Every year women in the Illawarra come together to celebrate what it is to be female and the remarkable achievements some have made in the community.
International Women's Day is celebrated on March 8.
A group of Illawarra role models have been honoured for their achievements.
At a gala International Women's Day event at the WIN Entertainment Centre on Friday, each were awarded $2000 to help expand their knowledge, skill and/or experience.
Cate Stevenson Scholarship (Education, Business and Community Service): Beatrice Kabahire and Anastazia Niyitunga (joint winners)
Mrs Kabahire fled to Rwanda from Burundi as her home country was no longer safe. Over the years her family were forced to flee to a refugee camp in the Congo and then later to Zambia.
The family applied to come to Australia as refugees and after two years of waiting were approved.
In Wollongong, she studied English at TAFE. At one point she was working three jobs at once to support her family.
As a young woman, Ms Niyitunga fled her home country of Burundi and spent the next 11 years in a refugee camp in Tanzania.
In 2007, Ms Niyitunga and her family were approved to settle in Australia as humanitarian refugees and moved to Wollongong.
The duo knew the difficulties many other local women from refugee backgrounds face in achieving employment, and devised the idea of starting their own cleaning business.
Their long-term business goal was to provide employment opportunities to other local women from refugee backgrounds.
In 2017, Mrs Anasatazia and Beatrice (MAB) Cleaning Services started cleaning for their first customer in Thirroul. The business has continued to expand and now provides work opportunities to eight women, seven of whom are from a refugee background.
Creative Spirit Scholarship: Corrine (Kittie) Zingler-Humphries
At 16, Ms Zingler-Humphries left school to study fashion design and sewing, and started making dolls for extra money.
In 2015, she began making dolls under the name Kittipilla. Even through her health struggles, she remained dedicated to her craft.
Through her work she has helped to raise awareness of Endometriosis by creating Maneki-Neko (Lucky Cats); raised funds for Save the Tasmanian Devil Project with her Australian native Travel Buddies; worked with Mindful Generations and ITSOWEL to help create the Italian Sensory kit for locals with dementia; and raised funds for WIRES during the NSW bushfires.
The scholarship will help the 29-year-old Dapto resident to work with others in creating sensory items for children with disabilities as well as the elderly.
Aunty Mary Davis Scholarship for Indigenous Women: Denise Willis
Mrs Willis is a proud indigenous woman who has worked within the Illawarra Aboriginal community for more than 35 years.
"I was privileged enough to know Aunty Mary, and she totally inspired me," the Oak Flats resident said.
"When you're working for your own people, to see them actually working towards a better future in regards to better education, it's one of my great passions."
For the past 18 years, she has worked at Lake Illawarra High School as the Aboriginal education officer, supporting many indigenous students to complete the HSC and to go on to further education.
She proposes to use her scholarship funds on activities that "give back", by engaging students in improving the Aunty Mary Davis Garden and other cultural immersion activities.
Dr Margaret Gardiner Scholarship for Medical Research: Samantha Wade
The 28-year-old is a PhD candidate working in the Targeted Cancer Therapeutics Laboratory of the Illawarra Health and Medical Research Institute.
Her work involves designing and developing drug loaded implants for pancreatic cancer treatment which deliver chemotherapy to the tumour only, with the goal of increasing not only the overall survival, but also the quality of life of patients.
Ms Wade has been working to present the innovation at medical conferences so as to foster networks with high-calibre researchers, and to promote the research that is happening right here in the Illawarra.
The scholarship will enable her to attend the largest drug delivery conference in the world, taking place in America next year.
"It's a networking opportunity, and it's also a great way to potentially line up future jobs, and to develop skills to bring back to the Illawarra," she said.
Gracie Wallis Scholarship for Women with a Disability: Kristen Bristow
Ms Bristow lives in supported accommodation in Albion Park, works at Greenacres and is an active community member.
Ms Bristow has a goal of building her capacity and independence, and intends to demonstrate her skills in entrepreneurship and planning by starting a new ironing business.
She hopes this will allow her to engage on a deeper level with the community, build her skills in marketing and managing money, give her a greater opportunity to support herself financially, and be a role model to other people with disabilities.
Beryl Lewis Scholarship for Older Women: Maggie Sydenham
Unanderra's Mrs Sydenham, 77, has held numerous occupations in a 50-year working life, predominantly in health and the arts.
She even self-published her book, Getting Older, Getting Better, a light-hearted self-help book for seniors.
Mrs Sydenham hated school, but at age 73 and encouraged by her family she enrolled at university and will complete her Bachelor of Arts by June.
Not content with a double major in History and Sociology, she's planning to use this scholarship to continue her studies, pursuing an Honours and a PhD.
The self-professed "late starter" who was "bored easily", laughed and said she was "aiming to live to 106, because I've got so many things I want to do".
Kerryn McCann Scholarship for Women (Sports) winner Sarah Carli
As a youngster, Sarah Carli was motivated by Olympian Kerryn McCann's words.
"When I was roughly 12, Kerryn McCann spoke at a Little Athletics event in Wollongong," Carli said.
"I will always remember Kerryn saying that she never won many races until she was 17 or 18. At the time, as a young athlete, I was never super competitive.
"Knowing you don't always have to win everything when you are really young to be a successful athlete is something that I have always kept with me."
Carli is the recipient of the Kerryn McCann Scholarship for Women (Sports).
"It's an incredible honour to win an award in her name," Carli said.
In 2011, at 16, Carli placed second in the women's 400m hurdles at the World Youth Championships.
The following year, she suffered an injury and put her athletic ambitions on hold to complete her university studies.
She began the long road back to elite competition, and will travel to Japan in the coming months to compete in Olympic qualifying events.