Advocacy and leadership recognised as University names its Women of the West

WOW 2 

The winners of this year's Western Sydney University Women of the West Awards have been recognised for their outstanding leadership and tireless volunteer work within their local communities.

Winners Deborah Burgess from Wetherill Park and Natasha Lay from Liverpool were among 30 women nominated by their communities for the Awards this year – the largest number in its history. 

Both Deborah and Natasha received an awards grant of $5,000 to further develop their leadership and advocacy work in their local communities.

This year's Women of the West Awards were held in partnership with law firm Coleman Greig's highly successful Women in Business Networking forum. 

The awards were presented by University Vice-Chancellor, Professor Barney Glover, and Women of the West Awards Ambassador, Lisa Wilkinson AM, co-host of the Nine Network's 'Today' show and journalist, at a ceremony held at the Parramatta campus.

Lucy Turnbull AO, Chair of the Greater Sydney Commission and former Lord Mayor of Sydney, also delivered a keynote address at the event.

Deborah Burgess, an entrepreneur who runs her family printing business, the 'Bright Print Group' in Wetherill Park, received the 2016 Women of the West Award.

Deborah was recognised for her contribution to fundraising and philanthropy, working with many organisations and causes including the Children's Hospital at Westmead, Jeans for Genes Day and Father Chris Riley's 'Youth Off the Street' program.

Deborah impressed the judges with her determination, integrity and compassion. She has welcomed struggling business women into her home as well as women facing adversity from divorce, poverty, domestic violence, family breakdown and serious illness.

Natasha Lay was named the Young Women of the West winner. Natasha is the Western Sydney Coordinator for Youth Action NSW and was recognised for her strong advocacy for women and youth, and her volunteering work within the community. 

Natasha serves on a number of committees and boards representing young people in Western Sydney, including the NSW Premier's Council for Women. She is actively engaged in campaigns for sustainability and climate justice and has attended multiple United Nations conferences on these topics.

MC for the event, Ms Caroline Hutchinson, from Coleman Greig, says the ceremony was a great success, and says Lucy Turnbull's life lessons were particularly relevant, no matter what stage of life and career.

"I think it was encouraging for many in the room to hear that it's great to be passionate about advocating for women in business – that you can have your own opinion and make your own career choices, and be highly successful in doing so," says Ms Hutchinson.

"As a woman in business living and working in Western Sydney, it was exciting to hear Lucy describing the importance of the region and its part in the growth of NSW – particularly in providing employment opportunities."

Other Women of the West nominees honoured at the ceremony included Mary Howard, who was awarded a Highly Commended prize, while Adriana Care and Lina Cabaero were recognised with Commended awards. Jocelyn Sio received a Commended prize in the Young Women of the West Category.

Western Sydney University established the Women of the West Awards in 2005, to show its appreciation for the many, often unsung, women who are improving the lives of people in Greater Western Sydney.

To view photos from the event, please visit this drop box.


Deborah Burgess

Executive Director, Bright Print Group

Deborah is an entrepreneur who runs a local family printing business in Wetherill Park. She is a committed environmentalist and philanthropist driven daily by sheer determination, integrity and compassion.

Under Deborah's leadership, the Bright Print Group has received many awards and accreditation for its environmental initiatives. She donates both her time and business skills to many causes and generously gets involved in fundraising, for institutions such as the Children's Hospital at Westmead, Jeans for Genes, the Children's Cancer Institute of Australia, the Police and Community Youth Club and Father Chris Riley's Youth Off the Street program.

Her compassion and guidance towards helping others is reflected in her generosity to all. Deborah has welcomed struggling business women into her home as well as women facing adversity from divorce, poverty, domestic violence, family breakdown and serious illness.

Colleagues describe Deborah as an inspirational woman and an amazing role-model for women of all ages.


Natasha Lay

Western Sydney Coordinator, Youth Action NSW

Natasha was nominated for her exemplary leadership in the service of her community, both in a professional capacity and as an active and passionate volunteer.

Natasha first engaged in community volunteering with her local Youth Council in the Liverpool area. She was nominated as Chairperson and, for four years, represented the 30,000 young people in her local area. For her outstanding efforts, in 2008 she was recognised as Young Citizen of the Year for Liverpool City. In 2011, Natasha was awarded the inaugural ZEST Community Award for 'Outstanding Youth Leader in Greater Western Sydney.'

