The sixth year of the NSW Volunteer of the Year Awards was an exciting year with the announcement of a brand new sponsor, the introduction of a new award category, an increase in regional volunteer centre co-hosts for Regional Ceremonies and hundreds of inspiring volunteers and organisations nominated…

The Centre for Volunteering was pleased to announce a new sponsorship partnership with ClubsNSW who see the Awards as an opportunity to recognise their own 50,000 volunteers working in clubs throughout NSW. The Hon. Victor Dominello MP and NSW Government’s Office of Communities continued their ongoing support of the Award program.

The NSW Excellence in NFP Volunteer Management Award was introduced as a one-off Award in 2011 to recognise not-for-profit organisations demonstrating best practice in volunteer management. In 2012, it was permanently added to the suite of award categories.

“The Excellence in NFP Volunteer Management Award will help highlight a sometimes under-acknowledged, but vitally important aspect of volunteering, the work not-for-profit organisations and their volunteer managers play in the recruitment, coordination and recognition of volunteers. The outstanding level of professionalism of last year’s nominees in this category highlighted to both The Centre and I the need to make this award category an integral part of the annual award program,”

said Hon. Victor Dominello MP, Minister for Citizenship and Communities, Member for Ryde and Patron of the 2012 NSW Volunteer of the Year Award.

2012 saw an increase in the number of Regional Award ceremonies co-hosted with local Volunteer Referral Centres, benefitting the local community as well as the local centre and the Award program.

The 2012 Award received 350 nominations recognising more than 5,000 volunteers throughout the State.

Forty-eight regional individual, youth and senior volunteer winners and 21 regional volunteer team winners, gathered from across New South Wales for the announcement of the 2012 NSW Volunteer of the Year winners by The Hon. Victor Dominello, Minister for Citizenship and Communities, Aboriginal Affairs.

2012 NSW Volunteer of the Year Andrew Heslop

Neighbour Day founder, Andrew Heslop of Double Bay, has been named the 2012 NSW Volunteer of the Year in recognition of his dedication to encouraging better relationships throughout communities across NSW and Australia at a prestigious function held on Wednesday, 5 December 2012  International Volunteer Day at the NSW Leagues Club, Sydney.

The annual Award program recognises the efforts and achievements of the millions of volunteers across NSW.

Forty-eight regional individual, youth and senior volunteer winners and 21 regional volunteer team winners, gathered from across New South Wales for the announcement of the 2012 NSW Volunteer of the Year winners by The Hon. Victor Dominello, Minister for Citizenship and Communities, Aboriginal Affairs, Member for Ryde and Patron of the NSW Volunteer of the Year Award.

Andrew is the founder of Neighbour Day, Australia’s annual celebration of community. It is supported by a wealth of community, local government and media partnerships that run the length and breadth of the country. Andrew started this event in 2003 when the body of an elderly woman was discovered in her home two years after she had passed away. While Andrew did not know the deceased he was appalled by the apparent ease in which the world had left her behind. Neighbours had watched piles of mail, store catalogues and newspapers build up at her front door but they did nothing.

Widespread local and national media interest followed and it was this coverage that prompted Andrew to suggest a National Check on Your Neighbour Day in a Letter to the Editor in The Age published on 17 March 2003.

On Sunday, 30 March 2003 the first Neighbour Day was observed. It generated surprisingly widespread media coverage and support, primarily because of the simplicity of the idea and the ease with which Australians everywhere could take part. Importantly it also brought to prominence a major issue faced every day by senior Australians.

On the last Sunday of March each year, Neighbour Day breaks out with street parties, barbecues, festivals and other social activities to encourage residents to get together.

These were the words written by Andrew for the Regional Ceremony which he was not able to attend:

“I accept this award and dedicate it to the memory of Elsie Brown who was my inspiration in founding Neighbour Day in Melbourne in 2003, and my late neighbour Clive Tayler. Wherever we live, whatever our circumstances, our neighbours are there for us in good times and in bad. Too often we forget that a friendly smile and a ‘how are you today?’ can mean the world to a single person living alone, who has no other interaction with their community. It doesn’t take much effort to keep an eye out for an elderly or vulnerable neighbour, who could easily be our parent, grandparent or friend. Thank you for awarding Neighbour Day and I this honour – because the community you want really does start at your front door.”

