Department of Family and Community Services

2014 A.H. Beard's Community Hero Award finalists

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A.H. Beard's Community Hero Award category showcases women who are local heroes or volunteers who have made an outstanding contribution to the NSW community. Finalists include extraordinary advocates for foster families, women's issues and Aboriginal communities recognised for their dedication and community spirit. Read more about our finalists:

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.

Annette Holmes from Albion Park Rail

"I am indeed truly blessed to have these amazing children in my life and to have the opportunity to do what I do. Their love and smiles are what keep me going."

Annette Holmes has been fostering children for 15 years and has taken care of 67 children aged from just a few days old up to teenagers. Her passion is looking after babies born with drug and alcohol dependencies as she knows with a little love, patience and support they can grow up to be strong and healthy children.

Annette knew from an early age that she would be unable to have children but she wanted to be a mother more than anything. Fostering was her answer. Even before she became a foster parent, Annette knew she could make a real difference by caring for these children and giving them a safe home.

Caring for children with substance abuse issues or children who have been neglected or abused is a challenging yet very rewarding role. Many of these children cry for weeks while they learn to live in a new world. Some of them have withdrawal symptoms from drug or alcohol dependencies. Annette has graciously given her life and her love to these children working hard to help them through their struggles. Her favourite moment is when the baby or child smiles at her for the very first time, making all the hard work worthwhile.

Although Annette finds the goodbyes hard, she gets joy from seeing family situations improving and the difference the time in her care has made to the children. She enables children to grow, learn, trust and to receive and return love. She cares for them as if they are her own.

Three years ago Annette took permanent care of her two "grand children" through an arrangement with the children's mother, her niece, who was also raised by Annette from a very young age.

Annette has been living with several disabilities since she was younger but in 2005 her health took a down turn and she now has to feed herself through a tube in her stomach. This has not stopped her from carrying out her role as a loving carer to the children though.

Annette's passion and dedication to working with children is not limited to foster caring. She has taken on many roles including volunteer work helping children learn to swim, teaching Sunday School at her local church, being a community Club Leader and a Board member at Illawarra Christian School.

Annette has recently become a spokesperson for CareSouth which is a fostering agency, supporting carers and encouraging others to become carers. Annette's inspirational story helps people to understand the impact you can have in a child's life by becoming a foster carer. She also assists families within her community in rebuilding their lives by giving them the support and guidance to provide a loving and safe home for their children.

Her down-to-earth attitude and appreciation for what the children give back to her make Annette a local community hero who deserves to be recognised. She has made such a difference in the lives of all 67 children she has cared for and will continue to do so with the children she cares for in the future.

Josie Parata from Beacon Hill

"My passion is working with women who may be experiencing difficulty as a single parent – supporting them every step of the way."

Josie Parata is a dedicated single mother to four beautiful children, who uses her own experiences to help other women and their families escape domestic violence. As a previous victim herself, Josie has dedicated her life to giving women and children a voice when it comes to the fight against violence and emotional abuse.

After leaving an abusive environment, Josie found herself in a women's refuge pregnant with her fourth child and in unmanageable debt. Her situation helped her realise her dream and passion to help others. She knew she needed to find a way to provide guidance and support to other single mums, helping them deal with the practical side of leaving domestic violence behind.

This commitment saw Josie start SMS lighthouse - Single Mums Support, a not-for-profit organisation offering advice and guidance to single mums. SMS Lighthouse connects these mums to other services like housing, financial and legal support, and also educates them on how to successfully rebuild their lives and start to believe in themselves.

Josie's motto is "nothing is impossible if you only believe" and she is living proof that this can be true. SMS Lighthouse now offers a Centre for Support in Dee Why, where women can come in for advice or support from other women who may have been in a similar situation. The space is a peaceful, happy place with motivational posters and a positive feel.

After just one year in the Centre, Josie has helped over 124 women and their families through SMS Lighthouse. She has worked tirelessly since opening and continues to volunteer full-time receiving no wages. To Josie, this isn't a job – it's her way of life and she still finds the time and patience to be an amazing mother to her four children aged 7 to 16.

In August of 2012, Josie was diagnosed with Stage 4, Metastatic breast cancer that had spread to her lungs - she was given a couple of years to live. She was told by her doctor to shut the service down and to prepare for her funeral. Josie refused to believe her death diagnosis and kept the service running, working the whole way through her chemotherapy.

With a never-give-up attitude, Josie fought the disease and is in remission with not one cancer cell found in her body. Her inspirational story is helping other women through difficult times in their lives to overcome whatever obstacles life throws at them.

Josie was recognised for her work within her local community helping women escape domestic violence when she was awarded the Warringah Council Citizen of the Year Award in 2012.

Through SMS Lighthouse, Josie has been able to help many women find hope to move forward and create a better life for themselves and their children, free of violence. Josie is already making plans to open up more Centres of Support for single mums all around NSW to guide and empower other women.

Susan Pinckham from Burwood

"Get out there and do it – don't wait around for something to happen for you. Nothing changes unless you are prepared to put the time and energy in yourself."

Susan Pinckham is a Biripi woman dedicated to empowering Aboriginal people, especially women, to not only have dreams and goals but to take action and achieve their full potential.

Sue learnt from a young age that if you want to make a difference you need to get inside the system to make positive change happen. She wanted to challenge and inspire all Aboriginal people to do their very best. She saw a need to educate people and through the work she does she believes she has an opportunity to do just that.

Sue's passion is to help Aboriginal women and children suffering domestic and family abuse. This passion led her to become a founding member of NSW Wirringa Baiya Aboriginal Women, Children and Youth Legal Service. The service helps women deal with domestic violence by offering them support and guidance through law reform advocacy, legal representation and community education programs.

She has been a representative or board member many times on the Women's Services Network, National Partnership against Violence Committee, NSW Rape Crisis Centre and NSW Women's Refuge Movement. Sue does not just offer her support and guidance, she is committed to making changes where they are needed. Sue campaigns endlessly to help enable changes to legislation, policies and even society's views and opinions.

In 2011, she was nominated and presented at the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women's Alliance International Women's Day 100th Anniversary and was named in the top 100 women in Australia who has made positive change happen.

Sue has a strong connection to her country, customs, Lore and people, which has helped her to be a caring foster-mother to many Aboriginal children of all ages.

Throughout her life, Sue has worked in a range of organisations related to Advocacy and Change. She was an Aboriginal Representative at the Australia 2020 Summit and and has also presented several times as a keynote speaker at the National Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Queer (LGBTIQ) Domestic Violence Conference. She is currently working as the Aboriginal Home and Community Care Access and Development Officer where she is key to helping provide access to services for Aboriginal people in 11 council areas across Northern Sydney.

She is Chairperson of the NSW Aboriginal Gathering Committee, which advocates for aged care and disability and she is a member of Aboriginal Ability Links which provides a first point of contact for support for Aboriginal people with disability, their families and carers.

Sue is very well respected in the local community and not just among Aboriginal people. She is a leader in change and a positive role model to so many women. Sue has worked tirelessly to achieve her mission of encouraging and inspiring women and all Aboriginal people to do their very best.