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Introducing Sydney’s #NorthwestFaces

The Sydney Metro Northwest Places team collaborates with local community members and organisations from Northwest Sydney on a regular basis. There are so many people doing great things in the community that we decided to launch a program to share some of their stories, which we like to call Northwest Faces.

Are you a Northwest Sydney local?

Tell us your story for your chance to be featured as one of our Sydney Metro Northwest Faces by using the hashtag #northwestfaces or emailing us at

Make sure you’re subscribed to our Sydney Metro Northwest Places newsletter to learn more about our locals of Sydney’s Northwest.


Michelle Comito, Hills District

Our latest Northwest Face is Michelle Comito, resident of the Hills District and Executive Officer at Saints Care, a not-for-profit community organisation that provides the Youth Rezolutions support service to young people in The Hills and across Western Sydney.

Supporting young people at risk of or experiencing life challenges such as homelessness and mental health, Saints Care helps through programs such as case management, financial support, mentoring, skills courses, groupwork programs in schools and refuges, and outreach engagement.

“There is a large population of young people in The Hills, especially as the community continues to grow, but there is a misconception that there is no homelessness in The Hills,” says Michelle. “Unfortunately, there are young people in The Hills who are facing challenges such as domestic and family violence, trauma, differences in beliefs, gender and sexual identity, drugs and alcohol, mental health, and unsafe and unaffordable housing options.” This is where Saints Care’s Youth Rezolutions service comes in, to help support these young people and build resilience.”

To help young people come together and expose them to the support services they can access, Saints Care’s Youth Rezolutions is running The Hills Youth Fall Festival at Hills Showground this April – coinciding with National Youth Week. “This is a free event run by young people, for young people, with stalls, food trucks, music, dancing, and lots more,” adds Michelle. “It’s a great opportunity to create a very inclusive, diverse and safe where they can connect with us and other young people in their community.”

To find out more about Michelle and the work of Saints Care, click here.

Zoe Xuji Edema, Muralist

Recently, we were thrilled to spend some time with Zoe Xuji Edema, one half of the dynamic sister and brother social art enterprise, Muralisto.

Along with her sibling Xander, Zoe has conceptualised, designed and installed over 100 metres of mural art on the hoardings surrounding our Bella Vista Pocket Park. According to Zoe and Xander, their work to bring new art to Bella Vista has been really rewarding.

“So many different people stopped to chat with us during the install – we’ve even been contacted by local artists and other people keen to see art and culture blossom in the area,” Zoe explained. “As a growing suburb which services both large business and residential populations, Bella Vista is still finding its own character and flow, with projects that bring art and culture to the area having such a big part to play in connecting people.”

Zoe and Xander’s mural has been inspired by local residents, who participated in two community days during October 2023, as well as Year 9 art students from nearby Glenwood High School.

“The workshops with the Glenwood High students were really special – we were able to work with them as mentors and collaborators. We’re really proud to have been able to come together with local people to create beautiful art. There aren’t enough opportunities for this, but we believe community art cultivates more joy and engagement in the world.”

Muralisto’s mural, titled ‘The Golden Hour’, is now on display at Bella Vista Pocket Park. To find out more about Muralisto, click here.

Dave Coleman, Artist/Illustrator

This month we had a great catchup with Dave Coleman, the artist behind the colourful artworks recently installed at Bella Vista and Kellyville stations for our Creative Connections program, which saw local school students create stories about the transformation of Northwest Sydney.

A husband and dad to three young kids, Dave freelances as an illustrator and animator, and has been spending time in and around Sydney’s Northwest from a young age.

“We moved around a lot when I was young, but the schools I attended in Northwest Sydney were some of the best, with a great culture,” he explained. “That’s why I was inspired by the words of the students from Glenwood and Crestwood High schools – it brought back memories of my time at school, when I first developed my love of drawing and art.”

For Creative Connections, Dave used extracts from the students’ texts – which were based on their memories and experiences of living in Northwest Sydney – and translated them into large-scale murals.

“I interpreted what the students were saying in their creative writing and then presented that visually, infusing it with my own experiences and style. So much of the work I usually do is digital, so to now actually see this artwork come to life in the community is very rewarding, and something I’d love to do again.”

Dave’s artwork is now on display at Bella Vista and Kellyville stations. To find out more about our Creative Connections program, click here.

Aurelia Rahman, Baulkham Hills

We recently spoke to Aurelia Rahman from the Community Migrant Resource Centre (CMRC), for the latest in our series of Northwest Faces profiles.

A not-for-profit charitable organisation, CMRC provides support services to newly arrived migrants and refugees, with Aurelia playing an important role in driving cultural awareness and support for new migrants within the community.

“In our service area, which covers The Hills, Cumberland/Parramatta, and areas across Hornsby, Ryde and Ku-ring-gai, we see a real diversity of people settling, including arrivals from Sri Lanka, Iran, Syria, Afghanistan, Ukraine, and Myanmar. My role helps people already in the community to increase their awareness of these different cultures, so they know who their new neighbours are and understand their stories.”