Andrew received a $1,500 donation to a not-for-profit, a trophy and a prize pack.

Andrew is a deserving winner of the Award for his tireless dedication to strengthening our communities, Lynne Dalton, CEO, The Centre for Volunteering, said. Volunteers are the bedrock on which local communities sit, and these Awards provide a rare opportunity for us to thank the people who work day in and day out to better our communities.

2012 Senior Volunteer of the Year Megan Etheridge

Megan Etheridge of Birchgrove was named 2012 NSW Senior Volunteer of the Year. Megan founded Dress for Success Sydney in 2008, a charity that outfits disadvantaged women, free of charge, in high-quality professional clothing and provides practical job interview advice.Through its program, it aims to improve the employability of disadvantaged women by increasing their confidence and restoring dignity.

Megan is involved in a volunteer capacity with all aspects of the organisation; from finding and sorting the clothes, dressing clients as well as promoting the service. The benefit of Megan’s work is not one often seen or appreciated by the community at large. However, increasing the self-esteem amongst these women, in particular, those who are incarcerated, is important for their reintegration into society following their release from prison. Post-release employment plays a major part in preventing re-offending by establishing a base upon which a successful return to the community can be made.

One of the most important aspects of Megan’s work with Dress for Success Sydney has been in starting an outreach service to take the program to clients in regional areas. Starting 3 years ago, Megan negotiated with the Department of Corrective Services to take the program to Mulawa Women’s Prison at Silverwater, and has since expanded to other facilities. More recently, she has established a Pack and Send service with a virtual stylist to assist agencies in remote locations like Gilgandra, Dubbo and Tumut.

“Although there have been challenges in establishing Dress for Success Sydney, it has been inspiring to see the generosity of people and business wanting to volunteer or be involved in another way.

“Volunteering allows me to feel like I’m adding value to someone’s life, but importantly I come to realise that it’s also adding value to my own”.

Megan received a $1,000 donation to a not-for-profit, a trophy and prize pack.

2012 Youth Volunteer of the Year Micheala Collins

Micheala Collins of Blayney was named 2012 NSW Youth Volunteer of the Year. Micheala has been volunteering with Girl Guides Australia Blayney Star Girl Guides for over four years. Micheala is passionate about the Blayney Star Girl Guides. A member since she was 12, she has worked her way up to Junior Leader and now acts as a mentor to the younger Guides. In her role as a Junior Leader Micheala organizes weekly activities for the girls who are aged between 5-11 years old.

Micheala suffers from Brittle Bone disease, and from time to time finds herself incapacitated. Yet this doesn’t stop her getting involved and finding other ways to participate with the Guides, such as her current Friendship Bracelet project for the Sangam Centre in India. Her joy and optimism radiate to those around her and her community.

Micheala received a $1,000 donation to a not-for-proft a trophy and prize pack.

2012 NSW Volunteer Team of the Year Carevan Albury

The 2012 NSW Volunteer Team of the Year Award was awarded to The Carevan Volunteer Team of Albury. Albury’s Carevan Volunteer Team is made up of 400 volunteers who assist with administration, fundraising, food deliveries and the Kids Cooking and Caring Program. The Carevan Volunteer Team has been providing services to assist the homeless, disadvantaged and young people in need since May 2012. They now feed over 200 individuals in need per week in four difference locations in Albury. They also provide nutritional meals cooked by schools in the Kids Cooking and Caring Program to Glenecho Community Centre, Women’s Refuge, Youth Refuge, Housing NSW clients and YES Youth and Family Services clients. Volunteers have also assisted in the Midnight Basketball Program assisting less fortunate children to stay off the streets, a national social inclusion program to help youth identify and embrace positive opportunities. Since May 2010, 17,664 meals have been given involving 6,130 volunteer hours!

