Inspiring women honoured during International Women’s Day celebrations

Published on 10 March 2017

A GP reducing the stigma associated with mental illness, a university student helping budding artists to succeed and a long-time State Emergency Services (SES) volunteer have all been recognised in The Hills International Women’s Day Awards 2017.

Mayor of The Hills Shire, Councillor Yvonne Keane said the awards recognised personal excellence and outstanding community achievements.

“The Hills International Women’s Day Awards provided an opportunity to acknowledge the countless contributions made throughout the year by incredible women taking on the local, national and international stage in their chosen field,” Mayor Keane said.

“I would like to congratulate all of our winners and nominees.

“We had so many outstanding candidates who were nominated because they made someone proud and I know our judging panel had a difficult time choosing our award winners. 

“It is fantastic to see so many of our residents striving to make a difference in The Hills and contributing to a vibrant, connected and inclusive community.”

On the night, more than 16 women received awards across a number of categories including health, business, philanthropy and community service.

Mayor Keane said the event celebrated the achievement, strength and resilience of women in The Hills and across the world.

“International Women’s Day is a significant day. It’s a time to reflect on how far women have come and the road still ahead,” she said.

“This year’s theme – ‘Be Bold for Change’ – acknowledges that it is change that brings each generation of women further than the last, and it will be change that leads us into the future,” Mayor Keane added. 

International Women's Day is held on March 8 and is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.


Award Winners:


Woman of The Year - Christine Cleary

Christine has been a volunteer with the Hills State Emergency Services (SES) for over 20 years.

She has also been a volunteer with the SISTER2sister program for 10 years, a volunteer with Camp Magic since 2016 and in 2014 she ceased working full-time to start a registered charity called StreetMed.

This charity cares for people who are homeless and or at-risk in Western Sydney.

Christine Cleary and her volunteers check blood pressure, do mental health checks and provide first aid to society’s most vulnerable. During the day she advocates for her patrons in linking them in to vital services and getting them the help they need.


Young Woman of The Year - Rachael Noll

After leaving Rouse Hill High School at the end of 2015, Rachael agreed to join her friends for a trip to Cambodia with Raw Impact as an alternative to the typical schoolies getaway. She was moved by the conditions in Cambodia and decided that her two weeks volunteering was not enough and that she wanted to make a difference.

Rachael sourced sponsors to support her journey back to Cambodia and ended up spending seven months volunteering for Raw Impact. She worked as their creative intern designing product lines to raise funds and also developed social media and promotional material to help raise awareness.

Rachael recently shared her experiences with Rouse Hill High School and shared her perspective of how she measures success, through helping make a difference to lives of others.


Champion of Champion Award - Western Sydney Women

Western Sydney Women is the first and only organisation to advocate for women from all walks of life whom come from the Inner West, Greater West, North West and South West of Sydney.


Champion of Champion Award - Annabelle Daniel of Women’s Community Shelters

As CEO of Women’s Community Shelters, Annabelle Daniel has worked with local communities around NSW to establish and open three shelters including The Sanctuary in Castle Hill. Annabelle Daniel has worked with a range of organisations, individuals and stakeholders, from the community and all levels of government to achieve change in the field of homelessness for women.

A key role in Annabelle Daniel’s career was          , one of Australia’s longest-established women’s shelter, providing services and support to women and children experiencing homelessness and escaping domestic violence.


Unsung Hero Award - Justine Valencour

For 20 years Justine Valencour has been one of the first people called to the scene of an accident or in a medical crisis in her role as a paramedic.

Previously, this amazing woman was trained as a Registered Nurse and midwife, with the majority of Justine's service being in The Hills District.


Business Woman of the Year - Rebecca Kidner

Rebecca Kidner supports young dancers through her structured and confidence building dance programs, while also employing locals through her company, Tiny Toes Ballet.

Rebecca helps young people and mums to secure work. She employs university students to assist them with part-time work, as well as local mums wanting the rare work-life balance.


Business of The Year - The Laser Lounge

The Laser Lounge was founded in Castle Hill in 2008 and now run a growing franchise operation of successful laser, skin and cosmetic clinics across Australia. Currently there are 12 clinics across Australia.

Not only does The Laser Lounge offer the latest in advanced laser, skin and cosmetic services but they are also practical training partners with the Australasian Academy of Cosmetic Dermal Science.


Business Connector of the Year - Caroline Bagga

Caroline Bagga has created Hills Business Mums and Australian Business Mums which is a network of like-minded women experiencing similar challenges, while providing a safe platform for encouragement and positivity.

Caroline is also the creator of the Mastermind Programme, which enable small groups of business owners to come together once a month to discuss important topics, challenges and provide support to one another.


Entrepreneur of the Year - Elena Saadie

Elena Saadie owns and operates Australian Boutique Markets and she is the brainchild behind the successful foodie festival Park Feast which saw a combined  90,000 people across two dates visit Bella Vista Farm and taste delicious meal options from a variety of food trucks.

To add, her Sydney Boutique Markets support over 80 small businesses, providing them with the opportunity to sell their products to shoppers at Rouse Hill Town Centre one day a month. 


Philanthropist of the Year - Susan Cliff

Susan Cliff has worked behind the scenes to raise much needed funds for various non-for-profit organisations.

Most recently, she along with other local businesspeople were responsible for raising money to help put on the annual and much-loved Hills Relay For Life. This was done through a variety of fundraising events such as the Twilight Bowls and a Rock & Roll Night at the Hillside Hotel.


Advocate of the Year - Linda Langton

Linda Langton not only raises two of her own children but has opened up her home and heart to care for foster kids.

She is also on the board of several committees which work with families with foster children and with disabilities including Technical Aid for the Disabled (TAD).

Linda Langton also runs a Facebook group called the Hills District Special/Additional Needs Mums Group. On this page, Linda helps other mothers and provides them with beneficial advice on raising a child with special needs.


Sports Woman of the Year - Robyn Winn

Robyn Winn is a local mother, she works fulltime and is an elite triathlete.

She has created a name for herself on the national sporting stage and recently won the Husky Triathlon in her age group.


Sports Woman of the Year - Amanda Hudson

Amanda Hudson has had an incredible 10-year sporting career with the Hills Ultimate Frisbee Association (HUFA).  In this time she has held many prominent positions including Vice President, Secretary, General Executive and League Officer.

In her senior roles, Amanda has acted as a mentor, helping to develop skills – both physically and mentally in young men and women – through training programs, support and encouragement and being a positive role model.


Community Leader of the Year - Yan Mary Li

Yan Mary Li is a valuable volunteer for so many organisations in The Hills. 

She has been instrumental in the establishment of the Hills Chinese Association, while also supporting The Hills Chinese Seniors Association and The Hills Chinese Women Association. 

Yan Mary Li also volunteers for The Hills Community Health Centre and The Hills Chinese School and has made an enormous contribution to the establishment and development of the community language school.


Artist of the Year - Dilara Niriella

Dilara Niriella is the winner of the Young Archie Award in 2016.

She is passionate about art and assisting budding artists to create beautiful pieces of work.

To add to her growing resume, Dilara is the current president of the Sri Lanka Association of NSW and is currently studying fine arts (Honours) at the University of NSW.


Wellbeing Champion of The Year - Dr Padmini Howpage

Dr Padmini Howpage is a champion for mental health. 

She has single-handedly orchestrated programs to help reduce the stigma associated with mental illness, becoming a beacon of hope in The Hills community and beyond.