A resident of Baulkham Hills since the early 2000s, Aurelia comes from a Romanian background, while her husband hails from Bangladesh, making her perfectly placed to not only discuss the migrant experience, but to also endorse The Hills as a place to live. “We love The Hills for its green spaces, as well as the good quality schools in the area, which makes it great for families. It’s a very safe place to live, with good neighbours who keep an eye out for each other.”

Aurelia says The Hills will continue to evolve as new residents move into the area. “The face of the Hills is changing constantly, with the multicultural flavour that is coming through as various groups settle here. We encourage new arrivals to embrace living in Australia and participate in the social, cultural and community life. Now we’re even seeing migrant representation in areas such as Council, and in years to come we will see even more contributions as people seek to make their mark and give back to the community.”

To find out more about Aurelia and her work with the CMRC, click here.

Celia Wouters, Box Hill

As we prepare for some exciting new activations in the second half of 2023, this month we took the opportunity to chat with Celia Wouters, an event producer at The Launch Box.

Celia has been in the events industry for over 16 years, and as part of the team at The Launch Box, will be working with us to design and deliver a program of events at Bella Vista Pocket Park, starting with our gardening workshop in August.

A resident of Box Hill, where she lives with her husband and two children, Celia says she is always on the lookout for new activities in and around the area. “The Hills is a great place to meet people and make friends, and with my kids, I’m always finding ways to introduce them to new things in the community. In my experience, the people of The Hills are genuinely happy and enjoy connecting with others.”

This sense of connection is one of the reasons Celia loves her work. “Working in events, it’s really rewarding to see the community connect, especially in new development areas such as you find in Northwest Sydney. We’ve run everything from Christmas, Diwali and Easter events, to ‘learn to ride a bike’ classes for adults and kids, fitness and yoga sessions, community gardening workshops, and new mums meetups – and they really are the best way to get to know your neighbours and fellow Hills residents.”

To find out more about Celia and her work with The Launch Box, click here.

Leanne Watson, Darug community

This month, our Northwest Face is Darug/Dharug artist, educator and book illustrator, Leanne Watson.

The daughter of Aunty Edna Watson and Uncle Allan Watson, elders of the Darug/Dharug community, Leanne was born and raised in Kellyville, and still regularly works in The Hills as a consultant promoting culture, language, art, people and places, on behalf of the Darug Custodian Aboriginal Corporation.

“As a kid I went to Crestwood High School, and it’s great to be able to keep coming back to the area and helping schoolkids and other members of the community to embrace connections to Country. Most people don’t know, but The Hills is filled with lots of Darug art sites, scar trees, and ancient pathways along creek lines, because the area held many valuable resources for prior generations of Aboriginal people.”

With Reconciliation Week coming up at the end of May, Leanne says it is important for the Hills community to understand and respect the value of Aboriginal culture. “This year’s Reconciliation Week theme is ‘Be a Voice for Generations’, and we can do this by making our language and the culture more accessible to people. I’m currently working with TAFE to teach the language to young students, and I’m also very proud that my granddaughter is now speaking the Darug language.”

To find out more about Leanne and the work of the Darug Custodian Aboriginal Corporation, click here.

Ben Currie, Totem Skate

For this month’s Northwest Faces profile, we talked to Ben Currie, Sydney Head Coach at Totem Skate, who has been helping budding young skateboarders in The Hills for the last few years.

Ben has been a regular figure in our Bella Vista Pocket Park, where Totem’s free learn to skate classes have been teaching kids the basics of skateboarding in a safe, welcoming environment.

“We mostly work with kids aged 6-12 – although sometimes we have the parents joining in as well! Overall, the response to our classes in The Hills has been great, because kids can learn from the ground up and expand their skills with an introduction to skate ramps and tricks.”

Totem Skate has also been responsible for designing skate parks in Northwest Sydney, including the recently opened Glenwood Skatepark, right across the pedestrian bridge from Bella Vista Pocket Park.

“It’s great for people in the Northwest to have access to sports such as skating. There are so many organised sports, but skating offers a more accessible option where you don’t need to be part of a team.”

“Skating has definitely made a comeback where it’s now accepted and encouraged by many parents, because not only does it offer fantastic physical exercise, but it gives kids mental benefits as well. I call skating a form of meditation, because when you’re skating, you can’t focus on anything else!”

To find out more about Ben and the popular free learn to skate workshops run by Totem Skate, click here.

Sharda Shukla, The Ponds

For this month’s Northwest Faces profile, we talked to Sharda Shukla, Director at Principle9 Real Estate near Bella Vista Metro Station.

Sharda lives with her three children and their dog, and says there is nowhere else she’d rather be than The Hills. “I have lived in The Ponds for the last 10 years and have been fortunate to watch my kids grow up in the area.

