It is always the night of nights on the Pacific calendar, when the NSW Council for Pacific Communities (NSWCPC) pulls out all the stops to honour outstanding talent and achievements at a gala dinner.

Yesterday, the 16th Annual Pacific Awards rolled out the red carpet at Ottimo House for our Unsung Heroes, unveiling a new trophy to honour the memory of its very own unsung hero, Aleki Aku’ola, NSWCPC’s Community Connections Regional Co-ordinator who passed away last December.

“Unsung Heroes are committed to give more than they take,” said NSWCPC’s Chair Mal Fruean OAM, whose steadfast commitment to community through the years has enriched us all.

“They are focussed on the big picture and are willing to sacrifice time and effort for the good of others, whether in the family or the organisation they work silently but steadily among us.”

Founder of I’m Every Woman, Maureen Lemalu, was High Commended Unsung Hero, for her role in creating a safe space for women’s well –being; the winner was Apenisa Cakacaka Marau, who during the floods in Lismore last year, coordinated the 45 Fijian men that arrived in the country under the PALM scheme to assist flood victims.

In a poignant moment, they received their Unsung Hero awards on stage from Aleki’s family, while Australian Local Heroes of the Year past and present, Rosemary Kariuki and Amar Singh, looked proudly on.

“Western and South Western Sydney have the highest number of people of Pacific heritage and as member for Macquarie Fields I am proud to call many of them my constituents and friends,” said the Hon Anoulack Chanthivong, NSW Minister for Industry and Trade, Minister for Better Regulation and Fair Trading, Minister for Innovation, Science and Technology, Minister for Building, and Minister for Corrections.

It was especially lovely to have longtime friends of the awards and former Campbelltown Arts Centre directors Michael Dagostino and Lisa Havilah back in Campbelltown and among the audience of political, community, religious and business leaders  from across Sydney who gathered to enthusiastically acknowledge the evening’s many nominees and winners – their applause egged on by the ever-vibrant Master of Ceremonies Patsy Nai-Felagai.

And of course cue the hakka as Jannike Larae and her event team working behind the scenes chalk up another delightful evening!