Community Awards celebrate outstanding contributions to Western Sydney

Community award 

Western Sydney University's Board of Trustees from time to time formally recognises outstanding contributions of individuals and organisations in the Greater Western Sydney community.

These individuals and organisations have contributed to the advancement of knowledge or the betterment of our region and serve as community advocates, leaders and role models through their passion and commitment to their local communities.

During the 2016 April Graduation ceremonies, the following were presented with Community Awards from Western Sydney University, to recognise their outstanding contributions to the region.


NguyenSince his arrival in Australia 36 years ago, Thanh Van Nguyen has been involved in extensive community work and has this year been awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia for his work with refugees and asylum seekers.

Western Sydney University graduate and Bass Hill resident, Thanh escaped from communist Vietnam in 1980 with the hope of rebuilding his life in Australia.

A former army officer in South Vietnam, Thanh was imprisoned in a concentration camp for five years. Upon release, he left his old life behind, undertaking the four month journey with his family to Australia.

Settling into his new life in Australia, Thanh found work in a factory and later with Australia Post, but a health condition forced him to leave the workforce.

It was at this point he began putting his energy into community work, graduating from a Bachelor of Community Welfare in 2008.

Already the chairman of the Vietnamese Catholic Community, Thanh also worked as a drug and alcohol counsellor for the Drug and Alcohol Multicultural Education Centre. In 2009 he was appointed President of the NSW Chapter of the Vietnamese Community Australia, serving until 2013.

Since 2013, he has been a member of the Australian Vietnamese Aged Care Services. His contributions to the Australian Vietnamese community include supporting newly arrived families and helping them settle.


OosterhoffFor 28 years, Nancy Oosterhoff has played a leading role in the development of community-led, alternative education systems in Australia.

Through her work in the kindergarten and primary education programs at Korowal School in the Blue Mountains, Nancy has refined a model of education that emphasises classroom and community relationships around the theme of 'kindness'. Her leadership has contributed to Korowal being seen as a successful system of alternative education in Australia.

Driven by a commitment to community and human-centred learning, Nancy has fostered in children, teachers and parents, a shared appreciation of the importance of song, poetry and story in the construction of coherent and connected learning processes.

While this year marks her retirement from full time work at Korowal, she has contributed far beyond what would normally be expected of a classroom teacher or Deputy Principal. Nancy has established strong working relationships and a positive legacy that will ensure her influence and vision remain within the school - which will continue to be seen as an exemplar of community-led, independent education.


Randall-CourtJanelle Randall-Court has a passion for educating communities about caring for Country.

Janelle is a Bundjalung woman from near the sea, but she grew up in Western Sydney and has been drawn back many times, living in the Blue Mountains and now in Penrith.

As an Aboriginal Discovery Ranger with NSW Parks and Wildlife, Janelle has educated students from school-age through to university level; international visitors; academics and government representatives about the sustainability issues facing the Blue Mountains.

Janelle created TipWear Fashion, coordinating a group of young people to model quality clothes saved from landfill. They perform at cultural and environmental events to spread the 'Recycle, Reuse, Relove' message.

Her film project: No Waste on Country: Leave Only Footprintsconnects personal, cultural and practical aspects of waste management through creative community participation and storytelling.

Janelle has a dance background and wrote and produced Treasures, a performance about the male Satin Bowerbird, which featured at the 15th Anniversary of The Greater Blue Mountains listing as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2015. As well as a message about our responsibility towards the environment, Janelle describes it as "a celebration of Aboriginal and extended community."


Rick CarrolCamden Tigers Football Club has provided organised football for Camden's youth since 1961.

2016 sees the 40th anniversary of the Club's Tiger Shield Tournament, which is aimed at primary school children and is a fully funded community event, hosted by the club with no cost to the schools involved.

The tournament is divided into four divisions for both boys and girls. The competition takes the format of a round robin with as many as 65 teams participating.

The event is organised and run by committee members and volunteers of the Club with local referees volunteering their time for the event.

