If you live in The Hills Shire, Hornsby Shire or City of Parramatta then you’ll be voting this Saturday 9 September in the NSW Local Council elections. While female candidates are certainly not a majority, we have some very talented Hills District Mums who have nominated for Council this year. These women have roots that run deep in the Hills and surrounds, are extremely passionate about the area and are keen to ‘get things done’ for locals and families. Find out more about some of them here.

Dr Michelle Byrne
Candidate for Mayor of The Hills Shire Council – Liberal

Tell us about yourself

I grew up in the Hills and surrounding areas. I went to High School in the Hills and played in numerous Hills sporting teams. I am a former medical scientist and currently work as a Legal Clerk in a Law Firm whilst completing my practical legal training in the areas of Family and Commercial Law. I was first elected to the Hills Council in 2008 and during that time I have served 2 years as Deputy Mayor (2011/12 and 2014/15) and 3 years as Mayor (2012-2014 and 2015/2016). I still hold the record as the youngest female elected to the Hills Council and the youngest Mayor ever to have served the Hills Community. I currently live in Baulkham Hills with my husband Matt and our twin 2 year old daughters, Maddison and Alexis.

Tell us what you love about The Hills Shire and what is important to you?

I love the Hills community. I love the family friendly atmosphere and the wonderful community spirit that exists here. I love that we have lots of wide open, green spaces and a wonderful lifestyle here in the Hills. It is important to me that the Hills remains the number one place in NSW to live, work and to raise a family. We need to ensure that we manage our population growth and allow only appropriate development that can be supported by infrastructure and services. We need more open space, green space footpaths, sporting fields, play grounds, cycle ways etc whilst improving our roads and traffic networks to ensure families can move around the Shire easily. It is important to me that we build a quality lifestyle for all those who choose to call the Hills home.

What do you love about being a mum?

I love everything about being a mum, from the lack of sleep and dirty nappies to the joy on their faces when they discover something new and their excitement when I arrive home from work. Being a mum is the most important job I will ever have and the one I treasure the most. I am loving the privilege of raising my twins and being such an integral part of their lives. They inspire me to want to work even harder to ensure the Hills is a wonderful place for them to grow up in.


Emma Heyde
Candidate for Hornsby Shire Mayor and Candidate for the Hornsby Shire Council Ward C – Greens

Tell us about yourself
10 things about me:
  1. I’m an HDM with two teens.
  2. I run my own small business as a freelance editor. I’ve recently cut back to part-time so I can work from home and spend more time with my husband and kids.
  3. I love running, growing vegetables and cooking breakfast.
  4. I’m saving up for an electric car (a friend has lent me her Prius while she’s overseas and I’m loving how it’s so cheap to run).
  5. I hate plastic waste: I’m running a really fun campaign called Bag Free Beecroft.
  6. I love where I live: I’ve got fantastic neighbours and we all watch out for one another.
  7. I’m currently reading The Knife of Never Letting Go. (Borrowed from my kids. Amazing.)
  8. I’m watching The Good Fight (follows from The Good Wife).
  9. On my to do list: vacuuming. Dust bunnies live here.
  10. On the bucket list: visiting Uluru & swimming in a (croc-free) waterhole in tropical NT.
What makes you different from other candidates? 
I haven’t just popped up for this election waving a banner and saying “Vote for me!”. I’ve actually been doing something about the things that matter to us all. I’ve been leading the campaign to save South Dural from overdevelopment. I’ve been able to support local small businesses and tackle waste by running a campaign to cut down single-use plastic bags. And I’ve been standing up for my community’s right to have a say on where our rates are spent. That’s why I’m different: I don’t just talk the talk: I get out there and change things.
Who inspires you? 
  • The women around me who reach out to others at the same time as managing children, work and care responsibilities inspire me. I don’t believe in superwomen: I admire people who find the time to reach out to one another, even though life is crazy busy, stressful and sometimes totally overwhelming.
  • My sister is my everyday inspiration. She manages a dairy, kids, and the most hilarious Insta account about her sheep. She is also the most glamorous woman I know. How she manages it while running a sheep farm, leaves me breathless! She’s clever, loving and the BEST listener. She’s also my BFF.
  • Dr Mehreen Faruqi inspires me. She is brave, super smart and has deep integrity. She is the first female Muslim MP in the NSW Parliament, and is Greens Spokesperson for the Environment. She makes me feel like I’m her best friend every time I meet her – her warmth and generosity are legendary.

