Meet the nominees for the 2017 Women of the West Awards

Women of the West 2016 winners 

Natasha Lay, Winner of the 2016 Young Women of the West Award, and Deborah Burgess, Winner of the 2016 Women of the West Award 

Whether it be advocating for refugees, running a thriving business that's making a difference in the community, or overseeing crisis accommodation for women and children who are escaping from family violence, all of the nominees in the Western Sydney University Women of the West Awards share a passion for making our region stronger, more resilient and more community-minded.

There are 13 inspiring women nominated this year, across the categories Women of the West (Community), Women of the West (Business), and Young Women of the West, which is open for those aged 18 to 28 years. The winners from each category will receive a grant of $5,000 to further their leadership and advocacy work.

The nominees are from diverse backgrounds, including business, education, community groups, government, and not-for-profit organisations.

They will gather on Friday 17 March for an award ceremony and luncheon being held in partnership with Coleman Greig Women in Business Forum.

The event will see guest of honour, Dr Gill Hicks, deliver a keynote address. Dr Hicks, known globally as a survivor of the 2005 London terrorist bombings, is considered one of the most thought-provoking and powerful speakers in Australia and the UK, having dedicated her life to advocating for peace.

Professor Denise Kirkpatrick, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) says the University is proud to host the Women of the West Awards, and shine a light on the many women who are doing great things to enrich the lives of those in Western Sydney.

"The University first established the Awards in 2005, and since then they have gone from strength to strength. Once again, we have an outstanding group of Women of the West finalists this year, who are all making their mark on the region and helping to make our community a better place," says Professor Kirkpatrick.

"Their nomination reflects the high regard that friends, colleagues and community members have for them, both personally and professionally. We congratulate all our Women of the West nominees for this year on their outstanding achievements."

Caroline Hutchinson, Coleman Greig Women in Business Ambassador, says that the Forum is excited to be able to celebrate International Women's Day by showcasing extraordinary women from across the Western Sydney region.

"International Women's Day is such an important global event and we're looking forward to hearing Gill's powerful story – surviving such an horrific experience and emerging as a strong advocate for peace – whilst also acknowledging the fantastic efforts of women from across Western Sydney," she says.

Women of the West Nominees for 2017

Women of the West (Business) category

Christa Anthony, Principal/Owner, Studio Dance NSW

Christa was nominated by Sarina Anthony for her drive and valuable contribution to the lives of others in Greater Western Sydney. In her role as Principal/Owner of Studio Dance NSW Christa strives to empower the youth of Kings Park and surrounding areas through the performing arts. Christa also tutors students studying the Diploma in Counselling, utilising her Bachelor of Social Science (Psychology) and Graduate Diploma in Counselling from Western Sydney University. 

Christa previously worked as a counsellor and case worker within Greater Western Sydney, and is still committed to helping children and young people achieve their dreams. A recipient of the Young Women of the West Award in 2012, she has continued to gain recognition for her business acumen and community focus, receiving the 2014 Coral McLean Award which recognises outstanding community contributions by women within the Chifley electorate. 

Christa is also active within the disabled community, conducting dance classes within her studio specifically for children with special needs. 

Frances Sidarous, Senior Property Manager and New Development Sales Manager, Sidarous Realty

Frances was nominated by Christine Hallett. A nominee for Young Women of the West in 2016, Frances has demonstrated significant leadership within the Greater Western Sydney community by assisting and mentoring first-time home owners through her real estate business, Sidarous Realty. With a focus on personal connection and integrity, Frances strives to assist those within Greater Western Sydney to realise the 'Australian dream' of owning their first home. 

A current Western Sydney University student, Frances has been an exemplary volunteer 'buddy' within the Law School whilst completing her studies. Frances is also actively involved with multiple community organisations, with a particular focus on animal welfare. She regularly conducts fundraising events to raise money and awareness for animals in need. 

Le Ho, Managing Director, Aspiring Promotions

Le was nominated by Stephanie Luong for her exceptional leadership and business acumen. Recognised as one of Australia's leading female entrepreneurs, Le took over the waste management company Capital City Waste Services (CCWS) and within years had the company achieving record turnover. 

Having sold CCWS, Le is now using her status within the community to run Aspiring Promotions. Aspiring Promotions aims to provide the means for entrepreneurs and businesses to share their stories of overcoming adversity and securing success. Herself a Vietnamese-Australian and coming from a refugee background, Le is using Aspiring Promotions to provide a voice to others from diverse backgrounds, particularly those from Greater Western Sydney, with the aim of inspiring those within the community. 

In particular, Le has worked closely with the Blue Dragon Children's Foundation, an Australian organisation that aims to rescue Vietnam's poorest children from poverty.

Sapna Shah, Co-Founder, Onroad Driving School

Sapna was nominated by Annelise Ashkar for her business leadership and passion for safety and gender equality. Working in the traditionally male-dominated driving school industry, Sapna strived to create a business with a strong community focus and with exemplary service. 

The positive impact that Onroad Driving School has had within the community has been recognised through several local business awards, including a 2015 Finalist at the Australian Small Business Champion Awards.
Sapna is committed to safety within the Greater Western Sydney community, using her driving school as a platform to teach the importance of road skills and safety. In 2016, Sapna teamed up with Vision Australia for the Angus Suttor Driving Day at Eastern Creek, an event which grants the visually impaired the opportunity to drive. 

Sapna's professional and community work has touched many lives within the Greater Western Sydney region, with thousands benefitting from her leadership within the driving school industry.