With the success of the Tiger Shield, the club will this year host the inaugural Ron Dine Cup in honour of Ron Dine who nurtured the club for 22 years.  This tournament is for under-12 Football teams and will provide an opportunity to showcase the young football talent in the Macarthur region.


KumarShubha Kumar, President of the India Club, has worked extensively in the Western Sydney region to promote multiculturalism, and organise numerous educational, cultural and fund-raising events.

Shubha founded the India Club in 2004, a not-for-profit organisation with membership open to all communities across Western Sydney and beyond. Shubha has organised numerous fund-raising activities over several years for various causes, including the White Ribbon campaign, the NSW Cancer Council's Hills Relay for Life, and several events raising funding and donations for food and shelter for the homeless in Western Sydney and other regions.

Shubha was recognised by the NSW Parliament for voluntary work in 2012, and she has received numerous awards for her community work to date, including the NSW Local Woman of the Year Award in 2014 and 2016, the NSW Community Service Award in 2014, and the Rotary Centennial Community Volunteer Award in 2005.


Robert LeslieBob Leslie is the Aboriginal Community Development Officer for Blacktown City Council and is a voice for First Peoples across a variety of areas in the Greater Western Sydney region.

Bob possesses a practical style of leadership and a remarkable vision that is always open to new ideas and opportunities. As part of the Young Mob Leaders Program, which provides Aboriginal youth with opportunities to further develop public speaking, life skills and cultural knowledge, Bob has been a high school guest speaker where he has related his experience being in a leadership position as an Aboriginal male.

Bob has proven to be an excellent role model and excels in his role as Community Development Officer. He chairs the Western Sydney Koori Interagency and is a tireless and fearless leader within Greater Western Sydney.


HowardA Western Sydney University Alumnus and Sport Management professional with over 15 years of experience, Ben Howard has been actively involved in the sports industry both nationally and internationally.

Graduating from a Bachelor of Applied Science and Bachelor of Teaching at Western Sydney University, Ben has worked with leading organisations within Australia, including the Australian Sports Commission, National Rugby League, NSW Sport and Recreation, NSW Department of Education and Training, and many others.

Now Program Manager for Pacific Sports Partnerships at GHD, Ben is heavily involved in a program which partners with nine Australian National Sporting Organisations, three world bodies, and six regional sports organisations. The program seeks to deliver targeted sport for development activities across nine Pacific countries and supports 37 Pacific National Sporting Federations.

Ben is also a Founding Board Member, and holds a range of hands-on roles for the Vanuatu Rugby League.  He also represents the VRL on the Asia-Pacific Rugby League Confederation and acts as Founding Secretary of Vanuatu Rugby League International.

As an alumnus, Ben is also strongly engaged with Western Sydney University, mentoring the next generation of sport management professionals within set programs on campus.


Sue Sundstrom, as Careers Adviser at Picton High School and President of the Careers Advisers Association of NSW and ACT, has provided countless opportunities for students to engage in aspiration-building activities, enabling them to increase their awareness of university study.

Sue has supported students from Picton High School at all Western Sydney University Fast Forward events - a program which encourages high school students and their families to see tertiary study as a realistic and viable post school option, and raises participants' aspirations for the future.

Sue has been heavily involved in the University's widening participation activities andhas been a staunch advocate for the work being done across Greater Western Sydney. She has consistently promoted continuing education as an essential part of schooling and has assisted hundreds of young people in making decisions about further education.

Her collaboration with other Careers Advisers in promoting events and activities offered by the University has increased the number of students, from often marginalised communities, being provided with opportunities to engage with their local university.


Gina FallonGina Fallon has dedicated her life to saving animals. Four years ago, Gina established Golden Oldies Animal Rescue in the Southern Highlands of NSW, a registered charity dedicated to fostering and re-homing senior dogs and cats.

To date, Gina has rescued more than 500 dogs and cats that have been abandoned, placed on death row in pounds, or surrendered directly to Golden Oldies Animal Rescue by their owner.


Tony WilmotFor the past four years, Tony has worked closely with Golden Oldies Animal Rescue in the Southern Highlands of NSW.

