Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (12:30): On Friday night I joined 650 locals, including all of my federal and state colleagues and many of my local government colleagues, at a fantastic local event. It was the Illawarra Business Chamber awards night. 'A little taste of Paris' was the theme for this year. It was a great event. I want to take this opportunity to congratulate some people who organised and put on this event. They do it every year. It's always a huge event on our calendar in the Wollongong area. I also want to acknowledge some fabulous businesses who did well. Many will go on to the state competition and awards as well.

Congratulations should certainly be given to the executive director of the Illawarra Business Chamber and Illawarra First, Adam Zarth, for the organisation of the awards. They are comprehensively organised and judged. The great faith in the integrity of the system is reflected in how many businesses participate. I also extend my congratulations to the judging team. A very large number of locals volunteered to be judges. It takes a lot of time. They were led by Professor Paul Wellings CBE, who is the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Wollongong, and Warwick Shanks, who is the managing partner at KPMG Wollongong. I thank and congratulate also Janine Cullen and Terry Wetherall from the boards of the business chambers that hosted the event.

What I love about this is that the business chamber also uses this as an opportunity to showcase other local businesses. Adam and his team sourced and showcased some amazing local restaurants. There was a specially designed menu to fit in with the Parisian soiree theme. The entree was from Caveau in Wollongong. It is the only restaurant in the region to win a Good Food Guide hat for 14 consecutive years. The main was from Cupitt in the hills of Milton on the South Coast. Head chef Russell Chinn and his team are dedicated to providing the best wine and food experience on the New South Wales South Coast. The dessert was from Stones Patisserie in Berrima. They brought a delicious slice of Paris to the awards.

There were 20 awards. I hope my colleagues here will bear with me, because I want to recognise each of the businesses. The Illawarra Business of the Year was Itree. This is a very innovative internet security business, which I was very pleased to be able to support with some funding when we had the BlueScope downtown in 2011. They've gone from strength to strength. They're a great local company based at the Innovation Campus in Wollongong. I congratulate them.

The outstanding business leader was Kylie Moffitt from PhysioHealth & Sports Injury Clinic. That is something I might need if I try to do too much exercise. Good work, Kylie. The outstanding employer of choice was also Itree. They have a fantastic ethos and culture in their organisation. The outstanding young employee was Andrew Jackson from Itree. His is a great story as well. The outstanding young entrepreneur was Sarah Nolen from Birdblack Design. She was inspiring with her energy and enthusiasm.

The business award went to IOH Injury and Occupational Health. It is a great local business. The customer service winner was PhysioHealth & Sports Injury Clinic. The export business winner was Internetrix. That's another business that I've had a lot to do with. They were also supported with a grant under the innovation program at the time of the BlueScope downturn. They've also gone from strength to strength. I'm really proud of them. The innovation award went to Warrigal, an aged-care service provider who does great work. It's an Illawarra business that is now national. They do good work there. The retail and hospitality winner was Uncle Joe's Brew. I highly recommend them. The small business winner was Boab Services.

The social enterprise winner was Green Connect Illawarra, a great local organisation that grows a big market garden, in effect, that employs a lot of local refugees. It's a really good initiative.

The local chamber of commerce, the amazing Corrimal Chamber of Commerce, won the local chamber award. They have been doing amazing things in Corrimal. The sustainability award went to Symbio Wild Life Park. Get onto them on Twitter; they've got the most amazing Twitter feed. I have been really pleased to support them for a long time. The tourism winner was Cupitt's winery. The workplace inclusion winner was the amazing Greenacres Disability Services. The start-up superstar was molenaar+mcneice. The Wollongong city centre business was Breakout Bar & Escape Rooms.

My congratulations to all 68 finalists, as well as those award category winners. You do us proud in the region. Thank you particularly to the Illawarra Business Chamber and the whole team for putting on such a great evening.

Watch Sharon’s speech here.