The group of 12 volunteers from the Wellington Beyond Barbed Wire Volunteer Mentors has been selected as the 2018 NSW Volunteer Team of the Year for their support for mothers who are in or have been released from prison.

The announcement was made in front of more than 300 community, business and political leaders and marks the end of a state-wide six month search spanning 112,000 individual nominations across 20 separate regional and suburban award ceremonies.

The Awards are an annual event run by The Centre for Volunteering to recognise the outstanding work of volunteers in every region across NSW.

The volunteer team members spend time with mothers to help strengthen their parenting skills, maintain strong bonds with their children and connect them with support services when they are released from the Wellington Correction Centre in Central NSW.

The program, run by Barnardos, has recently reported that it had supported 86 women. The recidivism rate amongst those women in the program was 6%, compared with the general rate of 48%.

The close one-on-one social contact that the program?s volunteers offer provides practical as well as emotional support. It helps keep many women out of the prison system and closer to their children and families

The Centre for Volunteering CEO Gemma Rygate said women in the criminal justice system had often experienced trauma and disadvantage in their lives.

“Women in the prison system may not have had the same opportunities that other women in their communities have had,” Ms Rygate said.

“The Beyond Barbed Wire volunteer mentors are working to change this.

“We hold these awards to highlight the contribution of this team and all our volunteers. It gives us the opportunity to hear their stories, be inspired by their actions and pass on our thanks.”

The Awards are in their 12th year and have grown to become one of the biggest events recognising volunteering across the country.

The 2018 NSW Volunteer of the Year Awards are supported by principal partners the NSW Department of Family and Community Services and ClubsNSW, which represents the state’s 1,400 not-for-profit clubs. They are also supported by Mint Awards and Thrifty Car & Truck Rentals.

NSW Minister responsible for Volunteering, the Hon. Ray Williams MP, said the NSW Volunteer of the Year Awards are an important way to recognise the contribution of the 2.1 million volunteers working throughout NSW.

“It was an honour to meet and talk with so many esteemed volunteers today who work so hard for their local communities,” Mr Williams said.

“I congratulate all our award finalists and those volunteers selected to receive the Volunteer of the Year Awards.

“You all make a special contribution to your local communities, right across NSW. We can all learn from hearing your stories and celebrating your efforts.”

ClubsNSW CEO Anthony Ball said that volunteers were the backbone of registered clubs across NSW.

“On behalf of an industry which relies upon 32,000 volunteers, I congratulate all of these deserving winners,” said Mr Ball.

“These awards recognise the huge contribution that volunteers make in their local communities, and ClubsNSW is proud to be a principal partner.

“Clubs across NSW rely on volunteers to help make their venues a great place to socialise, which in turn adds billions of dollars to the NSW economy every year.”

Photos of the event are kindly supplied by Michael Mannington, Volunteer Photography, and are available to view here.

Further photos taken by Susan White of Corporate Digital,, are available here.