NOLEEN Hoskins, of Penrith, has overcome a life of disadvantage, drugs, alcohol and jail to win a $500 Youth Week in the City award.
The awards, bestowed by the City of Sydney each year, recognise those considered to have made outstanding contributions to society.
Ms Hoskins, 24, was recognised for her commitment to fighting drug and alcohol abuse among young people and promoting cultural awareness among volunteers in indigenous communities.
"I've made many changes in my life over the past two years," she said.
"I grew up in an indigenous community and was exposed to drugs and alcohol and domestic violence.
"I was in care and when I hit my teenage years I got into drugs and alcohol, turned to crime and went to jail."
But she said five years ago something happened to change her.
"My son was born; I couldn't have him growing up in that sort of world," Ms Hoskins said.
She moved to Sydney and last year settled in Penrith.
Ms Hoskins started as a client of Weave Youth and Community Services and later decided she wanted to help young people avoid the life she had fallen into. She applied to be a volunteer in Volunteers in Community Engagement (Voice) Australia, but was instead asked to provide cultural supervision to Voice volunteers working with indigenous people.
"I'm engaged in Speak Out, a program for young people," Ms Hoskins said.
"I talk to them the way I would to my own family."