“The Hills has always provided everything we need – from the convenience of local shopping centres to the beautiful parks and reserves, it’s an area that we love.”

Sharda also loves the rapid development of Bella Vista, with ongoing growth in terms of homes, businesses, and opportunities showcasing how much The Hills can offer.

“Bella Vista has become an extremely beautiful place to live, and the area has some of the most unique modern homes in Sydney. New schools and the Metro have also really increased the suburb’s popularity and desirability.”

“Over the coming years, I expect the area will see even more young families and young professionals arriving, and I’m really excited to see what they contribute to the fabric of Bella Vista.”

As a real estate agent, property manager and business owner, Sharda based Principle9’s offices in Bella Vista because it is one of the prime business districts in Greater Western Sydney and the Metro is practically on her doorstep.

Sharda says she loves interacting with a range of different people. “Everyone I meet is always so friendly, and my role offers me the chance to talk with people of extremely diverse perspectives and experiences, which makes me appreciate being able to work in this area so much more.”

To find out more about Sharda and Principle9 Real Estate, click here.

James Pensini, Dural

This month we sat down with James Pensini, the Head of Orchestral Training and Community Engagement at Sydney Youth Orchestras (SYO), and a resident of Dural, for the latest in our series of Northwest Faces interviews. 

We had the pleasure of having James and the talented musicians from the SYO’s Symphonic Wind Orchestra join us at Bella Vista Pocket Park recently, where they delivered a spectacular performance in honour of Remembrance Day. 

In his role, James looks after all of SYO’s orchestras, conductors and tutors, as well as their educational and community outreach programs – while also conducting two orchestras himself! Having been involved with the Orchestra since 2004 as a trumpet player, James officially joined the conducting team in 2009. 

“It’s such an honour to work with some of the most talented musical youth in the city, from age 6 right up to age 25, and it’s so exciting to be part of their journey. Some of them will go on to international careers and become wonderful musicians in their own right, not to mention conductors, educators and arts patrons. SYO really is a special place for young people.” 

James also has a soft spot for the SYO for another reason – it is the place he met his now wife. 

“My wife was the SYO’s concert master, and I had the opportunity to meet her through the Orchestra, so it will always hold a special place in my heart. We now have two boys aged 5 and 3, and we love that they can run around and enjoy the bushland setting of Dural. For us, The Hills is a very friendly, laidback community, and the open space and leafy aesthetic gives it something you don’t always find in other parts of Sydney.” 

If you’d like to get involved with the Sydney Youth Orchestra, or would simply like to find out more, click here. 

Kylie Murphy, Baulkham Hills

Following our successful Doggy Day Out event in October 2022, we thought it was a great opportunity to catch up with Kylie Murphy, the friendly Marketing Manager at Sydney Animal Hospitals, who have two locations in the northwest - one in Kellyville, and the other just across from Bella Vista Metro Station in Norwest.

Kylie has been living in Baulkham Hills for 30 years, and with her husband, has enjoyed raising their teenage son in the northwest. “We love living in the Hills – it is so central, there are beautiful parks, bushwalks, shopping centres, cafés and pubs – and everyone is so friendly. You can’t beat the schools – from pre-school right through to high school – and there are fantastic local sporting groups, from little athletics to soccer and football.”

A key member of the Sydney Animal Hospitals team since 2016, Kylie admits she loves a good puppy photo, while she also feels fortunate to meet all the amazing animals that come to the hospital, as well as the lovely northwest locals who count as clients.

“Our teams are ready and waiting to care for sick animals seven days a week, and I love being able to come to work and say hi to them all. Through my job I’m able to help educate and inform our clients - and animal lovers generally - about our services and topics of interest, through social media marketing and events.”

To learn more about Kylie and Sydney Animal Hospitals, click here.

Tania MacLeod, Arcadia

This month’s Northwest Face is Tania MacLeod from Arcadia, a mother of four and director of The Stage Door Performing Arts School in Bella Vista and Rouse Hill Town Centre. It was recently honoured with the inaugural 2022 Sydney Hills Local Business Award for Disability Inclusion. The business has grown consistently throughout the past 28 years, most recently with the expansion of The Stage Door Espresso in Bella Vista, which is owned and operated by Tania’s husband Campbell.

During many years growing up and raising her own family in the Northwest, Tania has seen the area shift from cows and farming land to the thriving developed suburbs that now occupy the area. The Northwest is perfect for her children who can easily commute on the train from school to their extracurricular activities.

“I love the fact that I can look at where I have grown up and see how much it’s changed. It’s really grown in terms of schools and opportunities for kids - everything is here, it’s a wonderful place for families. We’ve built a great community with parents mingling and meeting.”

