Volunteers from across Western Sydney and the Blue Mountains were today recognised for their outstanding contribution to volunteering at a special ceremony in Penrith. 

The NSW Volunteer of the Year Awards is an annual program run by The Centre for Volunteering and 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 to celebrate the overall NSW Volunteer of the Year.

The NSW 2019 Volunteer of the Year Award recipients for the Outer Western Sydney / Blue Mountains region are:

Award CategoryWinner
Young Volunteer of the Year Mohammad Rifai, The Story Factory from Glenmore Park
Adult Volunteer of the Year Robert Fitzgerald, Sydwest Multicultural Services and Blacktown City Netball Association from Eastern Creek
Senior Volunteer of the Year Graeme Banks, Mama Lana’s Community Foundation from Rooty Hill
Volunteer Team of the Year Red Cross Telecross Call Centre Volunteer Team, Blacktown
Outer Western Sydney/Blue Mountains Volunteer of the Year Robert Fitzgerald, Sydwest Multicultural Services and Blacktown City Netball Association

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 gives us the chance to say thank you.”

Seventeen year-old Mohammad Rifai, was selected as the 2019 NSW Young Volunteer of the Year for the Outer Western Sydney/Blue Mountains region for his work with The Story Factory tutoring young students with learning difficulties. The young HSC student is a positive role model on the benefits of reading and writing for his students.

Our Outer Western Sydney/Blue Mountains category winners rocking on!

Senior Volunteer of the Year for the region, Graeme Banks, volunteers with the Penrith food recovery service Mama Lana’s Community Foundation. Graeme transports food from local supermarkets and food outlets, often cooks and cleans and also helps with the charity’s administration, with his astute paperwork helping to secure $90,000 in private sector grants.

Blacktown police Chief Inspector Robert Fitzgerald is an outstanding volunteer and community servant and a deserving recipient of the Blue Mountains and Outer Western Sydney 2019 NSW Volunteer of the Year Award.

Robert continues to fulfil dozens of volunteering roles across local sporting, multicultural and community service organisations in the region. He has been a champion for newly settled refugees, people from multicultural and indigenous communities and in particular an advocate for women and families facing domestic violence and other severe social stress.

The 80 team members from the Red Cross Telecross Call Centre Volunteer Team, ranging from high school students to retirees, was named as the 2019 NSW Volunteer Team of the Year for the region. The volunteers provide daily welfare checks for elderly people who may be socially isolated or in need.

View and download photos from the event here.

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.”