Women of the West (Community) category

Yvonne Keane, Mayor, The Hills Shire Council

Yvonne was nominated by Chantelle Fornari-Orsmond. Yvonne is currently the Mayor for The Hills Shire Council. She currently is the Chair (volunteer) for a new crisis shelter that has been established in Castle Hill for women and their children who are fleeing domestic violence. 

Under Yvonne's leadership, the shelter provides much-needed beds to women and children, and safely and successfully transitions them to a new life away from domestic violence.

Yvonne's compassion and commitment is well known within the community and has been recognised through her hard work and dedication to the sector. 

Marianna Guirguis, Client Services Officer, Mount Druitt Ethnic Communities Agency

Marianna was nominated by Holly Corpre. She has been a volunteer Client Services Officer at Mount Druitt Ethnic Communities Agency for two years and has demonstrated exceptional leadership skills. 

Marianna has established effective relationships and advocacy within the Arabic speaking community and her devotion to her role has provided many individuals with a network of support. 

Marianna is an asset to the community of Mount Druitt and also Greater Western Sydney. 

Jenny Bombardieri, Executive Officer, Recreation, Sports and Aquatics Club

Jenny was nominated by Bob Beer for her exemplary leadership in the service of her community as an active and passionate volunteer.

Jenny first engaged in community volunteering with the development of special swim classes for children with asthma and also intellectual disability. The demand for these programs led to Jenny managing a group of volunteers and establishing Roselands Sports and Aquatics Club (RSAC). 

This organisation has provided programs for the local community to service particular individuals with disabilities. Jenny's commitment to the organisation has been recognised through various organisations providing financial support and resources, including NSW Department of Sport and Recreation, local councils and various corporate companies. 

Working as Executive Officer for the Recreation, Sports and Aquatics Club, Jenny is committed to providing regular programs for over 500 people with disabilities. Jenny is highly recognised within her local community and Greater Western Sydney. 

Manar Hajaj, Contact Supervisor, Creating Links

Manar was nominated by Manal Hajaj. Manar is currently the Contact Supervisor at Creating Links and demonstrates a passion to improving the lives of individuals living in Greater Western Sydney. 

Manar specialises in providing vulnerable minors who are in the foster system, with scheduled and meaningful contact with their family.

Recently Manar has become a volunteer at Lifeline Australia and also AusRelief. She also raised a significant amount of funds for a local hospital during the Tumut Cycling Classic. Manar takes pride in her work and has made a significant impact on many individuals' lives in Greater Western Sydney and beyond.

Ruth Morrison, Secretary, Rotary Club of Narellan

Ruth was nominated by Ramya Acharya. Ruth has been a member of Rotary Club of Narellan for the past 10 years and is currently the Club's secretary. 

Narellan Rotary serves the local region of Greater Western Sydney in a variety of ways, and under Ruth's leadership it has made a significant and positive contribution to the lives of many in the area. 

The initiatives that Ruth has helped drive include the Rotary Club of Narellan Ball, which has contributed approximately $10 million to community organisations, focussing on education. 

Ruth has demonstrated a sustained commitment to fundraising within her local community and to making a difference. 

Ruth Nelson, Partner, The Creating Space Project

Ruth was nominated by Jodie Hay for her endless commitment to leading a number of voluntary programs across Greater Western Sydney. These have included servicing the board and committee meetings for the Australian Forum for Justice and the Josephite Justice network. 

Ruth's most recent work has been on The Creating Space Project, which has inspired many women to have a voice and learn their own strength, value and power. The project is currently focused on helping a group of female refugees to enhance their English and job seeking skills. 

Ruth's philanthropic work covers all levels of society and has made a significant impact on individuals within her local community and beyond. 

Wendy Lindsay, Vice President, Padstow Park Public School P&C

Wendy was nominated by David Coleman. Wendy has been the driving force in her local community to raise funds to bring the vision of upgraded facilities to her local public school. She has also implemented the Kids in the Kitchen program which educates primary students about healthy eating and cooking. 

Wendy's contribution to local community radio has also been noted especially in promoting community groups and charities. Her ongoing commitment to a wide range of community organisations has been recognised with being named the 2015 Local Woman of the Year for East Hills.

Kathryn Temple, Lecturer, Western Sydney TAFE College Richmond

Kathryn was nominated by Bronwyn Berriman for her commitment and contribution to the lives of families in the Blue Mountains Region. 

Kathryn's current role as lecturer in Horticulture and Landscape Design has allowed her to provide landscaping and design work to local community groups which have included childcare centres, aged care facilities and most recently the 2013 Blue Mountains bushfires. Kathryn saw an opportunity to involve her TAFE students in assisting rebuilding individuals' lives through restoring or establishing new gardens for families affected by the devastation of the fires.
Kathryn is also an active member of the Springwood Baptist Church and leads their Craftworks program, which seeks to engage women in the church and the wider community. She also volunteers her time on a weekly basis to visit elderly residents in a retirement facility at Leura in the Blue Mountains. 

Kathryn's personal and professional endeavours have touched many people's lives throughout the Greater Western Sydney Region.

Young Women of the West category

Maja Podinic, Student, Western Sydney University

Maja was nominated by Tanja Podinic for her passion and commitment to her local community. Maja is a current student of Western Sydney University and has a strong focus on leadership and social justice. 

Recently she has completed a TAFE certificate in Leadership and Mentoring, which led her to develop her Pen Pals Cross Cultural Program. This program has been introduced across two Greater Western Sydney schools, engaging students who are predominately refugees and have come from a non-English speaking background. 

Her work for this program was recognised with a Highly Commended in the Dame Marie Bashir Peace Prize award. Maja was also invited to present a speech on her Pen Pals Cross Cultural Program at NSW Parliament House.
Maja is a role model for other young people within her community and is a strong advocate for refugees.