The Stage Door Performing Arts offers free weekly dance classes for pre-schoolers aged 2-5 at Bella Vista Pocket Park. They are designed to help develop motor skills, musicality, and social and emotional growth. Registration is essential.

You can learn more about Stage Door Performing Arts here.

Joey El Issa, Bella Vista

During the Bella Vista Pocket Park opening celebrations, we sat down with Joey El Issa from The Bearded Bakers.

Joey grew up in Castle Hill where his parents still live, and we spoke to him about what it’s like being back in the Northwest. “It’s really nice to bring our knafeh back to where we grew up. The Hills area is very family orientated, which is special. Growing up in that environment gave us solid foundations – family is the most important thing to us.”

Working in Northwest Sydney’s hospitality industry since the age of 14, Joey’s seen the area evolve over time. “It’s certainly been brought closer to the city – the transport system has made the area a lot more accessible for families moving here. The suburbs are evolving, and I think the best is yet to come.”

Joey and his brother Ameer have taken their vibrant service and delicious baked goods across the world stage. So what’s their secret recipe to success? “It’s the way we make people feel. Hospitality is all about people and we’re both passionate about it. Our business is an extension of our family values – we make people feel comfortable and bring joy to their life, which reflects our values.”

You can learn more about Joey and The Bearded Bakers here.

Angela Jun, Bella Vista

Beauty Trends Studio at Bella Vista

Beauty Trends Studio has just opened its doors in Bella Vista. We sat down for a chat with its owner and local resident Angela Jun.

After living in Chatswood and Northmead, Angela decided to make the move to North Kellyville with her two sons, three years ago. Angela built up a successful specialty hair extensions business from her own home, over a Three-year period, with customers coming from as far as the Central Coast.

When she outgrew her home studio, Angela selected Bella Vista as the location for her very own salon, “It’s close to home, peaceful, clean, and very close to the metro station, which has beautiful landscaping. Plus, my two sons go to school nearby so it’s nice and close.”

Beauty Trends Studio offers a range of services including Hair styling, especially K-Hair Extensions, Invisible Hair Extensions for Hair Loss People and Eyelash Extensions. While Angela’s clients come from across Sydney, she is excited to meet even more locals in the area, “My hair stylist lives in Rouse Hill and started out as a client – since then she has become a manager, so it’s a very local team.”

2022 Sydney Hills Youth Ambassadors

This month we sat down with the 2022 Sydney Hills Youth Ambassadors and met two of Northwest Sydney’s most promising locals. They told us what it’s like growing up in Northwest Sydney, and what their new role means to them.

The Hills Shire Council’s Youth Ambassador Program encourages young people to play an important role in representing youth in the community, including involvement in community events, participation at Council functions and a leadership role with young volunteers.

Hayley Mogilin

At 17 years old, Hayley is passionate about social justice, sustainability, and womens’ education and empowerment. She told us what her ambassadorship means to her, “I’m able to be a point of correspondence for youth and Council. It’s great to see Sydney Hills Shire Council valuing the words, thoughts and views of young people.”

After spending her early years in Orange, Hayley and her family moved to Kellyville. “One of the best things about The Hills is the ease of transportation. Plus, there’s a good amount of parks, green spaces, shopping centres and outlets to hang out with your friends to have fun.”

Rebecca Yu

Rebecca is interested in youth mental health, suicide prevention, homelessness and creating safe spaces for young people. As a 22 year old Peer Support Worker, she draws on her personal lived experience of mental health to support others. “I want to make a big impact in the community and what better way than to be part of the Council’s program. I’ve lived here for most of my life, and would love to bring mental health awareness to the forefront and encourage early intervention with young people.”

Living in North Kellyville, Rebecca loves the nature of the Northwest, “I like how the area promotes physical activity – there are bike lanes and tracks throughout, lots of trees around, and places to discover and explore your curiosity. You can find your sweet spot – somewhere to go when you’re feeling down.”

You can learn more about Hayley, Rebecca and The Sydney Hills Youth Ambassador program here.

Image caption L-R: Hayley Mogilin, Mayor Dr Peter Gangemi, Rebecca Yu

Richard Short, Northwest Sydney

This month, we sat down with Richard Short, Story Factory’s Storyteller-In-Chief. After growing up in Baulkham Hills and Kellyville, Richard has returned to the northwest to help deliver Landcom’s Creative Connections program.

The program includes workshops with local school students to co-create stories about the transformation of the area. “Landcom commissioned us to work with students from two schools in the area to come up with poetry and prose, to be integrated into public art” Richard explained.

Richard told us what programs like Creative Connections mean for the participating students at Glenwood High School and Crestwood High School, where Richard went to school himself. “It’s super interesting for kids to see the environment coming to life around them - their words become part of this world, which is being built. It’s a dream come true for students out in the world, to be walking past their own words.”

An accomplished writer and teacher, Richard joined Story Factory when it was founded in 2012. He continues to dream up new ways for the not-for-profit to share the joy of creative writing with its students.

