Department of Family and Community Services

2014 Women of the Year Awards

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The 2014 Women of the Year Awards were  presented on 7 March 2014 (the eve of International Women's Day) at Parliament House. These Awards recognise the many achievements of women across NSW.

In 2014, the Awards included four prestigious categories: the Premier's Award for Woman of the Year, Harvey Norman's Young Woman of the Year Award, A.H. Beard's Community Hero Award and Local Women of the Year.

239 nominations were received from across NSW highlighting the outstanding achievements and contributions that women are making in our state. The judging panel had a very difficult job in selecting finalists with so many excellent nominees.

For the first time, we introduced a new category - the Young Woman of the Year Award. This award acknowledges the important role young women have in our communities and is proudly sponsored by our partner, Harvey Norman.

Winner of Premier's Award for Woman of the Year 2014

Turia Pitt from Narrawallee near Ulladulla

Mining engineer, burns survivor, life champion

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"Never, Never, Never Give up. Live life to its fullest. Be determined. Persevere".

Turia Pitt is a mining engineer. Attending her first undergraduate lecture, a fellow student told Turia she was "in the wrong class".  Challenging assumptions and prevailing against the odds was to become a theme in Turia's life. Not only did she carve out a successful engineering career in the traditionally male-dominated mining industry, but when the catastrophic Kimberley fires of 2011 almost took her life, she survived and refused to be limited by her injuries.

Graduating from the University of New South Wales with a double degree (with honours) in Mining Engineering and Science, Turia earned a scholarship with Rio Tinto and in January 2011 secured her dream job at the prestigious Argyle Diamond Mine.

Turia soon managed challenging multi-million dollar engineering projects and became involved in an impressive range of philanthropic and community programs. She volunteered with the St John's Ambulance team and the Argyle Diamond Mine's Emergency Response Team; taught English to students from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds; cycled in Cambodia for ChildFund - raising funds to build two schools; and worked on a housing project in Mongolia with Habitat for Humanity.

In 2011, Turia was one of four marathon runners trapped in a remote gorge in the Kimberley region when bushfires swept through the area. She suffered deep burns to more than 60 percent of her body.

Fighting back from a two-month coma and recovering from more than 100 operations - including the removal of the fingers and thumb on her right hand and dozens of skin grafts  -  Turia has "accepted and moved on". She's re-learnt basic life skills including eating and walking, reclaimed her independence and declared the fire which turned her life upside down would not define her future which includes community engagement on issues she is passionate about, and completing a Masters in Mining Engineering.

Promoting organ and tissue donation and supporting people with burn injuries is important to Turia. While continuing various treatment programs to help her recovery, this year Turia is participating in the Variety Cycle from Sydney to Uluru and she'll walk a section of the Great Wall of China to raise money for Interplast, a non-profit organisation providing free reconstructive surgery for people in developing countries.

Showing the strength of character and courage she has become renowned for, Turia's 2014  program includes returning to the Kimberley region to compete in the 20km Lake Argyle Swim.

Turia's resilience inspires all who meet her. Following the release of her book, Everything to live for, Turia is a popular guest-speaker who shares her story of survival and achievement through adversity with businesses leaders, community groups and schools. The response  she receives from audiences - and the comments on her website - are a testament to the fact that Turia's message of perseverance resonates with women from all over the world. Turia motivates others to make positive changes in their lives. Her never, never, never give up motto, is a strong and powerful message which not only looks great on Turia's now-signature running shirt, but is an anthem for women everywhere striving to close the gender gap.

Winner of Harvey Norman's Young Woman of the Year Award 2014

Lakshmi Logathassan from Holsworthy

"Not many people have the good fortune of growing up in a country of freedom and equal opportunity. I am one of the lucky few – so why not make the most of my chance to help those less fortunate."

Lakshmi Logathassan is a high-achieving law student from the University of Western Sydney who at just 18, dedicates her time to developing and implementing projects that provide access to education and promote the values of equality and a fair-go for all.

In 2012, Lakshmi seized her opportunity as School Captain of St George Girls High School to initiate the 'Laptop Project'. The project collects government-funded laptops from school-leavers and sends them to students in rural and remote schools in Kenya and Sri Lanka. What began as a school project in 2012 has now, in its third year, branched out as an inter-school initiative amongst several high-schools across Sydney. To date, 250 laptops have been donated, allowing thousands of students to gain access to a better education, and in turn, a world of possibilities.

Having heard of her parents' experiences as migrants, Lakshmi is aware of the various challenges that migrants face when adjusting to a new country. Last year, Lakshmi was a part of a team that successfully applied for the Holroyd City Council Community Assistance Program. The grant is currently funding the 'Laptops for IT Training Program' that aims to provide essential IT training to newly-arrived migrants.

In the summer of 2012-13, Lakshmi travelled to a rural area in Sri Lanka to run an English Fundamentals workshop, teaching the students how to speak and read English. She continues to work with the local schools to develop an English teaching program tailored to the students in that particular region. She has also volunteered with a number of charities including Amnesty International, Legacy and The Australian Red Cross.

Lakshmi's experiences have made her mindful of the fact that many young talents are unable to prosper simply because their circumstances fail to allow them to reach their full potential. Through her studies and community work, she hopes to slowly but surely reverse this situation.

In the future, Lakshmi hopes to combine her education in law with her passion for equality to continue to identify and address key areas of social imbalance. Her achievements highlight that with some confidence and enthusiasm, it is never too early to think big, set goals and make a positive difference.

Winner of A.H. Beard's Community Hero Award

Faten El Dana OAM from Mt Pritchard

"I quickly developed a passion for helping these migrant women to settle in Australia and to improve their awareness about important health issues."

Faten El Dana OAM is the president of the Muslim Women's welfare of Australia. She is also very active in the community as an ambassador for migrant women. She is a program coordinator at 2MFM and is involved with numerous community projects around women's health, family issues, job searching, interpretation and many others.

Faten's dream was to become a midwife however she realised once she reached tertiary level that midwifery was not available in Beirut. The only university to offer the course was in a distant city that was torn by civil war. With tenacity and passion, she would not give up her dream.

Faten immigrated to Australia in 1989 to pursue her dream to help women through their most life-changing experience – child birth. Her focus and motivation saw her study full-time while also raising her three-month old son alone.

Since arriving in Australia, Faten has witnessed first hand the difficulties migrant women face. After becoming a midwife she realised just how much support and advice migrant women needed especially when it came to their health. She became passionate about educating these women about health issues and connecting them to the right resources and services to help them live healthy lives.

This passion spread to other areas of the community and Faten became a consultant for the Arabic speaking community.  She now runs projects helping families with children with special needs, ensuring they have access to the relevant supports they require. Faten works with migrant school children helping them with their English and enabling them to settle into the school system. She is also involved with a campaign around awareness of Hepatitis C.

Faten uses her radio program to promote awareness of all these issues. She has played an integral role in helping many migrant women and their families settle into life in Australia. In 2008, she was awarded the best live-to-air program presented by women.

She has won many awards throughout her time in Australia, which include an Order of Australia Medal and the NSW Premier's Lebanese Community Award both in 2012.

Her phenomenal success in leading the way for Muslim women and families and her outstanding work as a radio presenter has led her to become the first ever Head of Radio Programing at the station, a role previously always held by a man.

Faten is a remarkable woman who through her midwifery, teaching, coaching, radio presenting and roles in many organisations, has become a leader in society and paved the way for other women to follow. She is an inspirational role model to so many women and her dedication, passion and success will enable her to continue to help the many migrant families settle into their new home.