Western Sydney is poised to produce Australia’s next generation of IT workers and high value tech companies, according to Tesla Chair Robyn Denholm.

In her acceptance speech for the inaugural Florence Mary Taylor Innovation Medal, Denholm described her upbringing in Milperra, a suburb just past Bankstown in Southwestern Sydney.

“My parents owned a service station in the early 70s,” she said during Wednesday’s Ignite GWS Summit.

“[That is] where I learnt the importance of hard work and the role of small businesses in the community.

“Western Sydney is now home to more than 100,000 people who are working in technology-related jobs – and that number is set to boom.”

Denholm’s career has seen her working in the US at companies like Sun Microsystems and Juniper Networks – where she was once the CFO – before returning to Australia to briefly join the C-suite at Telstra.

Denholm was Elon Musk’s replacement as Chair of Tesla and she is also the inaugural Chair of the Tech Council of Australia.

Throughout her corporate career, Denholm said those early memories of Western Sydney have continued to become a reminder of why the region is “vital to the growth and prosperity” of Australia.

“Having grown up in the region, I’m not at all surprised to see that western Sydney is emerging as a technology powerhouse,” she said.

“This community is home to an amazing multicultural and talented population, and a great array of world-competing companies and globally recognised training institutions which in turn are building the next generation of tech talent.

“Being a tech powerhouse matters because tech is now critical to all successful economies, it’s also our best shot as a nation solving some of the biggest challenges of our time.”

Denholm quoted the Tech Council’s figures of needing 280,000 more technology workers by 2025 and said she “hopes many of them will come from the vibrant diverse community across western Sydney”.

The Florence Mary Taylor Innovation Medal is named after Australia’s first qualified female architect who went on to become the first woman to fly in an aircraft in Australia, and the first female member of the UK Institution of Structural Engineers.