the support of community sponsors to create Christmas health care packs for up to 50 students in rehabilitation programs.

An alumnus of the University of Western School of Medicine and an intern at Liverpool Hospital, Melissa is dedicated to helping less fortunate members of the community.

Melissa's determination and generosity is also recognised by other bodies. She has been appointed to the Board of Avant Doctor in Training Advisory Council, where she investigates issues affecting the provision of medical services in the Greater West, in the interest of continuous improvement of patient care. She was also appointed to the Board of St Simeon Retirement Village in Rooty Hill, having input into decision-making processes regarding management and evaluating issues concerning the care of the residents.

At such a young age, Melissa has extraordinary achievements to her name. While completing her degree, she was a Medical Student tutor in the Indigenous Tutorial Assistance Scheme. Her remarkable leadership abilities have been prominent throughout her life, such as school captaincy, and being the recipient of several awards such as the Western Sydney University Vice Chancellor's Leadership Scholarship and membership of the Western Sydney University Aspire Future Leaders' Program.

Nominees for Women of the West Awards 2015

Congratulations to the nominees for the 2015 award.

Once again, the calibre of nominations for both the Women of the West and the Young Women of the West Award categories were incredibly high. These nominees have all made significant contributions to their community in the fields of the arts, health, education, business and not for profit sectors.

Elizabeth Reay, Deputy Chief Executive Officer, Nepean Blue Mountain Medicare Local

Elizabeth Reay, a resident of Kurrajong, has been nominated for her dedication and leadership in improving the health and wellbeing of the Nepean/Blue Mountains communities.

Elizabeth has led the way by coordinating and writing a successful submission for the formation of the new Nepean-Blue Mountains Medicare Local, which was previously separated into four smaller organisations. Elizabeth actively involved consumers in the process and volunteered much of her own time during the transition. Her passion and drive ensured that the community would have a strong, locally responsive organisation in the region to support 'non-hospital' health care.
Her compassion for those suffering from mental health problems has driven her to become a strong advocate for the cause. Elizabeth has successfully set up the Partners in Recovery program, which identifies the specific needs of each individual and allows for easy access to health services.

While managing all of this, Elizabeth continues to participate in research to ensure a viable and innovative primary health care service is delivered to consumers.

Dr Elizabeth Ricketts, Principal, St Aidan's Primary school

Elizabeth Ricketts has been nominated for her dedication to the learning and welfare of young people in Western Sydney. As Principal of St Aidan's Primary school in Rooty Hill, Elizabeth is extremely passionate about enhancing the education of children in under privileged areas.

Having been described as 'strong-willed, passionate and determined', Elizabeth believes that success stems from modelling the behaviour of never giving up, to colleagues and students. Having completed her own doctorate and continuing to update her IT skills, Elizabeth is herself a lifelong learner and is an example of her philosophy of never giving up.
Last year, under Elizabeth's leadership, St Aidan's exceeded the national average in every aspect of the literacy and numeracy tests (NAPLAN). Her contemporary teaching style ensures that all students have access to the latest technology, such as Apple Macbooks and iPads, as well as introducing robotics as an area of learning. Caring for the welfare of all her students, Elizabeth enriches their lives by organising school trips to the theatre and to experience symphony orchestras that they may not otherwise have had the opportunity to do.

Her genuine interest in knowing every student and their capabilities means that she does not stop working over the holidays, which includes organising reading packs for students over the summer break.

Debra Hansel, Aboriginal Development Officer – Telecross, Australian Red Cross

Debra Hansel, a resident of Quakers Hill, has been nominated for her passion, and perseverance in supporting the elderly in our local Aboriginal communities.
Debra has been involved in the Community Sector in Western Sydney for over 30 years. She has been instrumental in providing opportunities for socially isolated elderly Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders to create cultural connections with each other and their communities. The program, known as Teleyarn, has been described as a success due solely to Debra's enthusiasm and leadership.
Her passion has allowed for the program to grow exponentially, with the number of clients increasing almost tenfold since her arrival. Debra advocates on their behalf and works with other organisations to ensure their health, accommodation and basic needs are met.

