Volunteers from across the Northern Rivers region were today recognised for their outstanding contribution to volunteering at a special ceremony in Lismore. 

The NSW Volunteer of the Year Awards is 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 21 ceremonies throughout NSW and are invited to the Gala State Ceremony in Sydney for the announcement of the 2019 NSW Volunteer of the Year.

The 2019 NSW Volunteer of the Year Award recipients for the Northern Rivers region are:

Award CategoryAward Recipient
Adult Volunteer of the YearSheliya Van Buggenum, Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children, from Lismore
Senior Volunteer of the YearRobert Grasby, Coraki Golf Club, from Coraki
The Northern Rivers 2019 Volunteer of the Year Robert Grasby from the Coraki Golf Club

The Centre for Volunteering CEO Gemma Rygate said volunteers from across the region had given so much to the local community.

“Your volunteers build connections for people in towns and communities across the region,” Ms Rygate said.

“They help to build such positive experiences and links to services across health, education and community sectors. Our ceremony today recognises their work and allows us to say thank you.”

The 2019 Northern Rivers Adult Volunteer of the Year is Sheliya Van Buggenum from Wollongbar who volunteers with the Royal Institute for Deaf & Blind Children with Mayor Robert Mustow from the Richmond Valley Council (L) and Mayor Isaac Smith, City Of Lismore Council.

As an adult with significant hearing loss, the Northern Rivers 2019 Adult Volunteer of the Year Sheliya Van Buggenum knew the impact she could make assisting people adjusting to new technology that helps restore hearing after years of impairment. She volunteers at the Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children’s Auditory Training Suite in Lismore, where she focuses her support on adults who have recently received a Cochlear Implant.

These adults often require greater support to adjust to their new hearing, including learning or re-learning language skills, help with digital aids, and the support and confidence to take on this new challenge later in life.

Janelle Saffin MP, State Member for Lismore with the 2019 Northern Rivers Senior and Overall Volunteer of the Year Robert (Bob) Grasby from Coraki who volunteers with Coraki Golf Club.

The Northern Rivers 2019 Volunteer of the Year is Robert Grasby who almost single-handedly helps keep the Coraki Golf Club operating through his volunteer work on the greens.

He maintains the fairways, greens and bunkers as a volunteer, as well as organising competitions, coaching clinics and support for young golfers. A local gold club is an important sporting facility for regional towns, but also plays a core role in building well connected and healthy communities.

Bob’s volunteer work has ensured the club survived difficult financial times and now thrives with better facilities and a growing membership.

The 2019 NSW Volunteer of the Year Awards are supported by principal partners the Department of Family and Community Services NSW and ClubsNSW, representing the state’s 1,400 not-for-profit clubs.

Minister for Families, Communities and Disability Services Gareth Ward said volunteers made an enormous contribution to local communities.

“A vibrant volunteering sector leads to healthy and strong communities,” Mr Ward said.

“In NSW, volunteers contribute more than $5 billion to the economy each year and their social contribution is even greater. The NSW Volunteer of the Year Awards are a fitting way to say thank you.”

ClubsNSW CEO Anthony Ball said that volunteers were the backbone of licensed clubs across the state, so it was a natural fit for the industry to support such an important program.

“The calibre of our local volunteers never ceases to amaze me, and I’m proud to represent an industry in which around 32,000 volunteers help to make clubs such great places,” Mr Ball said.

“I congratulate all the volunteers who were recognised at today’s ceremony for their dedication and commitment.”