The award recognises the outstanding dedication of a local NSW woman has made to her community.

This year, four finalists were nominated for this award, which forms part of the NSW Women of the Year Awards.

The winner

Shirley Smith

Uniting Care Transport team volunteer, Shirley was nominated for her continued work helping develop a volunteer network to provide convenient and affordable transport in her rural area. Seeing the need in 1999, Shirley started providing transport for the elderly and sick who could no longer drive, requesting those using the service to make an affordable donation to cover the cost of fuel.

Since 1999 over 85,700 trips and 2,600 plus people have been assisted across the Lismore, Casino, Richmond Valley and Kyogle region. The Uniting Care Transport Team volunteer drivers are instrumental in transporting medical patients to nearby hospitals and medical centres for dialysis, cancer treatment and a range of services involving outpatient care.

Shirley were nominated for the Community Hero Award.

The finalists

Dr Astrid Perry

Astrid was nominated for her ongoing advocacy for social justice. A strong, unwavering advocate for women of culturally and linguistically diverse communities, she has been instrumental in the advancement of their wellbeing through the support of Settlement Services International.

Astrid’s passion for helping others is evident in the number of advisory boards she has held positions on, including:

  • Australian National Council of Refugee Women
  • National Program Group of Resettlement
  • Department of Human Services, and
  • NSW Police Advisory Council on Ethnic Communities.
Mary-Jo McVeigh

Trauma therapist and mental health social worker, Mary-Jo is nominated for her continued work and dedication to provide specialist trauma assistance services for children and families.

Mary-Jo built Cara House in 1994, which offers a safe place for children, adults and families to heal from the impact of trauma and abuse. She also set up CaraCare in 2016 based of her knowledge and experience spanning child-protection, trauma therapy, clinical supervision, management training, leadership coaching, facilitation and professional self-care. Based in Concord, hundreds of families have benefited from the team of trauma therapists at Cara House and CaraCare.

Mary-Jo’s dedication also benefits other professionals. Passionate about sharing her knowledge and building up their skillsets, she provides training and support, ensuring the transfer of these much-needed skills to assist local communities.

Mary-Jo were nominated for the Community Hero Award.

Theresa Mitchell

Founder of Agape Outreach, Theresa is nominated for her dedication to helping the homeless and needy. No stranger to volunteering, she commenced a project in 2009 cooking a meal with her family and offering it to the homeless on the street.

A decade on, the Agape Outreach organisation serves nearly 10,000 meals to the homeless every year in the Byron Shire, Tweed Shire and Gold Coast regions. With over 70 volunteers and an established venue for the coordination of the various services offered, the organisation has proved itself a powerhouse for supporting those in need. Not only supplying food hampers from rescued foods to the homeless, it houses an op shop and provides a range of free training classes in cooking, budgeting, life coaching and relationship management.

Theresa has a simple and honest philosophy she lives by, “It’s up to us, individually to make the decision to help others and then actually do it, without any expectations of return.”

Theresa were nominated for the Community Hero Award.



Our CEO, Deanne Stewart, paid tribute to the finalists:

“The finalists are to be congratulated. They are an exceptional, enterprising group of women whose work and contribution benefit communities not only locally, within NSW, but nationally.”