You can follow Emma on Facebook here.

Justine Smillie
Candidate for the Hornsby Shire Council Ward C – Labor

Tell us about yourself

I have lived in the Hornsby Shire all my life and think it is a wonderful place to raise a family. I have Bachelor degrees in Science and Law and have spent the majority of my career working with local Councils, State Government Agencies and private companies in the management of their public and professional risk and civil litigation. This is the first time I have run for public office. I have been a working mum for 20 years and during that period have been active in a number of community organisations including serving on the committees of the local preschool, school P & C, and local sporting organisations. I have also been a volunteer with the SPARK program, which provides homework help to children from refugee backgrounds and have volunteered at the Mount Druitt Community Legal Centre.

Tell us what you love about the Hornsby Shire and what is important to you?

We are an active family and love spending weekends bushwalking, mountain bike riding and kayaking. I live in the area because I have a strong connection to the natural environment and I value the real sense of community. I like the fact that many of the suburbs in the area still retain a village feel. I am concerned that all this will be compromised by over development that is out of character with the existing environment. It is widely recognised that Hornsby Shire Council has the weakest Tree Preservation Policy in the State and the tree canopy is being rapidly eroded by development and land clearing. My priorities if elected would be to fight overdevelopment, protect our trees and preserve our green space. I would also like to see an increase in shared cycleways and footpaths throughout the shire.

What makes you different from other candidates?

Presently there is only one female Councillor on Hornsby Council. I’m proud to be one of the four lead female candidates (two of whom are Labor candidates) out of a total of fifteen across the three Council wards! It is well documented that diversity results in better decision making, accordingly I believe it is really important to increase the level of female representation on Council. Further, I strongly believe in evidence based decision making, something I consider has been lacking in politics at all levels! My qualifications and experienced are strongly focused on investigation and assessment, I know it is essential to understand the facts, review expert opinion and liaise with relevant stakeholders in order to make fair and sound decisions.

Alexia Yazdani
Candidate for The Hills Shire Council North Ward – Independent

Tell us about yourself

I am 34 years old. I have two children – Mason is 5 and Madeline is 2.5 and I live in Rouse Hill. If I have one slice of pizza, it’s pretty certain that I will finish the entire box. I am writing a novel. My favourite movie is My Name is Khan. I get sick of the layout of furniture in my house very quickly and you will often find me moving couches and tables around. I started my own law practice when I was 5 months pregnant. I’m scared of birds. I am fluent in two languages, English and Armenian. My favourite proverb from the Bible is “better is a poor man who walks in his integrity than a rich man who is crooked in his ways”. I have a small obsession with Sara Lee rhubarb and custard ice cream!

I am standing as an Independent candidate. This means I have no political affiliations. Although my policies are quite aligned with those of the major political parties, the fact that I am unburdened by political party agendas means my decisions will be based on the community and the community only, with no obligation to “toe the party line”.

I am standing as an Independent because I believe that at a local level, decisions should be influenced by community consultation, by a determination of what is in the best interests of the community and not by a political party motive.

I am standing as an Independent because I believe the Hills should become Independent again. I believe that the voice needs to be given back to the community so that they can be represented without controls imposed by political parties. I believe we need less politics and more action.

What do you love about The Hills Shire?

