South East local heroes need your votes

Franca Heins from We Care Community Services. Photo: supplied

Three finalists have been chosen to share in a chance to win $20,000 thanks to Westfield’s Local Heroes community recognition and grants program.

Now in its fifth year, the program has selected three finalists for each Westfield centre, shining a spotlight on role models whose work makes a positive impact to their local community or environment.

Westfield Fountain Gate’s finalists include Franca Heins from We Care Community Services Inc, Kay Taranto from Wild Days Wildlife Shelter and Mary Tresize-Brown from South-East Learning and Employment Network (SELLEN).

The competition runs across Westfield Living Centres across Australia and New Zealand and the successful hero for each centre will be awarded a $20,000 grant for the group or organisation they represent.

Each finalist will receive a $5000 grant for their group or organisation.

Mrs Tresize-Brown, who is manager of the Young Parents Program at SELLEN, said he is humbled to be named a finalist in the local heroes competition.

“I feel like I’m representing young parents as the heroes, I think they’re the real heroes,” she said.

The Young Parents Program enables young parents aged 15-21 to return to secondary school and complete their education while caring for their babies.

“I’m delighted and thrilled because it’s acknowledging that young parents need this education and acknowledging the work we’re doing to give young parents an equal chance in the workforce,” she said.

While Mrs Tresize-Brown provides opportunities for young adults, fellow finalist Franca Heins works on the other side of the community support spectrum .

Heins works tirelessly to provide groceries and toiletries to more than 200 local unemployed and elderly people each week.

As the driving force behind Dandenong’s We Care Community Services Shed, she helps provide more than a tonne of fresh fruit, vegetables, dry foods and other essentials every week.

The third finalist in the competition is community-minded Kay Taranto, who saves hundreds of animals a year from the human impact on their environment.

She founded the nonprofit Wild Days Wildlife Shelter, where she cares for and rehabilitates from 600-800 sick, injured and orphaned native animals a year.

In addition, she offers volunteer opportunities and education to adults and children.

The voting period for Westfield Local Heroes opens on Tuesday 2 August and closes on Monday 22 August.

Each Westfield centre’s successful hero will be announced on Tuesday 13 September 2022.

To view your Westfield Local Heroes finalists, visit or your local Westfield centre’s website to read about the finalists and cast your vote.