Debra also established the Wolkara Elders' Group, which connects Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders by organising events for members. Transportation is provided to and from their homes so that Elders can attend and be involved in local community services.

In 2013, Debra was awarded the Australian Red Cross Service Award in recognition of her work with Teleyarn and the Wolkara Elders' Group.

Jacqueline Hornjik, Theatre Producer, Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre, Liverpool City Council

Jacqueline Hornjik has been nominated for her extraordinary talent and passion not only for the arts in the community, but also her amazing dedication to enriching the lives of those with disabilities.
A working mother of three children, one of whom has autism, Jacqueline has been inspired and driven to create disability and autism friendly arts experiences by carefully considering the placement of interpreters, the placement of the Auslan (Australian Sign Language) audience, lighting requirements and the visual elements of the actors involved in the production.

In her current role as Theatre Producer for the Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre, she has produced two award-winning productions – the Auslan-interpreted A Streetcar Named Desire, which she also directed, and the Way Out West Festival for Children.
The Festival brings together a selection of Australia's most outstanding artists presenting films, performances, and workshops which engage and inspire the imaginations of the whole family. Jacqueline's dedication has seen the visitation figures of the Centre grow tremendously and has opened the door for children with special needs to engage with art and culture.

Jacqueline was also a founding member of the Liverpool Performing Arts Ensemble, which produces and presents theatre performances each year.
Jacqueline was the winner of the Engagement Arts Centre Award for the 2013 Way out West Festival for Children.

Sue Walsh, Director System Learning, Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta

Sue Walsh has been nominated for her relentless focus on improving the learning outcomes of students in Western Sydney who often face social and economic barriers.
Sue is responsible for the learning agendas of 80 Catholic schools in the Diocese of Parramatta and manages a team of 125.
Sue designed and coordinated a principals coaching and mentoring program that is dedicated to supporting every principal in the system. Now in operation in schools in the Parramatta and Broken Bay Dioceses, it partners principals with colleagues to continually challenge them and improve their leadership qualities.

She also places a strong focus on students. Sue co-led a system-wide reform to use data to monitor, innovate and refine contemporary teaching practices, to respond to each individual student's needs. This proved to be successful, with a significant improvement in the system's overall NAPLAN results.

Sue works in partnership with international leaders to ensure adherence to best practice and invites their feedback on her own leadership. She demonstrates her belief that a Greater Western Sydney education can be a top quality, world-class education.

Jennifer Armstrong, Student, University of Western Sydney

Jennifer Armstrong has been nominated for her generous support and her ability to inspire women to overcome adversity and regain confidence.
Jennifer founded the Beauty Bank, a charity putting together care packages of unwanted toiletries and other beauty products for women in need.
She helps victims of domestic violence lift the feeling of shame and helps victims know they are not alone. The Beauty Bank helps these suffering women to build their self-esteem. Currently, the charity relies solely on word of mouth and social media to encourage donations.

The growing demand has seen 500 beauty packs distributed to women in refuges across Sydney.

Jennifer has also worked extensively with the Dandelion Support Network, conducting fundraisers and raising thousands of dollars in much needed funds. She has connected with Community Medic, an organisation that supports the homeless in Western Sydney to provide packs for a women's homeless shelter.

Gina Field, Managing Director, Nepean Regional Security

Gina Field has been nominated for her leadership in business. She is the owner and operator of Nepean Regional Security, a manpower security company located in Penrith. Gina commenced work as a security officer at the age of 19; at a time when it was almost unheard of to be a female in such a male dominated profession. She went on to open Nepean Regional Security and 17 years later employs 40 personnel and operates a fleet of cars across Sydney.

Being described as one of the most powerful business people of Western Sydney by the Sunday Telegraph, she now strongly advocates for females to feel comfortable to venture into areas of employment that are typically male orientated. She also attends school presentations, council meetings and business functions. She freely gives time to talk to community groups such as Ropes Crossing and Jordon Springs on security and safety in the home.