I love our bushland and open spaces. At the most northern part of the North Ward, stands the picturesque village of Wisemans Ferry, surrounded by a glorious mountainous backdrop and complete with camping grounds set on beautiful Hawkesbury River frontage. Travel a little south for some canoeing and fishing at Cattai National Park and then drive back to Rouse Hill Town Centre for some shopping – all whilst staying in The Hills.

I love the kindness. From street Christmas parties, to coming together to support a family who has been devastated by tragedy. Ours is a community that is there for the good times and the bad. The way we band together to assist a mother doing it tough. The way we give – whether tangible or simply a shoulder to cry on. All these things prove that the residents of this leafy suburb have an enormous sense of community, of kindness and respect. Campaigning has meant door knocking. My initial fears of walking up to the homes of complete strangers and asking for a bit of their time were quickly subsided when the first lady who opened her door to me thanked me for speaking with her. Every single person I have met has been so kind and inviting that it has reinforced what I have always said about the residents of this city – yes we are busy, yes we encounter with traffic and long work hours and sleepless nights – but we still have time for our “neighbours”.

This is exactly where I want to live. This is exactly where I want my children to grow up.

Tell us about something you care passionately about

“Stand up for truth, justice and equality, no matter who it is for or against” . The principles of justice, equality, goodness and truth have been and always remain at the core of all my dealings and I am so grateful that on a daily basis, I am able to use my position to advance these values that people unite around, that I am able to be the voice of people who have been affected by injustice and inequality.  However, I believe that the most important words of the above quote are “no matter who it is for or against”. If you stand up for truth only if the person you are standing up for is someone close to you, are you really standing up for truth? If you stand up for equality only for those similar to you, are you really standing up for equality? If you stand up for justice only when the victim of the injustice shares your views, are you really standing up for justice?

I believe that leaders (in any capacity) must speak out and stand up for what is true and just. To kowtow on the basis of political favour when the rights of our community are compromised, to remain silent or to make decisions based on hidden agendas – these things not only destroy the credibility of a leader, but will eventually crumble a community.

Ordinary people can bring about extraordinary change. I am an ordinary person – I cry like a baby when watching a sad movie. Sometimes, the very thought of washing my hair makes me feel sleepy. Every so often, my children have ice cream for dinner. Some days, I stay in my pyjamas until it’s time to go to bed again – but I have always had a dream of making a change, of tearing down social barriers that allow prejudice to fester, of breaking the walls of oppression, of making sure that in the face of injustice I do not remain complacent.

Councillor Robyn Preston
Candidate for The Hills Shire Council North Ward – Liberal

Tell us about yourself

I have lived in Glenhaven for 29 years. I have raised two children with my former husband Peter and as a young mother, became very active in fundraising for my children’s pre school (Kenthurst Pre school) and Glenhaven Public school and I still maintain close links with these schools today.

I have been involved with netball as a player, coach, umpire, manager or supporter since I was eight years old.

I have had a busy career for more than thirty years, with a background in small business, public, private and not-for-profit sectors and I consider my greatest achievements in life to be my two children – Kelly and James. I was Australia’s first female rugby league sports commentator and have been an advocate and fundraiser for the NSW Cancer Council, Vision Australia, The Black Dog Institute and Mates On The Road which raises awareness for depression and suicide prevention. I was elected to The Hill Shire Council in 2008 and I am the current Deputy Mayor. I sit on several Boards and I am Chair of the Bushfire Management Committee and was a past Board member of a peak political body, Parramatta Chamber of Commerce and AUSSIPP which is an organsation that finds traineeships for students at risk of disconnecting from school.

I mentor aspiring women seeking leadership roles and have the greatest respect for those who volunteer in our community.

What makes you different from other candidates?