What’s it like for Richard coming back to his old stomping ground? “So much of my first collection Bone Ink was based on the northwest during my pre-teen and teen years. It’s fascinating to come back when the world seems larger compared to when I was a kid – there are so many possibilities for young people.”

You can learn more about The Story Factory by clicking here.

Ray Micallef and Sarah Jenkinson, Bella Vista

As Northwest Sydney continues to grow, we’re excited to profile this month’s Northwest Face, Fitdistrict’s Ray Micallef. Ray and Sarah Jenkinson have just opened Fitdistrict at Bella Vista Station and they’re proud to be taking an active role in the growth of the area.

Launching this month, Fitdistrict is a premium functional strength and conditioning training studio. “People who join us all share the same values – they are motivated, driven, and empathetic. We’ve already received plenty of support from the local community and having grown up in the area I’m particularly proud of our diverse clients, we want to ensure everyone feels welcome,” says Ray.

“As professional coaches, we push people within their limits but challenge them when we need to. For us it’s all about providing a supportive and encouraging atmosphere. Fitdistrict is open to everyone and accepting of all members of the community.” Ray says.

We asked Ray why he and Sarah selected the Northwest as the prime location for Fitdistrict. “The Northwest has become a massive growth area with big opportunities for people wo are self-employed to grow businesses in a dynamic area.”

“Fitdistrict was born out of COVID. After the first lockdown, we were both training people outside respective gyms while they were closed. Sarah and I have similar training philosophies and we both developed our local fitness communities through outdoor training. We wanted to set up a boot camp in the Northwest, so we went into the Display Centre to ask about potential gym sites. We got to a point where we were ready to turn it into an actual gym, we came across the space at the metro station, fell in love with the vision and got started.”

You can learn more about Ray, Sarah and Fitdistrict by clicking here.

Ralf Hoffman, Northwest Sydney

This month we sat down with a familiar Northwest Face, who you may have seen while taking a trip on the metro – Ralf Hoffman. Ralf is a local and Metro Trains Sydney Customer and Stakeholder Manager.

Ralf splits his time between being on the front-line helping customers, working with community groups, emergency services, councils and construction workers, and working with Metro Trains Sydney operations team to ensure the smooth delivery of metro services throughout the network.

“We’re always here to help our customers. One of my favourite experiences is when a customer travels on the metro for the first time. For example, it might be a grandparent travelling with their grandchild, or by themselves, and they’re excited to experience the technology for the first time. We can help them get to where they need to be and make sure they get the right concession for them,” says Ralf.

“It’s pretty special for customers to be able to experience their metro ride from a driver’s perspective of a train. The metro line between Bella Vista and Tallawong is particularly exciting as passengers experience travel across the viaduct, and speeds of 100km per hour, above the traffic on Windsor Road. It’s so lovely to have that outlook of the community and surrounding suburbs,” he adds.

We asked Ralf what he enjoys most about working in the Northwest. He told us “It’s great to see how much  respect and pride the customer have for the metro. That’s been something we’ve really noticed from day one and I’m proud of that.”

You can learn more about Sydney Metro Trains by clicking here.

Monir Rowshan, Blacktown

Monir Rowshan in front of the artwork at Articulate Project Space during the exhibition Ink of Light. The work is inspired by a poem by Iranian Poet Mahvash Sabet. Title of work: Anguish of Love

This month we sat down with our latest Northwest Face Monir Rowshan, Coordinator Cultural Planning and Community Engagement at Blacktown City Council and Blacktown Arts, to talk about her role in the local community.

Monir fled Iran to escape persecution before arriving in Australia in 1984. Monir and her husband moved to Blacktown 13 years ago to be closer to work and they have been living there ever since with their rescue dog and new kitten.

An artist herself, Monir in her role works across a wide range of arts and cultural development projects including the Blacktown City Cultural Planning and community engagement, public art development, residency programs, an annual grant scheme to assist local artists and community organisations develop creative ideas and much more. ,

Over the last two years, during the lockdown period Blacktown Arts has worked hard to continue offering experiences online through its Facebook Open Studio, workshops, performances, digital art and exhibitions. Blacktown Arts also continues to facilitate its Elders in Residence program, which invites communities to hear the personal stories of local Elders and absorb knowledge and stories of culture and Country. 

Monir told us what she loves about living and working in Northwest Sydney, “Blacktown’s really special because of its history of the Darug/Dharug First Nations communities who are the traditional owners of the area. I have met so many amazing First Nations artists and communities from this area and beyond, and it’s great to engage in dialogues with them to learn and to collaborate on projects and programs such as public art, NAIDOC, Sorry Day and more. I love Blacktown for its sense of community and diversity – it makes it more interesting.”

You can learn more about Blacktown Arts by clicking here.

Rob Katz, Castle Hill

If you’ve been to Budokan Judo Club at Castle Hill Showground, you will recognise our latest Northwest Face, Rob Katz.

