20 February 2018

The Annual ZEST Awards were presented on Friday 16 February, celebrating exceptional people and projects in the communities of Greater Western Sydney. ZEST Patron, the Hon Gladys Berejiklian MP, Premier of New South Wales, attended the presentation at ANZ Stadium’s Millennium room and spoke warmly, commending nominees and the part ZEST plays in bringing their achievements into the spotlight.

Special guests included Community Leader Aunty Carol Cooper, Leader of the Opposition, Luke Foley MP, ZEST Ambassador, Western Sydney University Chancellor Professor Peter Shergold, and co-host, journalist Chris Bath. Led by Western Sydney Community Forum in partnership with key event sponsors, the ZEST Awards showcase some of the region’s most inspiring stories, bringing together industry leaders and key representatives from business, government and community sectors.

More than 100 nominations were submitted from communities across Greater Western Sydney, representing a wealth of inspiring people, projects, and initiatives. The region’s active, engaged young people were in powerful numbers this year: Award winners Barefoot Beats – a dance-based project for students of Aboriginal, African and Pacific heritage which took place at Colyton High in 2016-2017, took out the ZEST Award for Outstanding Project Promoting Social Cohesion and Community Harmony.

Hip-hop and music culture linked up with local businesses in Canterbury Bankstown, in the 4Elements Music Project, which won the ZEST Award for Exceptional Community Business Partnership; and the Sydney Pacifica Youth Leadership Group was Highly Commended, as Outstanding Youth Led Project. Liverpool’s Lilly Lyons was this year’s winner of the Outstanding Youth Leader Award, for her inspiring work as a leader, speaker and volunteer in the community, making connections via her radio program.

Projects aimed at addressing issues of health and wellbeing also featured prominently amongst the ZEST winners in 2018. Winner of the ZEST Award for Exceptional Partnership in a Local Government Area was the Village Café in Penrith, an initiative established by Penrith City Council, in partnership with six cross-disciplinary service providers. This free fortnightly café offers residents in North St Marys, aged 50 years and over, the opportunity to connect socially and to access information and preventative health and community services. With 30-50 people attending every week, the initiative has drawn enormous positive feedback for its successful blend of community need, service provision and local council endeavour.

The story behind each winning initiative or individual is one of people responding to community needs, with innovative approaches and collaborative partnerships, to improve the lives of others. This year’s ZEST nominees and winners once again highlight the region’s astounding capacity for the positive, inspirational projects that are generated every year; proof that the people and communities of Sydney’s Greater West are continuing to build a thriving, cohesive regional culture.

Acknowledging the Award winners, Chief Executive of the Western Sydney Community Forum, Billie Sankovic, stated, “The ZEST Awards recognise and commend the remarkable accomplishments of local communities across Western Sydney.  I congratulate the nominees and winners for their dedication, expertise and sheer hard work in all they have achieved.  These initiatives make an enormous difference and are vital to the health and wellbeing of our region, now and in the future.”