Volunteer Awards

The Amy Large Volunteer Awards honour local resident and much loved volunteer Amy Large, who passed away in 2015. Amy was widely known for her long years of service supporting Birchgrove Public School committees, the Birchgrove Scorpions Junior Rugby League team, the Balmain Town Hall and the Back to Balmain Day Committees, as well as volunteering for the Red Cross and the Salvation Army.

The awards, formerly known as Volunteer of the Year, acknowledge outstanding contributions to local families, organisations, programs, the environment and individuals in need.

From 2021 onwards all nominees will be celebrated equally during Volunteers Week, 17 to 23 May.

Meet our 2021 winners

Young volunteers

Our Young Volunteer recipients are:

  • Joseph Hathaway-Wilson for work at the Addison Road Food Pantry
  • Ellen Lockwood Spence for establishing 20for1 Community
  • Elise Takashima for work with Newtown Neighbourhood Centre
  • Annalise Hayes for supporting the Bill Crews Foundation

Read their inspiring stories below. 

COTYALVA21 Joseph Hathaway-WilsonJoseph Hathaway

We celebrate Joseph Hathaway-Wilson for supporting the Addison Road Food Pantry by restocking shelf items, bagging fruit and bread, and assisting the public when they are shopping. Joe has been volunteering at Addi Road for over a year. He has played an important role in the Food Pantry feeding over 250,000 people in the past year, expanding operations to include an Emergency Food Relief Hub that packed over 16,000 food relief hampers during COVID and opening a second pantry to combat food waste and food insecurity and rescue over 200 tonnes of food going into landfill. Joe is committed to Addison Road and the Food Pantry; he's always ready to pitch in and do anything that is required. He is extremely polite and enthusiastic. Joe enjoys his volunteer work as he gets a sense of community and the social and environmental benefits of the Food Pantry operations.

COTYALVA21 Ellen Lockwood SpenceEllen Lockwood Spence

Celebrating Ellen Lockwood Spence for her significant role in establishing '20for1 Community'. '20for1 Community' links local volunteers restaurants, cafes and providores to residents of Balmain, Birchgrove, Rozelle and Lilyfield who need a helping hand, and provides them with a free, home delivered, nutritious meal, once a week. Together with her manager, Marco, at his restaurant, Our Place on Darling in Balmain, Elise put countless volunteer hours into setting up 20for1 Community systems, accounts, and logistics. In addition to her significant voluntary contribution to the coordiation of 20for1 Community, Ellen volunteers every Monday to help cook and deliver 20 meals and desserts to local people in need. Ellen continues to work hard for the growth of the project which has grown to over 10 restaurants and over 100 meals and snacks per week. The program started with a small team, however as other members lost the enthusiasm and capacity to continue to support the program, Ellen’s passion grew and she now does even more to assist with the growth and sustainability of 20for1.

COTYALVA21 Elise TakashimaElise Takashima

Celebrating Elise for her extensive contribution to our community through the Newtown Neighbourhood Centre (NNC). Elise started volunteering at NNC in early 2020 just prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. initially Elise volunteered to help people sleeping rough as part of the Newtopian Outreach program. This involves commitment and participation in intensive training and going out on regular shifts to engage and connect with people sleeping rough on our streets. This work de-stigmitises people experiencing homelessness and seeks to reduce the feeling of isolation for these individuals. As this project was suspended during the pandemic restrictions, Elise expressed interest and enthusiasm to continue to support the work of NNC and sought out other opportunities to assist vulnerable community members.

This led to her volunteering at Newtown Neighbourhood Centre's drop-in Information and Referral Service. The primary purpose of her role in the program is to welcome and assist anyone who comes to NNC. Enquiries range from general through to complex requests for assistance. On average the Information and Referral Service receives approximately 10-15 face-to-face enquiries per shift. Enquiries mainly involve topics such as crisis support, financial aid, free meals and affordable food options, homelessness, low-cost accommodation, domestic and family violence, mental health issues and substance abuse. Having Elise and other volunteers support this service allows NNC to help more people in the local community who are experiencing, or at risk of homelessness.