Rob and his wife Kerrye live with their two sons, Nathan and Josh in Northmead. They’ve been running the not-for-profit judo club since 1998. Between them, the duo have an impressive list of awards and represented Australia at the Olympics, Kerrye as an athlete and Rob as Coach. Keeping it in the family, Nathan and Josh have competed in a combined three Olympic Games, and are training for the Birmingham Commonwealth Games 2022 and the Paris 2024 Olympics!

The club relies on its qualified volunteers and supportive community to keep it going. It has grown from 10 students to a peak of 245 students this year. The club is family-friendly, but also competition orientated. During lockdown, the team adapted to Zoom classes, “It was challenging to say the least, judo is a sport that requires a partner, so we created solo drills and did a lot of fitness work in the meantime.” Last month they were pleased to head back to the mats for the first session in 16 weeks. Rob looks forward to the club being a part of the new vibrant Showground precinct.

We asked Rob what he loves about living and working in the Northwest. “Everyone’s very friendly – we take plenty of walks with our dog and really enjoy how leafy and open the streets are, along with the parks and playgrounds. When it comes to Budokan, lots of people walk by the club in the Showground, look inside and join our classes because they can pick up on its energy. We have lots of families, a huge spirit and colourful vibe.”

You can learn more about Rob’s work at the Budokan Judo Club by clicking here.

Angela Van Dyke, Blacktown

Angela Van Dyke has just celebrated four years as CEO of Riverstone Neighbourhood Centre. The not-for-profit community organisation was formed in 1977, and continues to provide a range of support services for those in need in the Northwest.

Riverstone Neighbourhood Centre had to quickly shift to delivering its services remotely during lockdown, “While our buildings are closed, our services remain open. We’re focused on supporting people through difficult times and we’re seeing a 60% increase in people needing help compared to last year’s lockdown,” Angela said.

Angela’s parents migrated from Croatia to Australia and settled in Fairfield. She explains her passion for working with diverse, marginalised communities, “Neighbourhood centres are so important because when families lose connections, these hubs become a safe space where they can form new connections – new friendships and a new family circle.”

Having lived in Beaumont Hills, Rouse Hill, Glenhaven, and now living in Blacktown, Angela and her husband raised their two daughters and son in the Northwest. She loves that the area is a place where you can put down roots and create your own community, feeling a sense of belonging, “You say hello to your neighbours, and if you haven’t heard from them in a while, you’ll check in on them,” Angela explained.

You can learn more about Angela’s work at the Riverstone Neighbourhood Centre by clicking here.

Francis Broomfield, Schofields

In celebration of Father’s Day, we sat down with Hills District Dads’ Francis Broomfield for our latest Northwest Faces profile.

Francis grew up in The Hills, and now lives in Schofields with his wife and two daughters aged three and five. They usually spend Father’s Day visiting Sydney Zoo, but this year looked a little different with a BBQ and a nice big walk together around the area.

A Physiotherapist by day at The Movement Clinic, Francis is also an Administrator of Hills District Dads. Founded in 2014, the local group provides mental health support for men in a safe and inclusive space.

With over 6,500 members (and growing), Hills District Dads opens up conversations with dads and dads-to-be across a variety of important issues including employment, relationship struggles and breakdowns, and mental health challenges:

“We even facilitated a connection, which enabled a member’s wife with potentially terminally-ill cancer secure an urgent meeting with a specialist,” explained Francis.

Current restrictions mean Hills District Dads’ monthly support meetings can’t take place face-to-face: “We’ve adapted to connecting through regular online support sessions, as well as trivia nights and social catch ups,” Francis added.

You can join the Hills District Dads Facebook Group here.

Bradley Eastman (Beastman), Kenthurst

Image: Billy Zammit

Following our second round of creative hoarding EOI in April 2021, five artwork concepts were selected.

One of the successful artists is Bradley Eastman (better known as Beastman). Bradley is a Northwest local. After growing up in The Hills, then living and working abroad, Bradley has returned to the area and is living with his family in Kenthurst. We sat down with Bradley to delve into his experience living and working in Northwest Sydney:

“A lot of my work over the last three to five years explores the balance of man vs nature - how humans and development interacts with natural landscapes,” said Bradley.

Bradley is passionate about the importance of local public art for young people “I do lots of projects with schools in the area – painting murals and holding workshops. I failed art at high school and got into it in my mid-20s, so I always encourage the students to explore their hobbies outside of school, and to find their subculture, group or community” he said.

For further updates on Bradley’s creative hoarding concept, as well as the other artists selected, click here.

2021 Sydney Hills Youth Ambassadors

Image (L-R): Julie Charlton, Rory O’Connor, Munira Tabassum Ahmed (courtesy of The Hills Shire Council)

We had the privilege of speaking with the 2021 Sydney Hills Youth Ambassadors as part of our Northwest Faces series. We were incredibly inspired by their determination to amplify the voices of young people in the local community.