I am known as the ‘Can Do Councillor’ because I get things done – whether it be building a new carpark at Kenthurst Park, installing recycle bins in all parks throughout The Hills Shire, initiating the Caddies Creek Reserve in North Ward, protecting property owners from inappropriate zonings, making it safer for school children and their families to safely cross a busy road by installing pedestrian activated traffic lights or addressing something as simple as installing a safety street sign or repairing a pothole – everyone’s problems have a right to be considered and it’s my job to find solutions, whilst ensuring that Council spends ratepayers’ funds appropriately.
Tell us something you care passionately about?
I am passionate about standing up for what I believe in. I don’t want to be seen as ‘beige’. I am proud of my beliefs and values and I will wear them as a badge of honour.
Closer to home – I am passionate about getting traffic lights installed at the intersection of Glenhaven Road and Old Northern Road, Glenhaven.  I have worked relentlessly to obtain the funding to secure this project which will cost $6.5 M. I am pleased that the NSW State Government will provide $4.5m with The Hills Shire Council funding the balance. The funding has now been committed, Council has placed the final plans with RMS and are waiting for their sign off so that tenders can be called for.  Work can then commence on the project and I know the community, like me, are desperate to see this project completed.


Elizabeth Russo
Candidate for The Hills Shire Council Central Ward – Liberal

About Elizabeth

Elizabeth is a Hills District Mum who moved to Australia with her parents and siblings in 2000. She attended Oakhill College and completed a Bachelor of Business, Accounting at the University of Western Sydney. In 2010, Elizabeth and her husband Joe purchased a child care centre in Kellyville which they renamed to Gracelands Early Education Centre. Graceland has won the Sydney Hills Local Business Awards for the last four years as well as The Australian Small Business Champion Award in 2015. Elizabeth has two children, who are 6 and nearly 5 years old.

Elizabeth decided to run for Council as she wants to give back to the community which she feels has given her so much. Elizabeth wishes to be able to contribute to the economic growth of The Hills Shire while also ensuring The Hills remains a family friendly place to not only reside but to enjoy the local amenities.

Tell us what you love about the Hills Shire and what is important to you

To me, The Hills Shire is a family friendly community where my husband and I have spent a vast majority of our lives. We love the facilities within the area such as shopping centres, restaurants and playgrounds. We love the support we receive as a small business. And we love the generosity of the Hills community. It’s important to me that The Hills remains a family friendly area which provides community facilities such as sporting fields, playgrounds and footpaths.

What do you love about being a mum?

Being a mum is definitely the most challenging yet rewarding job in the world. I love watching my children grow, develop and reach milestones (even though I wish they would slow down at times and not grow up so quickly!). The look of joy and satisfaction on their faces when they learn something new or accomplish a new skill fills my heart with pride. Their complete honesty and innocence often makes me laugh. The unconditional love, hugs, kisses and snuggles are absolutely priceless.  Motherhood is a constant juggling act filled with lots of laughs, tears, learning curves and amazing memories. I wouldn’t change it for the world! It is my first and foremost role.

Reena Jethi
Candidate for The Hills Shire West Ward – Liberal

Tell us about yourself

I am a resident of Baulkham Hills, living with my husband and two young boys. We have our family business in Bella Vista. With a double bachelor and double master degree, I am a Head Teacher at a State High School. I am the Treasurer for NSW Liberal Women’s Council and Co-chair for Liberal Friends of India.

Tell us what you love about The Hills Shire and what is important to you?

The Hills District is the best place to raise kids and to have a quality family life. It is ideal for young families as well as for people downsizing to choose between individual home and unit. Nestled between motorways with strong network of public transport, The Hills is centrally located. Norwest Business Park and Castle Hills Business Precinct provide ample opportunities for people to live and work in Hills District. With such important infrastructure (Norwest Rail) being built, more people will come to make Hills their home. It is important that the developments are family friendly with provision for sporting and community facilities.

What do you love about being a mum?

Being a mum is the most beautiful and a challenging role. It is a combination of jobs and responsibilities. To name a few, a mum is an educator, a house keeper, chauffer, peace maker, cook, therapist, confidante, coach, finance manager, hair stylist, events co-ordinator, story teller, and the list goes on. Motherhood has brought me closer to my community. I have learned to see and understand the needs of our community from a different perspective. I love being a mum.