2012 Corporate Volunteer of the Year Michael Cluff

In February, this 2012 Michael Cluff and some of his colleagues from the Commonwealth Bank visited the Cerebral Palsy Alliance (CPA) facility at Ryde to talk about what they might be able to do for the organisation as part of the Commonwealth Bank Centenary Celebrations. What started at that meeting as rough ideas, a modest budget and a gleam in Michael’s eye rapidly grew into a huge project which resulted in a complete transformation of the main entrance and the creation of a children’s therapy playground at the site, with a not-so-modest budget. From that moment on Michael dedicated a huge amount of his personal time to this project, far above and beyond his brief, even utilising plants and other materials from his own home garden. His energy and vision were unstoppable, as he became completely immersed in planning and sourcing materials for the new playground. He took on the liaison between all stakeholders, sourced an extremely talented and creative landscape gardener to create the new playground and worked continuously with the landscaper through the playground design. Weekends saw Michael either painting or building at the Ryde site, scouring junkyards for trinkets to stimulate the children, or shopping for other pieces of equipment or furniture for the parents’ room. The parents’ room is another example of Michael’s generosity the idea being to create a pleasant and relaxing environment for the parents while their child is in therapy. He designed and sourced all the furniture and fittings for a room worthy of a Vogue magazine. The project culminated in two days in April and May when two teams of approximately 30 Commonwealth Bank Volunteers descended each day on the Ryde site to clean, paint, plant gardens and create playground props, all under Michael’s organisation and inspiration. The project was officially launched on Friday, 8 June 2012. Michael spent approximately 300 hours on this project much of this was on weekends and outside normal work hours. To Michael, It was a labour of love.

The NSW Corporate Volunteer of the Year Award is usually only open to individual volunteers but 2012 year saw the nomination of a corporate volunteer team so impressive that the judging panel created a new award the NSW Corporate Volunteer Team of the Year. The category will now be incorporated into the Award program from 2013 as a permanent Award Category.

2012 Corporate Volunteer Team of the Year Ausgrid Regional Employee Community Committee

Ausgrid’s Regional Employee Community Committee was the recipient of the inaugural NSW Corporate Volunteer Team of the Year Award. Ausgrid’s Community Care Program was launched on in 2007. It is a multi-layered corporate community investment program. The program offers: Financial support for local community organisations where Ausgrid’s employees volunteer their personal time through $100 cash grants; practical help for local community organisations where Ausgrid’s employees volunteer their personal time through the Electrical Jobs program, offering in-kind electrical assistance delivered by our Apprentice Training Program; Payroll Giving Program; partnership with the NSW Rural Fire Service offering in-kind assistance to brigades and volunteers; partnership with the Movember; and a foundation raising funds and awareness for men’s health in the areas of prostate cancer and depression. The Community Care Program is delivered at a local level through a network of seven Regional Employee Community Committees (RECCs) which assess and prioritise requests for assistance using standardised criteria. This structured, transparent and consistent approach is fundamental to ensuring Community Care becomes a living legacy for Ausgrid. To fulfil their role within the Community Care program, the Regional Employee Community Committee has clear guidelines and a budget to deliver grassroots assistance from Ausgrid to local community groups that its employees personally support through their volunteering.

The NSW Excellence in NFP Volunteer Management Award was introduced as a one-off Award in 2011 to celebrate International Year of the Volunteer +10. The outstanding level of professionalism of 2011’s nominees in this category highlighted the need to make this award category an integral part of the annual award program.

2012 NSW Excellence in NFP Volunteer Management Manning Support Services

Manning Support Services has delivered services to the residents of the Manning area for over 30 years. Since their humble beginning, they have expanded to include the Great Lakes, Gloucester and Hastings local government areas. The service relies heavily on volunteers, from the very top, where a voluntary management committee sets the vision and direction, to one of the many volunteers that shops for housebound clients or accompanies the more mobile to doctors, medical and other appointments. Manning Support Services is a professional organisation that treats volunteers as valued members of the organisation. Volunteers have a say in the organisation by becoming members and participating in the planning process. They also attend the AGM and are involved in staff development programs and regularly attend team meetings.