They told us what they loved about growing up in Northwest Sydney and why they think it’s important for young people:

Introducing Julie

Julie Charlton (21, Dural) started disability advocacy at the young age of seven years old. After completing school at Hills Grammar, she is now studying a Bachelor of Arts in Sports Coaching (Management) at The Australian College of Physical Education.

Julie told us: “I love the atmosphere of the local shopping centres – they are where we hang out, and are part of our identity. They really use the area to encourage youth to come together, especially Rouse Hill, which is nice and open with spaces to sit and hang with friends.”

Introducing Rory

Joining the youth ambassadors, Rory O’Connor (23, Castle Hill) is studying media and economics at Macquarie University, and working in the city. Rory is a great supporter of community programs, and on top of his studies he volunteers for local organisations such as Bushcare.

Rory also loves that local shopping centres provided a place for young people to get together with friends, plus he loves “how green the area is – the gardens, the trees, it’s almost like a forest behind where I live. The second thing I enjoy the most would be the sense of community – I’ve loved taking part in local sports and local competitions, as well as being a part of the local parish,” said Rory.

Introducing Munira

A talented writer and performer, Munira Tabassum Ahmed (16, Kellyville) is currently in year 11 at Baulkham Hills High School. Munira has already been featured in the Australian Poetry Journal, Emerging Writers and Runway Journal, and she is passionate about arts, mental health and wellbeing.

Munira has lived locally her whole life, she enjoys the area because it has “a really diverse population, strong sense of community and opportunity – it’s a beautiful place to live.”

Learn more about the 2021 Sydney Hills Youth Ambassadors.

Elena Saadie, Bella Vista

In celebration of Mother’s Day, we profiled Bella Vista mother of three Elena Saadie.

Elena is the owner and director of Australian Boutique Markets, which launched ten years ago in the Hills with 50 stallholders. Since then, it has expanded to Rouse Hill Town Centre where it now showcases hundreds of small business stalls each year. But that’s not all, Elena also launched Park Feast food truck festival in 2016, as well as The Designer Markets and  My Bambini Baby & Children’s Markets.

Using her expert knowledge of Sydney’s food scene, Elena curated food truck operators for Hasta La Bella Vista Baby and sourced local products for inclusion in our 2019 Christmas hampers

Living and working in Northwest Sydney, Elena told us what makes the area special to her: “I love that I’m close to home, my kids’ school and sporting commitments are all close by to our offices. The Metro has also made our life so much easier to get in and around the Hills.”

Learn more about Elena and Australian Boutique Markets.

Sue Chang, Baulkham Hills

Sue Chang has been a Baulkham Hills local for 17 years and has been teaching Tai Chi for over 20 years. You might recognise Sue from our Tai Chi classes which were held in Tallawong Pocket Park. We sat down with Sue to learn more about her story as part of our #NorthwestFaces series.

Sue experienced the benefits of Tai Chi from a young age, growing up in Beijing. As a child, she had poor health and after trying a range of remedies, her father’s family encouraged her to take up Tai Chi. Working with a well-known master, she perfected her practice to eventually become an expert herself.

Sue is passionate about teaching people how to connect with nature and improve wellbeing through pain reducing activities such as Tai Chi. According to Sue, Tai Chi can help boost energy levels, support rehabilitation, provide stress and pain relief, and offer general improvements to health and wellbeing.

Setting up a studio in her garage at home has allowed Sue to help people through her practice. She tells us “everything feels better in the Hills. When we first moved here we were drawn to all the nature - lots of birds rich in colour, and many trees generating oxygen and filtered air to breathe.”

Learn more about Sue Chang.

Jenni Goodwin, Kellyville Ridge

We sat down with Jenni Goodwin who has lived in Northwest Sydney for 14 years, to find out more about her role at Playgroup NSW as part of our #NorthwestFaces series.

As the State Development Officer at Playgroup NSW, Jenni’s role is to support community playgroups in the local area. As a parent, Jenni has experienced the success of these sessions first hand – she took part in Playgroup NSW in Kellyville with her two children who are now 10 and 12, and she continues to stay in touch with the parents she met at playgroup.

Jenni told us what she loves about living and working in Northwest Sydney with her family: “It’s quite communal – we love that there are lots of parks, particularly in new estates. Our kids are happy at their schools and have lots of friends in the area. The diversity of the community also provides plenty of learning opportunities.”

You can learn more about Playgroup NSW’s baby pop up sessions at Tallawong Pocket Park.

Amanda Brisot, West Pennant Hills

Amanda Brisot, General Manager, Western Sydney Business Connection

This month we’re turning our spotlight to local Amanda Brisot, General Manager of Western Sydney Business Connection, a not-for-profit member-based organisation that exists to connect and provide a voice for the businesses of Western Sydney.