Tony works hard to help improve the lives of older cats and dogs who have either been abandoned or surrendered and who are at risk of being euthanised. Tony is dedicated to finding foster homes and re-homing these animals. 


Western Sydney University Alumna Pamela Robinson believes learning and personal development should be ongoing.

At the age of 53, Pamela was among the first cohort to complete the Graduate Diploma of Midwifery at Western Sydney University and says that her graduation day was the highlight of her nursing career. That's no small statement for the Mt Druitt resident, now 76, whose nursing career spans more than three decades and has taken her from hospital wards to homeless shelters, a methadone clinic, and to isolated outback communities.

Pamela has worked in a children's hospital emergency department and burns unit, has held positions at Bowral and Westmead hospitals, worked as a community nurse in Wilcannia, and in the Aboriginal community of Toomelah, on the northern NSW border.

Since retiring four years ago, Pamela has become an active volunteer, helping teach refugees English through Anglicare and local churches. More recently, she has started giving pastoral care to patients at Blacktown Hospital, where many mentors from her university days still work.


FreelanderFor over 30 years, Dr Freelander has been a paediatrician looking after generations of children in the Macarthur area. He is a strong advocate for children's health and welfare in the region, representing the interests of children in the press and on many committees. Dr Freelander founded the well-respected Paediatric Unit at Campbelltown Hospital and was instrumental in attracting key members to establish the School of Medicine at Western Sydney University's Campbelltown campus.

Dr Freelander continues to teach students at Western Sydney University, in hospital wards, and in his consulting rooms.


With roots tracing back to the Warumungu people of Tennant Creek, alumna Dr Anysia Den is determined to make a difference in Indigenous health as she reconnects with her family heritage through medicine.

Dr Den originally studied science and teaching at Campbelltown and started her career as a high school teacher. When the University launched its School of Medicine, the then 33 year-old saw it as an ideal opportunity to return and study something that had always interested her.

Dr Den is particularly interested in obstetrics and wants to help address the high mortality rate of Indigenous children. Despite improvements over recent years, the death rate of Indigenous children is still more than double that of non-Indigenous children.

A resident doctor at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Dr Den was named RPA's Intern of the Year for 2013 and has also featured in a recent edition of the University's GradLife Magazine, sharing her story to inspire fellow alumni and others considering study. Her story is indeed inspirational.


Laura Watson is a busy mother of two toddlers, a local business owner, a runway fashion model, a White Ribbon advocate and also finds time, energy and resources to be the founder and leader of Jordan Springs and Surrounds Women's Community Group (JSWCG).

At just 28 years of age, Laura has already lived an amazing life, and continues to work towards empowering other women within her local community and assisting them to succeed in the many facets of their lives. Laura created JSWCG as a women's only group dedicated to helping women from Western Sydney of all ages discuss fitness, wellbeing, health, careers and life goals.

Laura is extremely active in promoting women's health and wellbeing in her local community. She holds monthly motivational meet ups in Jordan Springs for women in the Western Sydney area, has held fundraising events for White Ribbon Day, runs a fitness group each week and now also takes women hiking once a month.

YWCA NSW - South West Region

YWCAFor over 10 years, the South West Region team of YWCA NSW has assisted local families to connect and to stay connected, helped children prepare for and stay in school, and worked to create resilient, contributing communities.

For the last two years, researchers at the Western Sydney University's MARCS Institute for Brain, Behaviour and Development have been very fortunate to work with staff and parents at YWCA's community hub in Ambarvale-Rosemeadow. This busy centre offers parenting programs and family support services.

The YWCA team have gone the extra mile to facilitate research into language development in the first years of life, connecting the MARCS Institute with local children and families.

Childhood is the basis of lifelong learning, but research into educational outcomes for children from poorer homes has tended to focus too late in life, when catching up educationally is much harder to do. YWCA NSW understand the value of research and investigation into how children learn to talk in diverse families, which leads to the development of programs that more effectively meet their needs.


14 April 2016

Media Unit

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