2021 Volunteering Awards, Canberra region
The Volunteering Awards acknowledge and celebrate the outstanding contribution of thousands of volunteers around the Canberra region who willingly give their time and skills to the community each year. Our Awards ceremony was held on Tuesday 7 December and the following winners were announced.
To watch the live stream of the Awards ceremony, please click here.
Corporate Volunteering Award
Luka is actively involved with a range of different LGBTIQA+ organisations, including the Meridian’s Service User Reference Group, Diversity ACT’s subcommittees (originally in the policy and governance team and then he is now in the events team), an active member of the Rainbow Ranters Toastmasters club, part of the executive committee on the PRIDE network in his workplace at the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.
He is proactively involved with many other projects like the Queer Zumba group (which appeared in Mardi Gras), started a Canberra Rainbow comedy night, and contributed tremendously to ACT Events.
Volunteer Leadership Award
Amanda Wright has been a volunteer District Manager for the Gungahlin Girl Guides District since 2017 and has been volunteering for Girl Guides for over 27 years. As volunteer District Manager, Amanda leads a team of 14 adult volunteers in the Gungahlin area to enable them to deliver the Girl Guides program to their members. Alongside the leadership aspects of her role, Amanda manages the administrative work of the district as well as the financial needs of supporting the growth of Girl Guides in her community.
Vinnies Youth Program Team
The Vinnies Youth Programs consist of a group of youth and young adults’ volunteers who facilitate and organise respite and recreation activities for children and young people in the ACT and surrounding regions. This includes the St Joe’s Youth Program, VINES Teens Program and St Nick’s Young Carers Program, which provide a total of 41-weekend activities and 11 overnight camps in a year. The programs are currently supporting over 330 children and young people from more than 150 families in the ACT and surrounding regions.
The programs provide children and young people with respite opportunities that they may not otherwise access due to their caring role, social isolation, or financial restraints on their families. This also enables children and young people to have a break from their home situation, a chance to have fun, and a safe point of contact for growth and connection.
Des undertakes a broad range of tasks as a Peer Support Volunteer for the Vinnies Community Inclusion Program at Oaks Estate. He is responsible for running the Oaks Estate Community Room which is the central hub for over 100 social housing residents. This role involves the responsibility of locking and unlocking the room each day; restocking supplies of coffee, sugar, cereal, and milk to ensure all residents have access to free breakfast; managing the stock of pre-cooked meals in the freezer to ensure they are handed out to those in need; and cleaning the kitchen, bathroom, computer room and dining areas. Although the Community Room’s opening hours are officially 8:00am – 4:00pm Monday to Friday, Des is happy to provide residents with access after hours and on weekends – all he asks is that residents call him or knock on his door.
Des’s work is about more than simply ensuring access to essential items and technology. It’s also about making the residents of Oaks Estate feel welcome and supported by a peer who has experienced similar challenges to them.
Senior Volunteer of the Year Award
Jeff embodies what it means to have a volunteering spirit. A long-serving volunteer across multiple organizations in the ACT, his commitment to supporting his local community is truly admirable.
Having volunteered at Ronald McDonald House Canberra since 2016 as a Night Owl volunteer, providing essential overnight support to families staying at RMHC. Jeff has always shown such care and dedication in supporting families with seriously ill children experiencing hospitalization.
Jeff’s essential role as a Night Owl helped allow RMHC to continue to intake and support families throughout the COVID-19 global pandemic.
Beyond is work with RMHC, Jeff shows his immense dedication to supporting his local community through further volunteering in 2021 with OzHarvest Canberra, Lifeline, Canberra Relief Network, and a Community Fire Unit through the Emergency Services Agency ACT.