After an unprecedented 2020, Amanda spent the Christmas break at home with family, relaxing on the veranda and in the pool, doing jobs around the house and enjoying time with friends.

To kick off the year, Amanda has given us her tips about how to use January to prepare for the year ahead:

  1. Take some time to cast out old energies and bring in the new ones. I’m a big fan of meditation and I practice it daily as much as I can.
  2. Get clear on what you want to achieve – set goals in your own mind on what you’d like to achieve personally and professionally.
  3. Focus on opportunities – we spend the first quarter at Western Sydney Business Connection encouraging members to look at what we can actively pursue for the year ahead. It instils a great sense of optimism by starting the year off this way.

Maria Tiems, Blacktown

 Maria Tiems, Live Life Get Active trainer from Blacktown

Maria Tiems, Live Life Get Active trainer from Blacktown

If there’s one thing you need to get you moving it’s enthusiasm, and Live Life Get Active’s Maria Tiems has it in spades. We sat down with Maria to get to know what makes her tick.

After first joining a Live Life Get Active Emerton session as a participant six years ago, Maria became passionate about exercise and decided to leave behind her old career to make a move to personal training, “I was in a bad way physically and mentally and couldn’t keep going the way I was.” She is now one of our much-loved Live Life Get Active trainers and has a regular group of locals that join her at Tallawong Pocket Park, “I love the people in this area, we have so much fun together and it’s a really welcoming community.”

You can meet Maria and take part in one of her free Wednesday evening training sessions at Tallawong Pocket Park by registering now.

Jinnie De, Baulkham Hills

Jinnie De, Nupur Dance Academy owner from Baulkham Hills

Jinnie De, Nupur Dance Company, during filming of Bollywood Bella Vista, 2019, Bella Vista. Image © and courtesy the artist. Photograph: Oliver Nasht

Jinnie De has been Bollywood dancing since she was five years old. You might recognise her from Tina Havelock Stevens’ Bollywood Bella Vista (2019) film of Jinnie and the Nupur Dance Company dancing through the streets of Bella Vista. The film was produced as part of Hasta La Bella Vista Baby and presented by Landcom in partnership with the Museum of Contemporary Art’s C3West initiative.

Jinnie grew up in the Hills and owns the Nupur Dance Academy with studios in Rouse Hill, Pennant Hills and the Sydney CBD. She told us what makes Northwest Sydney so special to her “I really love this area’s beautiful open spaces, modern architecture, new infrastructure, diversity of local cuisines, and local entertainment. 

We are looking forward to seeing Jinnie dancing around our Sydney Metro Northwest Places in the future.

Campbell MacLeod, Bella Vista

Campbell McLeod, owner of Stage Door Espresso in Bella Vista

Campbell MacLeod, owner of Stage Door Espresso in Bella Vista

After closing due to COVID restrictions, Campbell MacLeod and his team of friendly baristas at Stage Door Espresso are back and doing what they love best – pouring seriously good coffee! What’s Campbell’s coffee of choice? A double shot piccolo (with exactly 60mL of milk).

A long-time local, Campbell is passionate about the future of the Hills area, “I love that it offers a relaxed work/life balance with gyms, cycleways, lakes, homes and offices, all in walking distance.”

From 7am-9.30am Monday to Friday, the expert baristas are serving up Seven Miles Coffee. Swing by Stage Door Espresso at Bella Vista station next time you’re heading to the Sydney Metro.

Sandeep Pandir, Quakers Hill

The Plant Library at Tallawong by Lauren Brincat in partnership with C3West and Landcom

Sandeep Pandir with this daughter at his Backyard Conversation. Lauren Brincat, the Plant Library, 2019. Rouse Hill, NSW. Co-commissioned by C3West on behalf of the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia and Landcom. Image courtesy and © the artist. Photography: Anna Kucera.

Sandeep is of one Quaker’s Hill’s most avid gardeners. In 2019, Sandeep was one of the local community gardeners selected to take part in Lauren Brincat’s The Plant Library. This program was presented by Landcom in partnership with the Museum of Contemporary Art’s C3West initiative, Blacktown City Council and Blacktown Arts.

We asked Sandeep to share his top gardening tips to make the most of the warmer months:

  1. Prepare your space: clear the area, remove any weeds and put effort into preparing your soil.
  2. Know your climate: Sydney’s Northwest is slightly cooler than other suburbs, which means you can have success with almost everything including apples, tomatoes, cucumbers and chillies. Don’t forget to protect your veggies from the afternoon westerly sun!
  3. Get the family involved: Sandeep’s two children are always happy to lend a hand by digging soil, taking the seedlings out and harvesting the fruit.
  4. Don’t be scared: just getting started? Sandeep says it will take a few attempts but you’ll get there. Don’t be afraid to ask others for advice – he learned some of his methods watching YouTube.