Today we celebrated our very last regional ceremony for the 2021 NSW Volunteer of the Year Awards with volunteers from the Riverina and the southern NSW border towns.

What a fantastic few months it’s been meeting the state’s volunteers across every corner of NSW. We would never say we saved the best for last, but what an amazing group of volunteers to finish on!

A special congratulations to WIRES volunteer Hazel Cook, who has given almost two decades to protecting local wildlife; St Johns Ambulance volunteers Helen Chant and Tylar Shepheard; retired cattle farmer John Rodd, who has raised over 25 steers for local Wagga schools and charities over the last 21 years, and the ingenious volunteers who keep the Junee Roundhouse Railway Museum rolling on.

The 2021 Riverina Volunteer of the Year is Hazel Cook.

2021 NSW Volunteer of the Year Award recipients for the Riverina region are: 

Senior Volunteer of the Year – Hazel Cook from Albury

Hazel has been a WIRES volunteer for 16 years and is an expert in raptors – travelling up to 300km to collect an eagle. At any one-time animals in her house range from the largest eagle to the tiniest sugar glider; and 4-day-old baby kookaburras. She is tireless in promoting care for wildlife in local media and the community; works with authorities to rehome or release illegally kept fauna; led the push for all eagles to be treated for lead poisoning while in care; and has worked with the Men’s Shed and high schools to build nest boxes for local wildlife.

Young Volunteer of the Year – Tylar Shepheard from Thurgoona

Tylar fought the Black summer bushfires with the RFS. During the pandemic Tylar has been part of the local St Johns Ambulance team that carry out temperature testing and ensure people travel safely.

Adult Volunteer of the Year – Helen Chant from Albury

Helen Chant is the Zone Leader for St John Ambulance NSW, Central and Southern Zone. Since joining St John NSW in 2008, Helen has volunteered over 10,000 hours of service to her communities.

Club Volunteer of the Year – John Rodd from Wagga RSL

The retired cattle farmer sources steers for local high schools and mentors agriculture students as they prepare the animals to show. All steers are auctioned to raise money for local schools and charities, including Country Hope, Wagga Women’s Health Clinic and Willans Hill Primary School.

Volunteer Team of the Year – Junee Roundhouse Rail Museum volunteers

The 16 volunteers repair and maintain heritage rolling stock in the largest Railway Roundhouse in the Southern Hemisphere as well as maintaining and cleaning the museum and caring for the gardens.

The NSW Volunteer of the Year Awards are an annual program run by The Centre for Volunteering which has grown to become one of the largest celebrations of volunteering across the country.

Regional finalists for the awards are announced at 25 ceremonies throughout NSW and are invited to the Gala State Ceremony for the announcement of the 2021 NSW Volunteer of the Year.

The 2021 NSW Volunteer of the Year Awards are supported by principal partners the NSW Department of Communities and Justice and ClubsNSW, which represents the state’s 1,400 not-for-profit clubs.