As COVID restrictions relaxed, Elise started to volunteer in the Newtopian Outreach program. This homeless outreach work to rough sleepers means people sleeping on the street have a friendly, caring person to chat with, building their sense of belonging and giving vital information and direction on where they can seek assistance.

Elise is an extremely diligent, dedicated and motivated individual and due to her empathetic, inquisitive and helpful disposition, has proven to be a natural in the role of supporting marginalised people experiencing street homelessness and other social disadvantage.

COTYALVA21 Anneliese SyncAnnalise Hayes

Annalise Hayes - for supporting the Bill Crews foundation to help address the cause and effect of homelessness and poverty, as well as unemployment. Annalise contributes by organising backpacks filled with gifts and toiletries which she lovingly puts together and comes into Ashfield to hand out guests. For the last 3 years, Annalise has prepared, collected and put all this together herself. She is a very selfless young lady who is an inspiration to everyone at the Bill Crews Foundation.

Adult volunteers

Our Adult Volunteer recipients are:

  • Deanne Barnes for contribution to reuse and our environment through Reverse Garbage
  • Craig Barnett for lifelong service to the Leichhardt Wanderers Junior Rugby League Football Club
  • Nicole Bastock for dedication to Bushcare
  • Narelle Bell for work with the Newtown Neighbourhood Centre
  • Warren Brown for contribution to the Bill Crews Foundation
  • Sharon Buckley for work with the NSW State Emergency Service, Bush Care Australia, Save the Bilby Fund, Clean up Australia, Radio for the Print Handicapped and the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia
  • Marina Camarao for work with the Asylum Seekers Centre
  • Fiona Carr for significant contribution to the Horn of Africa Relief and Development Agency
  • Angelica Lucia Castaneda Huaripata for work with Sydney Multicultural Community Services
  • Natalie Gouda for contribution to reuse and our environment through Reverse Garbage
  • Stergiani (Noula) Melodoniotis for work with Dress for Success
  • Jennie Messer for work with Marrickville Connect
  • Corrie Nichols for work with the Friday Seniors group at Newtown Neighbourhood Centre
  • Jan Rajnoch for leadership in Council's Greenway Re-vegetation and Bushcare Program
  • Marie-Christine Sancho for creating 'Growing Older with Attitude and Gratitude'
  • Mary Savva for work with Addison Road Community Organisation
  • Jody Toomey for commitment to the LGBTIQ community
  • Gordon Yee for dedication to the Justice of the Peace service in the Inner West

Read their inspiring stories below.

COTYALVA21 Deanne BarnesDeanne Barnes

Celebrating Deanne Barnes for her significant contribution to reuse and our environment through Reverse Garbage since 2019. Deanne understands the uniqueness of RG's customers, donations and volunteers and her creativity helps others better understand reuse opportunities. Deanne has a way of looking at any item in the warehouse and finding a new and often never thought of way of reuse. Reverse Garbage staff say that Deanne never fails to surprise them! Deanne creates kits for early childhood educators that help them to understand the educational benefits of Revers Garbage’s open-ended resources. Deanne has been volunteering with Reverse Garbage since 2019 and brings her infectious laugh and enthusiasm with her every week.

Deanne played an essential role in Reverse Garbage's COVID Face shield Project - through her efforts Reverse Garbage and volunteers from the public were able to make over 2000 face shields. 

