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

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 Riverina region are:

Award CategoryAward Recipient
Young Volunteer of the Year Kai Watts, Wagga City Wanderers, from Wagga Wagga
Adult Volunteer of the Year Dr Saba Nabi, Multicultural NSW, AFL Multicultural Community Ambassador, Murrumbidgee Local Health District from Kooringal.
Senior Volunteer of the Year Philip Cooper, St John Ambulance, NSW SES and NSW RFS, from Gerogery
Riverina NSW 2019 Volunteer of the Year Dr Saba Nabi, Multicultural NSW, AFL Multicultural Community Ambassador, and the Murrumbidgee Local Health District
Senior Award recipient Philip Cooper, Adult and Overall winner Dr Saba Nabi, and Young Volunteer of the Riverina region Kai Watts.

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.”

Fifteen-year-old Soccer and Australian Rules player Kai Watts turned a park kick-around with a couple of newly arrived Yazidi refugee children into a regular training run. He was soon joined by more than 50 Yazidi children, who have become the latest recruits at local clubs throughout the city.

Kai Watts Young Volunteer Award recipient (C) with a fellow Wagga City Wanderes Refugee program Volunteer team member Liam Dedini (L) and Dr Joe McGirr MP, State Member for Wagga Wagga (R).

His kind acts have helped bring two very different communities together, earning him the Riverina NSW 2019 Young Volunteer of the Year Award.

Senior Volunteer of the Year Philip Cooper

Dr Saba Nabi was awarded the NSW 2019 Adult Volunteer of the Year Award and overall Riverina NSW 2019 Volunteer of the Year for her tireless efforts supporting health, education, sporting and multicultural services across the region.

The Riverina NSW 2019 Senior Volunteer of the Year Philip Cooper divides his volunteering hours between the local SES, RFS and now St John Ambulance services. Amazingly he can also find time to help with other causes such as Clean Up Australia Day events.

The 2019 NSW Volunteer of the Year Awards are supported by principal partners the Department of Family and Community Services NSW and ClubsNSW, which represents 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.”