Natasha has continued to be a strong advocate for her young peers, serving on a number of committees and boards representing young people in Western Sydney including the NSW Premier's Council for Women. She is also actively engaged in campaigns for sustainability and climate justice, attending multiple United Nations conferences on these topics.

Working as Western Sydney Coordinator for Youth Action NSW, Natasha is committed to representing and advocating for the 400,000 young people across the Greater Western Sydney Region.


Mary Howard, Fisherwoman, Board Director

Hawkesbury-Nepean Catchment Management Authority (2004 – 2010)

Mary is a woman whose passion for her community, the Hawkesbury-Nepean River System, the seafood industry and the women that work in it, runs deep and true. Mary works tirelessly to support and advocate for the seafood industry, to protect the health of the Hawkesbury-Nepean River System, and to help women rise and achieve their potential. She is also a great supporter of research related to water health at Western Sydney University.

In an industry traditionally dominated by men, she is a partner in two prawn trawlers harvesting prawns on the Hawkesbury and has always taken her role as a steward of the estuary environment very seriously.

Mary was a Board Director of the Hawkesbury-Nepean Catchment Management Authority from 2004 – 2010 at a time when government agencies and land managers were terrestrially focussed.

She broke the mould and used her position to raise awareness of the vital importance of water quality and quantity in the Hawkesbury River as well as the need for the urban population of Sydney to understand the impact many development decisions were having on the marine environment.


Lina Cabaero, Coordinator, Asian Women at Work (AWatW)

For over 15 years Lina has dedicated her services to AWatW, an organisation working to empower migrant women in low paid, precarious employment across Sydney. Lina has been instrumental in establishing AWatW groups all over Western Sydney, providing migrant women with valuable skills and opportunities as well as social outlets.

The groups provide a social space for women to gather and partake in a diverse range of activities including seminars on financial management, gardening, computer literacy, job networks, aged care and English conversation.

Many of the women Lina works with have few social connections, are isolated and lack the knowledge and capacity to advocate effectively for themselves. Scores of women have blossomed into strong community leaders as a result of Lina's work.

Her dedication to AWatW goes beyond her paid employment and she donates much of her time to the cause. Lina embodies the unbreakable spirit of her organisation and its members.

Adriana Care

Principal Solicitor, Coutts Solicitors and Conveyancers

She is Principal Solicitor and owner of Coutts Solicitors and Conveyancers, an all-female law firm based in the Camden LGA. Adriana is also the first female President of the Narellan Chamber of Commerce.

Adriana is passionate about promoting business growth in the Macarthur area. She does this by being an active leader of the Narellan Chamber of Commerce, supporting local businesses by choosing them for her own business supply and services, promoting referral relationships with other local businesses and supporting local businesses with sponsorships and reward schemes.

Adriana is also a frequent supporter of local charities and boards. In 2015, her business contributed almost $80,000 towards sponsorship of local charities and community sport, including Macarthur Disability Services, Sharecare, Camden Cricket, Macarthur Skylarks Hockey, 24 hour fight against Cancer, Red Cross Blood Donation and Camp Quality Cancer Centre.

Adriana supports, encourages and mentors her female staff, promoting flexible working arrangements, career development and consideration of how best to support and accommodate women's career goals and lifestyle choices.


Jocelyn Sio

Youth Worker, Mount Druitt Ethnic Communities Agency

Within her capacity as a Youth Worker and as a member of the Mount Druitt Pacific Islander community, Jocelyn has demonstrated outstanding leadership through her commitment to youth projects that focus on re-engaging 'at-risk' youth with education and employment.

Drawing on her own experience of disadvantage, Jocelyn has developed a partnership with Chifley College Bidwill and Mount Druitt TAFE in order to provide pathways for young people who experience complex barriers to continuing education and gaining employment.

As part of her dedication to improving the lives of others within Greater Western Sydney, Jocelyn has also been a volunteer at the Cobham Juvenile Justice Centre for over six years. In her capacity as a volunteer support worker, she has provided case management, relationship training, empowerment workshops and supported detainees in mapping their steps after release.

As a long-time member of the Mount Druitt community, Jocelyn is an example to all young people that difficult circumstances need not result in poor life outcomes.

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