Trail-blazer takes out Women of the West title

Alison McLaren 

Alison McLaren, winner of the 2013 Women of the West Award 

The winner of the University of Western Sydney’s Women of the West Award for 2013 has been described as a tireless advocate for Greater Western Sydney and a trail-blazer who is driven by a strong sense of social justice.

Alison McLaren, the Former President of the Western Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils (WSROC), was announced as this year’s ‘Woman of the West’ at a special International Women’s Day ceremony at the UWS Parramatta campus.

In 2004, the Blue Mountains resident became the youngest ever Blue Mountains City Councillor when she was elected to Council at the age of 23. She also joined the WSROC Board in 2004 and was elected Junior Vice President and Housing Spokesperson in 2007.

Alison was elected as the President of WSROC in 2008 and served until 2012 – making her the longest-serving President of the organisation. As President, she was a vocal advocate for better services for Greater Western Sydney, leading campaigns on issues as diverse as transport and infrastructure, population planning, urban planning, affordable housing, equity of health outcomes, environmental sustainability, and employment growth.

Taking out the ‘Young Women of the West’ title in 2013 is Mariah Okeroa, a mentor in Te Huinga Waka Juniors Kapa Haka – a Maori cultural performance and language group in western Sydney.

Mariah Okeroa

Mariah Okeroa, winner of the 2013 Young Women of the West Award

Mariah, a resident of North Parramatta, was nominated for her charitable work and advocacy for Maori and Pacific Islander young people as well as for her work on the NSW Youth Advisory Council (YAC) and the Young Offender’s Advisory Council (YOAC).

In 2013, the 18 nominees of the Women of the West awards came from a variety of backgrounds including education, health, local business, volunteering, environmental groups, government and non-government organisations. What they each share is a sense of community, fairness, social justice and a selfless desire to put others first.

‘Highly Commended’ awards were presented to Yvonne Keane, President, Founder and CEO, Hear the Children Early Intervention Centre and the Reach for the Rainbow Foundation, and Melissa Wolfshoerndl, a volunteer for the Hawkesbury Community Outreach Services Inc. A ‘Commended’ award was presented toLucy Reggio, President and Founder, Special Needs Ability Program Providers (SNAPP).

UWS Vice-Chancellor, Professor Janice Reid, says the Women of the West awards were established in 2004 to celebrate and recognise the significant contributions made by outstanding women to the development of Greater Western Sydney.

“Each year, the awards ceremony coincides with International Women's Day; providing members of the wider University community with an opportunity to reflect on the progress made to advance women's equality, the ongoing challenges facing women in society and the creativity and commitment of so many unsung heroes in the Greater West,” says Professor Reid.

“With each passing year of the Women of the West awards, it is inspiring to meet so many dedicated and extraordinary women who work so tirelessly, and often without recognition, to make our community a better place.”



8 March 2013

Photos: Sally Tsoutas

Contact: Danielle Roddick, Senior Media Officer

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