Gina is also a strong supporter of small businesses, featuring in several television shows. Gina has been on the Board of the Penrith Valley Chamber of Commerce for 11 years, and was recently appointed to President. In just 6 weeks, she increased the revenue and membership by 15 per cent. This voluntary position has allowed her to target small businesses in the region and encourage their growth by attending regular council meetings. In 2014 for her efforts, she received the Medal of Appreciation from the Australia Day awards and also flown to Canberra to be presented with a certificate from the Prime Minister for her contribution to small business.

Gina was also the first female to serve on the Board of the NSW Crown Lands Trust and also on the NSW Police Security Licensing and Enforcement Committee, showing she is just as passionate to break stereotypes as she was 27 years ago.

It is no surprise that Gina and Nepean Regional Security have won over 20 industry awards, recently receiving bronze in the International Business Awards with over 4500 entries and is one of the most awarded security companies of the state.

Mary Waterford, Executive Officer, Western Sydney Community Forum

Mary Waterford, a resident of the Blue Mountains, has been nominated for her commitment to improving services in the community.
From a young age, Mary has been involved in projects such as the establishment of the first Australian women's refuge, ELSIE, in Glebe, and the Women in Prison movement, ensuring that women receive the best possible outcomes and rehabilitation from their incarceration.

She is instrumental in new initiatives, including the ZEST Awards which celebrate and promote life in Greater Western Sydney, and the Stronger Voice for Greater Western Sydney, which promotes innovation and creativity of the community sector.
In her role as Executive Officer at the Western Sydney Community Forum, she led the organisation into new partnerships, including the Sydney West Airport Alliance with the NSW Business Chamber and local councils. Leading the change, she enabled the community sector to be part of the conversation in developing infrastructure and jobs for the region and ensuring a voice for the disadvantaged.
Mary's constant lobbying was the driving force in having land transferred from the Government to a number of community services, now known as the Blue Mountains Aboriginal Cultural and Resource Centre. She also works closely with Australians for Native Title and Reconciliation.

She volunteers much of her own time to sit on the board of several agencies and committees. In 2014, Mary was voted one of the most influential people in the not for profit sector by the Pro bono Australia Awards.

Nominees for Young Women of the West Awards 2015

Ruth Fattal, Director, Ruth Fattal Haute Couture

Ruth Fattal has been nominated for her passion to create beautiful pieces of clothing and accessories that stand the test of time and make women feel confident and beautiful.
At just 24 years of age, she is the Director of Ruth Fattal Haute Couture. Her label offers a unique and personalised style of service to her clients. She works tirelessly and volunteers much of her own time to involve clients in every step of the process and holds regular VIP shows to continually inspire others.

Her ability to create fashion that is bespoke, tailored, carefully crafted and unique is an important point of difference.
Ruth has been working with Pop Up Parramatta, a project of the Parramatta City Council to support upcoming artists in the area. Constantly challenging and refining her leadership skills, she has learnt much from specialist mentors in the program. Ruth has since been able to give back to the community that has given her so much, by holding intern placements and inviting work experience students to her company to see the inside workings.
In 2014, Ruth was named winner of the Rising Star Category at the Western Sydney Awards in Business Excellence and also a winner of the Lord Mayor of Parramatta Young Entrepreneur Business Awards.

Cathryn Ricketts, Drama Teacher, Department of Education and Communities

Cathryn Ricketts, a resident of Quakers Hill, is nominated for her tremendous ability to inspire performing arts students and support and guide those who are struggling.
Cathryn is a well-respected drama teacher who has created many productions, with opportunities for high school students to participate in performances. Her production, Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister, is a multimedia fairy-tale about cyber bullying and was supported by the Department of Education and Communities. Her production I am Marcus was awarded second place at the Focus on Ability Short Film Festival, a production to raise awareness and highlight the needs of autistic youth.
Her compassion extends to students who are considered at risk. Cathryn is known to be a strong advocate for foster care, having four foster sisters herself, and works closely with case managers to achieve the best outcomes for these students.
Cathryn's strong connection with her Aboriginal heritage and her role as Aboriginal coordinator means she creates individual education plans for students with an indigenous background and ensures the curriculum is adjusted to cater for their needs and wellbeing.

Cathryn is the recipient of the 2014 National Teacher of Excellence in State and Territory Teaching Award.