Public schools celebrate our women of the year

Staff and current and former students starred in the NSW Women of the Year awards yesterday.

A woman holding an award A woman holding an award
Image: Teacher and advocate: NSW Young Woman of the Year Noor Azizah

A teacher, alumna and three outstanding public school students have been recognised at this year’s NSW Women of the Year Awards.

An integral part of NSW Women’s Week, the annual awards celebrate women and girls for their inspiring contributions to society through acts of courage, strength, determination and kindness.

Teacher Noor Azizah, a Rohingya refugee, was named NSW Young Woman of the Year after defying adversity to become a passionate advocate and educator.

The co-founder and Director of the Rohingya Maìyafuìnor Collaborative Network, Ms Azizah champions Rohingya human rights, sexual and gender-based violence issues, and education.

“As the recipient of the NSW Young Woman of the Year award for 2024, I, as an Indigenous Rohingya woman, remain steadfast in the face of displacement and violence, embracing my Rohingya heritage with enduring pride,” Ms Azizah said.

“Our path continues as we leave our mark, safeguard our traditions, and share our narratives louder than ever before.”

Students Aarohi Bansal from Manly High School, Salma Kareem from Strathfield Girls High School and Sophie Berude from Hunter School of Performing Arts were among 10 girls recognised at the awards as the next generation of rising stars in the ‘Ones to Watch’ category.

Passionate about supporting the community, Aarohi Bansal amassed 160 volunteering hours in 2023, including working with Special Olympics Australia, conducting food drives for homeless shelters and Foodbank, and fundraising for the Kids’ Cancer Project.

Salma Kareem has been volunteering since the age of 8 and volunteers at the Islamic Women's Welfare Association in Western Sydney and Brothers in Need to provide meals for the homeless. She also donates 10% of all profits from her baking business to a different charity each month.

After being diagnosed with leukaemia when she was six, Sophie Berude became a prominent figure in the fundraising efforts of cancer charity Redkite. Through her personal 'Joy Campaigns', she has channelled more than $40,000 worth of gifts to John Hunter Children's Hospital, aiming to brighten the days of other children.

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Proud to belong

Ms Azizah and the three students are among 33 women and girls that were recognised across six award categories, including former Quirindi High School student, Dr Casey Sullivan, who was named NSW Aboriginal Woman of the Year.

A proud Wiradjuri and Gamilaroi woman, Dr Sullivan opened the first Indigenous privately owned and managed GP practice in NSW.

During her acceptance speech, she said the accolade showed the next generation of women there were no boundaries to what they could do.

"We are out there; the mentors are here, and we are willing to help; just look for us," the mother of four said.

Outside of work, Dr Sullivan sponsors a range of sporting groups and mentors Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander students in local primary and high schools.

In a media release issued following the award ceremony in Sydney yesterday, NSW Premier Chris Minns said: “I want to extend my congratulations to all the remarkable recipients and finalists for the incredible impacts their work and contributions have had in various parts of our state.

“These women have gone above and beyond to achieve positive change within their fields and contribute to their communities. They are exceptional women from diverse backgrounds who are incredible role models for us all to look up to.”

Minister for Women Jodie Harrison also acknowledged the winners: “Congratulations to all the finalists and recipients of the NSW Women of the Year Awards for being role models for the next generation of superstars.

“The record number of nominations this year is testament to the importance of these awards, but more importantly, a reflection of the broad impact women are having across our state.

“It is vital we recognise and support those who continue to challenge inequality, innovate and promote progress in their fields. I look forward to following their journeys as they continue to inspire others.”

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