Western Sydney’s everyday heroes were in the spotlight at the 9th Annual ZEST Awards on 15 February, celebrating exceptional people and projects in the community.  

Led by Western Sydney Community Forum with major partners Western Sydney University, National Australia Bank, City of Parramatta Council, and Wentworth Community Housing, the ZEST Awards showcase Western Sydney’s inspiring stories of resilience, strength and innovation. 

The winners were announced at a sold-out presentation, co-hosted by presenter and journalist Chris Bath, at Sydney Olympic Stadium. Guests and WSCF members mingled on the Pitch, at an exclusive pre-event meet-and-greet opportunity.  

ZEST Patron and Premier of NSW, the Hon Gladys Berejiklian, was once again in attendance, extending warm congratulations to all nominees and winners, stating, 

“Since 2011, the ZEST Awards have celebrated the achievements of Western Sydney’s diverse and dynamic community.  It is extremely important to recognise the hard work, innovations and talent of local people who inspire us and remind us that we can all play a part in our region’s success.” 

Guests were joined by distinguished ZEST Ambassadors – including Professor Peter Shergold, Chancellor of Western Sydney University and Aunty Carol Cooper, a descendant of  the Gundungurra and Darug peoples – alongside leaders from all levels of business, government and community organisations in the region. 

Acknowledging the ZEST Award winners, Chief Executive of the Western Sydney Community Forum, Billie Sankovic, stated:  

“The ZEST Awards nominees and winners are to be commended for their dedication, expertise and sheer hard work in all they have achieved. These initiatives make an enormous difference and are vital to the social and economic health and wellbeing of our region, now and in the future.” 

More than 100 nominations were submitted from communities across Western Sydney, representing a wealth of inspiring people, projects, and initiatives.


The region’s active, engaged young people were in powerful numbers this year.


Winners – Outstanding Youth Leader  

Matilda Harry – a proud Wiradjuri woman; and strong role-model and driven young leader, committed to creating positive change as a volunteer and mentor.  

Aya Mustafa – a passionate advocate and public speaker, giving a voice to young people from refugee backgrounds and emerging as a dynamic change maker and mentor.

Winner – Outstanding Youth Led Project
The Dawson 5 Experience – an innovate approach to creating employment opportunities for young people in Blacktown by creating, exploring and testing experiences in community spaces.

Winner – Exceptional Project
RESPECT – a program led by young men for young men using song writing, beat making, rapping, dancing and live performance to say violence in a relationship is never ok.  


Projects that built community capacity also featured prominently amongst the ZEST winners in 2019. 


Winner – Exceptional Social Enterprise 
Echo Realty – the first not for profit real estate agency in NSW, reinvesting income towards growing the supply of affordable housing and supporting families in housing stress.

Winner – Out of the Box 
The Collectives – a ‘lived experience’ leadership approach to supporting people experiencing group hoarding disorder and upskilling for community agencies who provide services.

Winner – Exceptional Community Partnership
Zero Barriers – a community, business and government partnership project that collaboratively drove disability-friendly areas across South Western Sydney.


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.

A full list of winners and highly commended people and projects, with details and images, is available on the ZEST Awards website.