COTYALVA21 Craig BarnettCraig Barnett

Celebrating Craig Barnett - for lifelong service to the Leichhardt Wanderers Junior Rugby League Football Club. 'Craig (or Barney to all that know him) is an example of unselfish service to his childhood club. Yes, that is correct. Craig's service to the great institution that is Leichhardt Wanderers commenced as an 8-year-old boy and it continues today. Craig is club President and current Under 14 Girls Coach. He has served as a club official for more than 30 years and he has served as club President for the past 12 years. There are many current NRL players that owe their success, in part, to the knowledge Craig has shared with them. Craig has a calm and non-critical manner that sometimes finds itself at odds with the serious nature of Junior sports club politics and yet, amongst all this, Craig can get the best out of his committee and the club in general. Craig's important achievements include developing a system to waive fee payment for players unable to pay the fees required by the governing body. Craig has also been the driving force behind the massive interest in the game by young girls. Many times, people have asked 'What is the success of this small little football club that has made its home of the banks of Iron Cove'? and I quite simply say the Barnett Family. Craig's Father Bob was a Leichhardt Resident and Wanderers Committee man all his life and I am sure if he were alive, we would be nominating him for this award. Craig is a wonderful personification of the great things the often-maligned sport of Rugby League is known for. Hard work, being able to get back on your feet when things do not go your own way and of course friendship. Craig has been awarded the Leichhardt Wanderers Club person of the Year Award, is a Life Member of both the Balmain Junior League and Leichhardt Wanderers.

COTYALVA21 Nicole BastockNicole Bastock

Celebrating Nicole for volunteering with Greenway bushcare for over 6 years. She gives up 4 hours each fortnight to contribute to Council's revegetation/bushcare program and increasing Urban Forests in the Inner West. Nicole works very hard carrying out weeding, planting, litter collection and basic landscaping works. This is very physical work. Nicole is a very dedicated volunteer, she turns up early to every event and is always the last to leave. She goes out of her way to complete projects un-finished during working bees. Nicole works on and around Council's bushcare sites during the week - often for many hours and over extended time periods until the work is complete. Nicole is a very hard worker and puts in 100% always. In short Nicole is a finisher. She starts projects and is there to put the cherry on top once they are done.

Narelle Bell

COTYALVA21 Narelle Bell

Narelle commenced volunteering at Newtown Neighbourhood Centre (NNC) in 2017 and completed intensive training for their pilot program Newtopian Homeless Outreach. Recognising the valuable skills Narelle possessed, the project manager approached Narelle to also contribute her expertise in project management and consultation. Narelle provided her professional expertise pro bono to the homeless outreach pilot and her input was key to the project’s success and longer-term sustainability.

During the Covid restrictions the Newtopian Homeless Outreach project was suspended. Around this time, NNC became aware of the significant social isolation experienced by many elderly boarding house residents. The 'Newtopian Outreachers' were redeployed to make social calls to these vulnerable community members and Narelle was one of the first to put her hand up for this role. Once the restrictions were eased and NNC could open their Neighbourhood Centre doors, Narelle enthusiastically accepted the offer to staff the essential front-line Information and Referral service. Narelle also volunteers on NNC’s Aged Care Individual Social Support Team which provides regular visits to isolated older community member in the Inner West Community. This provides valuable human connection, conversation, company, opportunities to access the community and some respite from social isolation. Narelle is a professional with a valuable skill set that has greatly benefited NNC. Her legal background, writing, consultation skills and knowledge of project management have helped develop a lasting and sustainable model for their homeless community outreach. Narelle has a calm and practical approach to assisting those in need. She has exemplary problem-solving skills and always makes service users feel valued and respected. She diligently updates NNC's extensive database of community services and resources which ensures they can provide the most current and accurate information to those in need. Her contribution, firstly as a provider of social calls to isolated older community members during Covid restrictions, and then as a face-to-face community visitor to older isolated community members contributes to greater community connection, reduced social isolation, belonging and a more caring community.

Narelle is a truly committed and valued volunteer at Newtown Neighbourhood Centre. The centres values of social justice and belonging are embodied by Narelle each time she proffers her time to NNC. Her initiative and ability to think laterally contributes to innovative and exciting initiatives to better support community service provision to those most in need. Her professional skills have assisted in the co design of valuable community service-based initiatives, and these attributes promise to keep NNC evolving and innovating into the future.

