Dentist offering the gift of a smile wins NSW Volunteer of the Year

10th Annual NSW Volunteer of the Year Awards

The co-founder of the National Dental Foundation, Dr David Digges, is the 2016 Volunteer of the Year recognised for establishing a national network of dental practices offering pro bono services to the most needy in the community.

The NSW Volunteer of the Year Awards are run by The Centre for Volunteering – the State’s peak body for volunteering – to highlight the contribution 2.4 million volunteers make in NSW. In this the 10th year of the Awards, a record 100,000 volunteers have been acknowledged through the nomination process.

The Centre for Volunteering CEO Gemma Rygate said Dr Digges topped the nominees because of the widespread impact of his volunteering and the profound difference a presentable set of teeth can make to the lives of those who cannot afford regular dental care.

“The gift of a smile is truly one of the most dignifying and uplifting acts anyone can bestow,” Ms Rygate said.

“Teeth are fundamental to a person’s confidence and damaged teeth can significantly impact on the way society treats you.”

“Dr Digges not only regularly volunteers his services as a dentist, he is also the co-founder of the National Dental Foundation, a charitable organisation that facilitates the provision of pro bono dental treatment to those in our society who cannot access timely dental care.”

A committed volunteer, Dr Digges co-founded the NDF with Mervin Saultry after returning from working in East Timor in 2005 and recognising the need for charitable dental work in his own backyard.  Dr Digges championed the creation of a national network of dental practices offering integrated care to the most needy across Australia. David lobbied fellow dentists, their staff and allied treatment services to create an organisation that works with local charities targeting the most urgent cases in the local communities.

David recognised many people wanted to help but were daunted by the administration required to undertake pro bono work: He has helped create an organisation that is bigger than any one dental practice working with local community organisations that locate and refer the neediest patients to the appropriate dental service in the NDF network.

There are 33 dental practices in the NSW chapter of the NDF, volunteering as part of the Dental Rescue Day/Adopt Patient programs. This year these 148 volunteers, including 51 volunteer dentists provided $220,000 worth of pro bono treatment to 336 patients (499 appointments) referred from 47 charities.

Across Australia this year 733 volunteers worked with the NDF (including 217 dentists) seeing 1,067 patients and providing more than $607,000 worth of treatment pro bono.

“Dr Digges not only generously offers his skills to ease the pain and suffering of his pro bono clients, he has created a legacy organisation that will have deep community impact for many years into the future,” Ms Rygate said.

Award Category Winner
Overall Winner

2016 Volunteer of the Year

Dr David Digges of Bellevue Hill National Dental Foundation:Co-Founder
Student Volunteer of the Year Holly Johnson from Albury (aged 14), Amnesty International, Culcairn House and Jindera Nursing Home
Youth Volunteer of the Year

(up to 24 years)

Ben Matthews from Newport, Newport Surf Life Saving Club
Adult Volunteer of the Year

(25 – 64 years)

Dr David Digges from Bellevue Hill, National Dental Foundation
Senior Volunteer of the Year

(65+ years)

Sandra McDonald from  Long Point, Beautiful Minds
Volunteer Team of the Year Women in Prison Advocacy Network
Excellence in Volunteer Management Royal Rehab Volunteer Services
Corporate Volunteer of the Year (Individual) Chris Bond from Macquarie Bank, nominated by the Raise Foundation
Corporate Volunteer Team of the Year The Salesforce Team,  Sydney

NSW Minister for Aging, Disability Services and Multiculturalism, The Hon John Ajaka, who is responsible for volunteering, said the awards are an important means of recognising the vibrant contribution individual volunteers make towards strengthening communities across NSW.

“When I talk to volunteers across the state, one of the things I hear is that meaningful recognition of the vital and diverse contribution of volunteers is central to volunteer satisfaction,’ Minister Ajaka said.

“The NSW Government is proud to be a founding partner and principal sponsor for these awards because it recognises the importance of volunteering to individuals and communities across NSW.

“Volunteers in NSW provide more than 240 million hours of support each year, conservatively valued at $5 billion. This incredible effort cannot be understated. I congratulate the winners and nominees and I applaud the wonderful example of volunteering they represent,” Mr Ajaka said.

ClubsNSW CEO Anthony Ball said the club industry was proud to be Principal Corporate Partners of the 10th Annual NSW Volunteer of the Year Awards.

“On behalf of our 1300 member clubs, we are very proud to support this Awards program which shines a spotlight on the 2.4 million volunteers in NSW.

“Clubs across NSW rely upon over 32,000 volunteers to assist in their operations to provide services to members and their local communities.

“Through a myriad of opportunities, volunteers in the club industry dedicate over one million hours of their time per year, and we are incredibly proud of the part they play in building and strengthening our local communities.”

More than 10,000 individual volunteers were nominated for the 2016 NSW Volunteer of the Year Awards. They were recognised at 20 regional ceremonies, where the winners went into the running for the overall State Awards, announced in Sydney

The NSW Volunteer of the Year Awards are generously supported by principal partners the NSW Department of Family and Community Services, and ClubsNSW, the industry body which represents the state’s 1300 not-for-profit clubs, as well as Bupa Aged Care. For information visit our NSW Volunteer of the Awards Site.

For photos from the state ceremony visit our photo gallery

Media Enquiries: Jacquelyn Hole 0427 471 261


2016 NSW Volunteer of the Year Awards Winner Profiles

2016 Award Category Winner
Overall Winner 2016
NSW Volunteer of the Year
Dr David Digges of Bellevue Hill National Dental Foundation:Co-Founder
Student Volunteer of the Year Holly Johnson from Albury (aged 14), Amnesty International, Culcairn House and Jindera Nursing Home
Youth Volunteer of the Year
(up to 24 years)
Ben Matthews of Newport, Newport Surf Life Saving Club
Adult Volunteer of the Year
(25 – 64 years)
David Digges of Bellevue Hill, National Dental Foundation
Senior Volunteer of the Year
(65+ years)
Sandra McDonald of Long Point, Beautiful Minds
Volunteer Team of the Year Women in Prison Advocacy Network Volunteer Mentors
Excellence in Volunteer Management Royal Rehab Volunteer Services, Royal Rehab
Corporate Volunteer of the Year (Individual) Chris Bond from Macquarie Band nominated by the Raise Foundation
Corporate Volunteer Team
of the Year
Salesforce Team

Background – About the NSW Volunteer of the Year Awards

The NSW Volunteer of the Year Awards is an annual program run by The Centre for Volunteering – the State’s peak body for volunteering – to recognise the outstanding work of volunteers in every region across NSW. More than 10,000 individual volunteers were nominated in 2016 and they were recognised with certificates at 21 award ceremonies held across NSW. All Regional winners went into the running for the overall NSW Volunteer of the Year Awards which were announced at a gala event on Friday 2 December 2016 at Norths in Cammeray, Sydney. For more information go to our NSW Volunteer of the Awards Hub