Young Volunteer of the Year Award
Ben is an outstanding young gentleman who is doing everything to support the Canberra Community. He is a volunteer with the St Vincent De Paul door knock appeal and their Night Patrol. For the past 2 years, he has also led a team of 30+ people in the May 50K challenge to raise funds for the Kiss Goodbye to MS charity and assisted with the running of the 2021 MS Walk, Run and Roll event around Lake Burley Griffin. In addition to this, he has set up and organises an annual fundraising event called Christmas Lights for MS. This event sees tens of thousands of people visit his house and admire the wonderful Christmas lights on his house. The event has raised over $15,000 in the past few years and raised an immeasurable amount of awareness about MS to the Canberra community. These are some of the volunteering efforts Ben contributes to the community every year.
Volunteer Team of the Year Award
ACT Disaster Relief – Disaster Relief Australia
Disaster Relief Australia is a veteran-led volunteer organisation that unites the skills and experience of military veterans with emergency service specialists to rapidly deploy disaster relief teams in Australia and around the world in the wake of natural disasters.
Over the last 12 months, the ACT Disaster Relief Team has:
Helped over 300 families with bushfire recovery work in Snowy Valley, Eurobodalla Bega Valley shire.
Delivered over 4200 food hampers to over 2100 Canberra houses for the Canberra Relief Network and ACT Government Community Services Directorate.
Provided gardening and home maintenance assistance to over 25 elderly veterans.
Assisted ACT Girl Guides to undertake maintenance at their camp in Majura.
Canberra's Choice Award
Lesley Harland and John FitzGerald
If Canberra is the Bush Capital, then Lesley and John are the master Bush Capital volunteers. They care passionately for the natural environment and their extensive volunteer activities are concentrated in this area. They work with ACT ParkCare in Pinnacle Nature Reserve, spending many hours weeding, monitoring native plants, collecting litter, caring for this area that is close to their home. They also help in the Umbagong Landcare Group and Friends of Black Mountain. They regularly monitor water quality for Waterwatch. Their extensive knowledge and efforts help Friends of Grasslands, Greening Australia, The Eastern Long-necked Turtle Project, Climate Watch, the Australian National Botanic Gardens and more. They help preserve and maintain the environment in the Bush Capital so that it can flourish and be enjoyed by many.
Contact Tracing Team – St John Ambulance ACT
Within three days of the ACT COVID outbreak/lockdown in August, ACT Health was inundated with over 10,000 close contact tracing declarations. On-call emergency support services including St John Ambulance ACT were quick to mobilise teams of volunteers to assist with managing the enormous volume of calls required. The volunteer contact tracers were able to assist with clarifying who exactly was considered a close, casual, or secondary contact, clearly stating the separate requirements for those categories and providing much needed clarity and direction to comply with ACT Health requirements.
Throughout the last 12 weeks volunteer contact tracers assisted with inbound calls to ACT Health, vaccination appointment calls, coordinated enquires for in-house testing, food-supplies for quarantining close contacts and provided reassurance through welfare checks to at risk groups.
Volunteer of the Year
Lesley Harland and John FitzGerald
In more detail to the volunteering mentioned when winning Canberra’s Choice Award, Lesley and John for 10 years, every month, rain, hail or shine, set out carrying their equipment to sample the water quality at two sites on Ginninderra Creek at Umbagong. They measure numerous factors that go into the health of the waterways. The data collected is sent to Waterwatch and provides a basis for decisions about water catchment management. Lesley also collected Waterwatch data at Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve where she volunteered for well over 12 years. At each visit, they collect rubbish and litter. Not only is the health of the waterways in the ACT improved through the efforts of Lesley and John but also that of the downstream rivers.
The Seed Bank at the ANBG relies on volunteers like John to collect, sort, document, and store seed to ensure that our native vegetation has a guaranteed future. Lesley manages the membership of the nearly 3000 members of the Friends of the Australian National Botanic Gardens which raises funds and promotes the Gardens. The Canberra Nature Map is an extensive database of living things in the ACT and all entries are authenticated by volunteer moderators like John. The University of the Third Age has thousands of participants in the ACT but it only is able to operate due to volunteers like Lesley who works in their Cook Office. In brief, thousands of Canberrans benefit from Lesley and John’s volunteer activities.