Department of Family and Community Services

2017 Community Hero Finalists

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Debbie Higgison

Debbie Higgison
Winner

Debbie has been volunteering in a vast range of areas for the past 19 years. She is particularly skilled in community networking and is a highly respected member of the Chain Reaction Foundation team at Learning Ground. Through her paid work at Learning Ground, she mentors teenagers for whom formal education has failed. Debbie is a volunteer advocate for improved local transport, a volunteer basketball coach and umpire.  Over the past 19 years, she has built a network of festivals and community events across the 11 suburbs of Mt Druitt, including Reconciliation Walk and Concert.

A qualified social worker/community worker, Debbie is also a proud mother of three daughters and grandmother of one grandson. She has always had particular interest in developing strong values and attitudes within families. She is a well-known and appreciated community leader across Western Sydney.

Pampha Bhujel

Pampha Bhujel
Finalist

Pampha was just three years old when her parents were expelled from Bhutan. She spent the next 18 years in refugee camps in Nepal before resettling in Australia in 2010.  Pampha has achieved significant success as a registered nurse and contributed even more to the wider community through her voluntary work as the first woman President of the Bhutanese Association in Albury.

As the first woman and youngest President in Bhutanese communities in Australia the Albury region has been able to host events and deliver programs to empower local communities. These include hosting sporting activities such as soccer and cricket games aiming to teach accountability, dedication, leadership and healthy living among young girls and boys.

In a generally male dominated community, Pampha has demonstrated women can not only lead but help transform a newly settled refugee group to be a model community showcasing its strengths.

Denise Crisp

Denise Crisp
Finalist

Denise has been a volunteer foster carer for over 20 years and is recognised for her endeavours as a carer and advocate for society’s most vulnerable children.  A strong advocate for child protection, Denise continues to lobby to improve the child protection system. She recently received the Special Carer and Advocate for Children Award from the Westmead Hospital Neonatal Unit in recognition of her care and advocacy for new born babies suffering with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome.  Denise’s belief is that no matter how many children she cares for, the quality of care to all children is paramount.

Denise was a founding member and Vice President of the Foster Parents Support Network and President of the peak funded body Foster Care Association (NSW) Inc. until 2008.

Jennifer Sammut

Jennifer Sammut
Finalist

Jenny has volunteered with the Kogarah RSL Youth Club for more than 20 years and is involved in all aspects of the club including fundraising, coaching, sewing costumes and organising events. She is the heart and soul of the Youth Club and believes all children should have the opportunity to participate in an activity no matter their circumstances. She is an advocate for community spirit and the Youth Club which provides low cost sporting and cultural activities for families in the St George area.  Jenny recently negotiated new premises for the Youth Club, after its premises were sold.  This has ensured the club's survival. Through the Youth Club Jenny established a specialised gymnastics class for children with disabilities, this was the first of its kind. Jenny is still actively involved in coaching this class each week working closely with the children and their families to develop lifelong skills and friendships.

Jenny has been a valued integrations and teacher's aide in the disability sector for the past 21 years her passion for helping others extends outside the Youth club. She volunteers with the Special Olympics and the local church providing food and clothing for the less fortunate.  Inspired by their mother, her four grown children are also committed to their community and volunteer regularly at the Youth Club.