COTYALVA21 Warren BrownWarren Brown

Warren Brown for his good humour and helpful nature supporting others through the Bill Crews Foundation for nearly 2 years. Warren has contributed over 242 hours - serving guests lunch in the Loaves and Fishes Restaurant, helping in the warehouse packing hampers, helping with other general duties and volunteering for Exodus' Christmas day event.

COTYALVA21 Sharon BuckleySharon Buckley

Sharon Buckley is a model resident and local citizen, volunteering in a tireless, generous, diverse, and highly competent manner. She has not sought and has not received prior community recognition for her very substantial contributions to the Inner West community. Which includes;

NSW SES – Ashfield-Leichhardt Unit from 2006 to date. Currently Deputy Unit Commander (since 2014), responsible for all field operations and emergency response work and Duty Officer, 24-7 on call for 2 weeks at a time every 2 months. Sharon’s SES volunteer contributions are substantial and have contributed significant benefits to our community’s wellbeing, primarily though ensuring the Inner West has many trained and motivated emergency services volunteers, providing very competent leadership through planning, acquisition of resources, management during major storm and flood events and promoting and supporting community resilience through self help initiatives.

Sharon is a very effective volunteer leader who has made an enormous contribution. Since joining the SES she has been very generous with her time in responding to local and out of area emergency events and equally important, in the training and mentoring of 100s of new SES volunteers. She served as Training Coordinator, but has been driving training regardless of the role she may be presently in. Effective training not only ensures a great skill base for our community, but it also significantly contributes to the longer retention of volunteers to serve the Inner West community. Sharon has been a very important contributor to growing the Social Capital of the Inner West. Every year Ashfield-Leichhardt SES typically receives 200-300 calls for assistance from residents. Years where major weather events occur sees this figure increasing by a further 100+ calls, eg in March this year with the heavy rains and major flooding in the wider Sydney area and Mid-North Coast. With these calls for assistance Sharon would play a role in responding to more than half of these, and they come at all hours of the day and days of the week. In addition, Sharon is regarded as a highly competent Incident Management Team (IMT) member. The IMT oversees all aspects to the response during a major event. Over the past 2 years Sharon has volunteered for IMT deployment throughout NSW. These deployments included 5 locations during the extensive fires in 2019-20 and back on back shifts (6 days at a time) in the mid North Coast as the Aviation Base Manager, coordinating all flights e.g. surveillance, medical and food drops and evacuations of stranded residents.

In addition to this enormous contribution through the SES Sharon has also done extensive volunteer work with Bush Care Australia, Save the Bilby Fund, Clean up Australia, Radio for the Print Handicapped, and the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia.

Sharon's substantial level volunteering was largely commenced and undertaken whilst Sharon was fulfilling a very significant responsibility with NSW Police as the General Manager Health & Well Being (2006-2018, responsible for the medical, physical, and psychological health and wellbeing programs for NSW Police) and as a Women in policing mentor, providing ongoing mentoring for female officers transitioning from Inspector to Superintendent level.

Sharon lives a philosophy of providing people with opportunities for learning and advancement, and support for those she can influence. She has a very strong desire to help and be useful. Sharon seeks out social and educational inequity and in a practical way, sees where she can make a difference, including advancing the education and opportunities of people in her circle of influence. There is no doubt that through SES alone, since 2006, Sharon has practically assisted thousands of local people with a genuine immediate need. Sharon is a volunteer motivated by seeing a result, whether it is a temporarily fixed roof, arranging temporary accommodation, clearing a tree off a road, or seeing another volunteer acquire a practical skill. Sharon is most worthy of our community's recognition as a recipient of an Amy Large Volunteer Award.

