6 February 2024

These women have done amazing work in Wollongong for years, but now it's been recognised

| Dione David
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Montage of NSW State Emergency Service Commissioner Carlene York APM and Wollongong Surf Lifesaver Shannon Fox

NSW State Emergency Service Commissioner Carlene York APM and Wollongong Surf Lifesaver Shannon Fox have been nominated for the NSW Women of the Year Awards 2024. Photos: NSW SES and Surf Life Saving Australia.

The NSW Government has announced the nominees of the NSW Women of the Year Awards 2024 and two incredible women working in Wollongong have made the cut.

Wollongong Surf Lifesaver Shannon Fox has been nominated for NSW Young Woman of the Year and NSW State Emergency Service Commissioner Carlene York APM is up for the top gong: Premier’s NSW Woman of Excellence.

The awards spotlight the outstanding contributions of women role models across the state who challenge inequality, innovate and inspire their communities and others to achieve great things.

Among Ms York’s most notable achievements in the past four years as NSW State Emergency Service (SES) Commissioner was securing more than $190 million in additional funding since 2021 and strengthening mental health support services for agency members.

In 2021, she took on the role of NSW State Disaster Controller at the start of an 18-month period that would include the worst flood disasters in NSW’s history. She was also appointed the first female president of the National Council for Fire and Emergency Services in October 2021, a position she held until October 2023.

READ ALSO Here’s cheers to our heroes in orange – Wollongong’s SES volunteers top the state for one type of rescue

Ms York said she was surprised to have made it to the finals, humbled by the efforts of everyone involved in her nomination and thrilled to be in the company of the other finalists.

“We all work in different fields but I looked at their biographies and think they’re all amazing women,” she said. “To be counted amongst them is an honour.”

The former NSW Police Force officer was awarded the Australian Police Medal in 2014 and received the Australasian Council of Women and Policing’s highest honour, the Audrey Fagan Memorial Award.

She said she had enjoyed the challenges of the move from the police force to the SES and acknowledged the roles of SES volunteers in making it an organisation she loved to lead.

“They give up their time and effort to help their communities, and that’s such a great reflection on Australians in NSW: to volunteer to often put their lives in danger to help their community, on some of their darkest days,” she said.

NSW State Emergency Service Commissioner Carlene York APM sits at a desk with her hands folded

NSW State Emergency Service Commissioner Carlene York APM is up for the prestigious Premier’s NSW Woman of Excellence award. Photo: NSW SES.

Shannon Fox – the second-ever woman to be named Surf Life Saving Australia’s (SLSA) Surf Life Saver of the Year (for 2023) – recently clocked her 1100th hour as a life saver over 16 patrolling seasons.

“Life savers are a crucial part of our region – we always have a busy summer, but I couldn’t have completed a lot of those hours without the quality of the patrol team I work with,” Ms Fox said.

Over her trailblazing career she has been elected the first female club captain of the Wollongong City Surf Life Saving Club, captain of the Emergency Response callout team, Illawarra’s first female duty officer, and SLSA’s representative on Surf Life Saving New Zealand’s leadership program, Leaders 4 Life.

Wollongong Surf Lifesaver Shannon Fox stands on a rooftop with the bay in the background

Born deaf, Shannon is passionate about diversity and inclusion, and has received The Shepherd Centre’s Oration Award for her contributions to the disability space. She also led the drive to rewrite her club’s constitution to make it gender inclusive. Photo: Surf Life Saving Australia.

On behalf of the state, NSW Premier Chris Minns congratulated the finalists.

“You are incredible individuals who have made an enormous contribution to communities in every corner of our state,” he said.

Minister for Women Jodie Harrison said this year’s record 420 nominations showcased the hard work, dedication and passion of women and girls across NSW.

“Women and girls are making a significant impact in advancing gender equality across different industries, from science to education, health, industry, culture and community,” she said.

“We want to continue to empower the next generation to be limitless in delivering positive changes through fortitude in their fields of expertise.

“We can only achieve this by shining a light on the contributions and achievements of women and giving them the recognition they truly deserve.”

READ ALSO Oceans of accolades for Illawarra and South Coast at 2023 Surf Life Saving NSW Awards of Excellence

The NSW Women of the Year Awards 2024 finalists are:

Premier’s NSW Woman of Excellence

  • Prof Clara Chow AM – Sydney
  • Jessica Hill – Sydney
  • Cara Varian – Sydney
  • Prof Adriana Verges – Sydney
  • Commissioner Carlene York APM – Wollongong

NSW Aboriginal Woman of the Year

  • Kylie Captain – South-West Sydney
  • Aliethea Cutmore – Northern Tablelands
  • Carly Stanley – Sydney
  • Dr Casey Sullivan – Tamworth
  • Deborah Swan – Central Coast

NSW Community Hero

  • Seini Afeaki – Western Sydney
  • Farzana Farzana – Sydney
  • Monica Mudge – South Coast
  • Anna Noon – Lake Macquarie

Regional Woman of the Year

  • Dr Skye Charry – Murrumbateman
  • Tsukasa Hiraoka – Bourke
  • Nicole Kiss OAM – Cowra
  • Theresa Mitchell – Tweed Heads
  • Rochelle Olsen – Dubbo

NSW Young Woman of the Year

  • Noor Azizah – Sydney
  • Darian Brooker – Southern Sydney
  • Shannon Fox – Wollongong
  • Kupakwashe Matangira – Lake Macquarie
  • Sarah Williams – Newcastle

Ones to Watch

  • Parisa Azad – South-West Sydney
  • Aarohi Bansal – Sydney
  • Gezel Bardossi – Sydney
  • Sophie Berude – Lake Macquarie
  • Lola Fotheringham – Sydney
  • Bronte Gibson – Hunter Valley
  • Matilda Gibson – Hunter Valley
  • Abbie Jane – Broken Hill
  • Salma Kareem – Sydney
  • Izabelle Kelly – Dubbo

The winners of each of the six award categories in the 2024 program will be revealed at a ceremony on Thursday 7 March, at the International Convention Centre, Sydney.

The awards are the centrepiece of NSW Women’s Week 2024, held from Monday 4 March to Sunday 10 March.

The week is also punctuated by the IWD 2024 Luncheon at WIN Entertainment Centre on 8 March 2024 from 11:30 am to 3:30 pm, where the keynote speaker will be peace advocate, artist, and musician Dr Gill Hicks AM MBE, who is globally known as an advocate for sustainable peace and a valuable resource in countering violent extremism.

Tickets cost $150 and include a three-course lunch and beverage package – book here.

The Local Women of the Year Awards is a separate program that runs alongside the Women of the Year Awards, providing MPs with the opportunity to recognise and celebrate the contributions of a local woman in their electorate. Recipients of these awards will also be recognised at the state awards ceremony.

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