WHEN Alison McLaren told her dad she wanted to be a pilot, he let her soar with her imagination.
"The plane may have flown on that dream," she said with a laugh, but by refusing to clip her wings, her father gave her the strength to rise to other incredible heights, such as being the youngest Blue Mountains City councillor at 23.
On Friday, the now 32-year-old became the University of Western Sydney's ninth Woman of the West.
"I'm in a state of disbelief, given the calibre of women that were nominated," Ms McLaren said during her acceptance speech.
Click on the arrow below to hear from this year's UWS Women of the West.
Ms McLaren is the policy manager at Parramatta-based Urban Growth NSW.
Before that, she worked at Family and Community Services, also in Parramatta.
But it was for her work as former Western Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils president that she received the award.
"I'm particularly proud of our focus on food security and population issues," Ms McLaren said.
Karin Bishop, a former co-worker, credited her with putting WSROC "back on the map" through her avoidance of political games.
"She's absolutely fearless and a joy to work with," Ms Bishop said.
Ms McLaren was joined on stage by Mariah Okeroa of North Parramatta — the new UWS Young Woman of the West.
The University of Sydney student received her award for her charitable work and advocacy for Maori and Pacific Islander youth, and The Hills councillor Yvonne Keane received a Highly Commended at the ceremony for her services to hearing-impaired children and their families.