COTYALVA21 Marina CamaraoMarina Camarao

During COVID the Asylum Seekers Centre received a grant that allowed them to provide emergency financial relief payments to clients who are here on temporary visas, are ineligible for receiving government assistance, and have been directly affected by Covid-19. Since July 2020, over 300 individuals have approached the organisation requesting financial help. This quickly grew into a significant task, which required administrative support to address each clients’ situation individually. Luckily for the Relief team, Marina stepped in, in both an administrative and casework capacity, and hit the ground running. As the Asylum Seekers Centre and their clients have experienced the uncertainties of Covid-19, this meant that Marina’s role as a volunteer has been constantly evolving. Marina quickly and efficiently adapted to each new task, enabling the team to provide financial support to hundreds who are seeking asylum in NSW. Marina’s assistance as a Relief volunteer has been a crucial part of the Relief project at ASC. Her contributions have not only benefited the team administratively, but she has also played an important role in providing support for clients whom she communicates with on a regular basis. This support is invaluable as ASC has managed the distribution of relief funds to such many individuals who are not just facing financial hardship, but also may not have support or connections elsewhere in Australia. This means that Marina’s impact not only affects the staff at ASC but also reaches the broader community. As mentioned above, the Covid-19 situation continues to change, which is constantly reshaping the way that ASC needs to provide support to our clients. With Marina’s innovation and suggestions, ASC has developed and managed databases that have best allowed them to assess clients for financial need, as quickly as possible, in an ever-changing environment. Her adaptability skills have especially shown through in difficult conversations with clients regarding transitioning off financial assistance, as grant funds come to an end. She has overcome these obstacles and challenges efficiently, made a positive impression on staff, other volunteers, and clients, and has left behind well-organised databases and filing systems so the Asylum Seekers Centre can continue to assist clients seeking asylum.

COTYALVA21 Fiona CarrFiona Carr

Fiona has been a volunteer project manager for the past 12 years. She has been instrumental in the success of many projects for HARDA - the Horn of Africa Relief and Development Agency. Every year for the past 7 years Fiona has run the Swim, Survive and Socialise program. The program aims to teach children from refugee backgrounds to swim. It has between 60-90 participants a year and it runs for two weeks. Fiona recruits the children from South Sudanese and Somali community, organises transport and applies for funding for each year. She also completes the report for the program as well. Fiona has also been running the Jobs for African Migrants program for the last 4-5 years. The program aims to mentor African Women to find employment through mentoring. The program has been a great success and each year between 50-65% participants are successful in attaining employment. Fiona has also been involved in HARDA international projects, she has overseen the construction of water wells, schools, and livelihood projects in Kenya. Fiona has been a consistent and driven volunteer for HARDA. She has given thousands of hours to the organisation and to the Horn of Africa Community in Sydney. She has organised, applied for funding and implemented projects that have helped the settlement process of many refugees. Whether it be finding employment, attending English classes or teaching children to swim. Fiona has been relentless in her goal to help refugees in Australia Fiona initially volunteered one day a week while she was working at AMP capital. After retiring she has committed many more hours to HARDA. She has travelled to Kenya, Uganda, and other east African countries to monitor overseas projects. She has done it with her own personal funding. Fiona has brainstormed and sent numerous grant applications for projects. She has overseen the projects and done everything from hiring a bus to completing the final report to the funding body. Fiona is well respected by the South Sudanese community and many women come to her with issues or problems they may be facing. Fiona is always there to give a helping hand.

COTYALVA21 Angelica CastanedaAngelica Castaneda

Angelica Lucia Castaneda Huaripata for her work with Sydney Multicultural Community Services. Angelica travels from Umina Beach to visit the elderly at Uniting Aldersgate in Lilyfield. Angelica is dedicated and generous with her time. Her professional knowledge as a psychologist improves the support, she provides residents, especially those who live with dementia. Angelica has been closely involved in some creative activities with the residents, for example: making jewellery, cooking, enjoying breakfast together, playing BINGO, and celebrating Christmas with the residents and the staff. Angelica's significant contribution is valued and appreciated. Angelica's originally from Peru and speaks Spanish, however, she has a chance for visiting an English-speaking recipient: Mrs. Carol Butterworth who helps her with her English. Through her volunteer work and continues efforts, Angelica has improved her English significantly and this will help her to get a job which in line with her psychology qualification. In addition, Angelica is studying for a Human Resources diploma, and her volunteering activities have inspired her to also study aged care and multicultural communities.

COTYALVA21 Natalie GoudaNatalie Gouda

Natalie has been volunteering with Reverse Garbage since 2018 on a weekly basis and became a part of the awesome Tuesday team. Having volunteered for these years Natalie is familiar with the workings of Reverse Garbage and totally understands the uniqueness of their customers, donations, and volunteers.

Even during the height of Covid, Natalie would safely work to help Reverse Garbage keep their doors open for customers to find budget friendly resources for home offices and school resources. Not only does Natalie volunteer within the warehouse at Reverse Garbage she generously takes "work" home! Natalie's attention to detail and patience has meant that items donated for reuse have been given extra care and attention in the way Natalie would measure and pack items. This extra level of care means customers purchase better displayed products and Reverse Garbage is able to better price items for their true value - again helping Reverse Garbage as a fully self-funded Not for Profit. Tidying up does not sound much but at Reverse Garbage it is a constant battle and one that has been fought by Natalie, helping to keep their reuse resources organised.

During Covid -19 Natalie was an invaluable part of the Reverse Garbage face shield project. Natalie would willingly volunteer extra hours to prepare and handout kits to volunteers for them to make PPE face shields and through her efforts, Reverse Garbage and volunteers from the public were able to make over 2000 face shields. Without her efforts, Reverse Garbage would not have been able to offer so much PPE to frontline workers.

COTYALVA21 Stergiani MelidoniotisStergiani Melodoniotis

Stergiani Melidoniotis (or Noula) for her work with Dress for Success. Noula is an integral part of Dress for Success - contributing more than 1600 hours to support women to achieve economic independence. Noula also volunteers with Good Shephard providing playgroup sessions for young parents.  During the pandemic, when shifts for volunteers were suspended, Noula organised COVID 19 safe coffee catch ups for volunteers. maintaining social connections and momentum for the important volunteer programs she is involved with.  

COTYALVA21 Jeannie MesserJeannie Messer

Jeannie understands the obstacles that many families need to overcome to give their children a chance to succeed at school and has been supporting these families through her work with Marrickville Connect as an English teacher, Homework Club tutor and her active engagement in the Marrickville West School community for nearly a decade. Barriers include language, but also understanding systems and how to advocate for their children within those systems. When children are bilingual but also have special needs, those needs are greater still. Jeannie's patience and dedication in supporting Aboriginal children with their school while they are often wrestling with a range of complicating issues in their lives has been made possible by the relationships she has built up over many years.

It is this same respect she has for the English class that she is leading today, allowing all participants to be so engaged and so rewarded from their connection with each other and their engagement with the community. Jeannie led this group through the fraught and isolating time of COVID. With permission from our school Principal, the English Class met as a group of 8 on stumps around a fireplace (paced 1.5 apart) in the schools community garden.

This is a letter from a student in the English Class: I am deeply privileged to write a few words about our great friend and inspiring teacher, Ms Jeannie Messer, in the way of her nomination for the Amy Large Volunteer Award. For almost a year I have been a student in her English language class, organized by Connect Marrickville at the grounds of Marrickville West Primary School. It is not a new group Jeannie would start, but from the first day she came to us, she has brought a lot of new input and energy among us. As a professional qualified and experienced in multiple areas, she sure could have chosen in what ways to invest into her career. She chose us, a bunch of women from all over the world (from East Europe to Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Argentina and other), mostly mothers and grandmothers of MWPS students, and first generation migrants to Australia. Some of us were newcomers; others still facing isolation due to a language barrier or the basic fact of being separated from our home environments. We all were in need of both building our language skills and social contacts. Due to her exceptional wit, knowledge, as well as a strong and inspiring character, Jeannie has been supporting us in achieving both. Herself coming from a multicultural family, she shares with us a very personal understanding of our situation. She has always shown us her true interest in our cultures and us as people, which is what we often need most. Jeannie’s involvement with the group far exceeds the 2 hours’ class every week. She maintains contact through social networks and has been willing to help us individually, from career advice to tutoring our kids in need. Setting such an example, Jeannie has been encouraging us to build meaningful friendships with each other as well. She transformed a class into a group of friends who would have fun, share food, stick together and help out each other. In this way, Jeannie’s influence has gone way beyond building our language skills. To sum it up, with Ms Jeannie Messer as a teacher and a friend, we have been living the best part of multiculturalism. We know for sure that in spite of our only too obvious outward differences, we face the same challenges in life, share the same everyday joys and worries, and strive for happy lives for ourselves and our families. I do not know of anyone better to be awarded this prize.

COTYALVA21 Corrie Nichols1Corrie Nichols

Corrie has been volunteering with the Tom Foster Seniors Group every Friday for more than 6 years. She arrives with her vivacious and infectious spirit and brightens up everyone's day. She will do whatever is necessary making it fun, getting involved in all the activities, including a simple chat, making teas and coffees, calling a fun Bingo game, escorting seniors home, and even calling and visiting them wherever possible during COVID lockdowns.

She has also initiated many activities, origami, video chats, singalongs, and games.

The Friday seniors’ group is special because most of our members have been meeting at Tom Foster for 20 plus years and now are in their late 80's and 90's, nearly all are housebound without assistance. The Friday group provides a valuable avenue for continued social interaction and connection to community. Activities include meditation, gentle exercise, bingo, quizzes and arts of all kinds. Corrie facilitates all of these activities and the work is special because it keeps the seniors engaged, dextrous, mobile but most importantly connected - connected to each other, volunteers, community and generally engaged in the possibilities in their lives.

We absolutely believe that if it weren’t for this particular group, and Corrie’s contribution particularly, that many of these seniors would not be able to still live well and independently, as evident by their decline during the 8 months of isolation due to COVID restrictions. Through her volunteering Corrie makes the seniors group feel so welcomed and included in the wider community. Corrie's contribution is particularly significant because mental health is such a concern nowadays and Corrie manages to encourage positivity and hope, making everyone feel special. Without being asked Corrie maintained contact with group members through COVID restrictions, which sometimes was the only social interaction they had. When she was not able to attend our group, she sought out other volunteering opportunities serving meals to the homeless in Newtown. Corrie's achievement are far reaching and quite honestly immeasurable. Many of the seniors are still impacted by the year of loneliness and continue to mention their supportive calls from Corrie. They so look forward to seeing her every single week.

Corrie initiated a program of intergenerational interactions. Many of the group are neither parents nor grandparents and Corrie arranged many interactive moments with the St Pius Kids club including a memory book. The children love their special relationship with the senior’s group and the seniors love it too. Over the years they have met up at almost every school holiday for plays, performances, and singalongs. More recently Corrie has been putting together a memory book whereby seniors describe a memory from their childhood and the children draw it. It is still under construction but is going to be a meaningful record for all. Corrie also has paid work as a co-ordinator at after school and vacation care, she has recently been recognised for her skills and dedication in this area too but is very humble in accepting recognition.

Corrie is a hard worker and generous with her limited time, never asking anything in return, except a smile!

COTYALVA21 Jan RajnochJan Rajnoch

Celebrating Jan Rajnoch - for leadership in Inner West Council's GreenWay Re-vegetation and Bushcare Program.

Jan has volunteered with GreenWay bushcare for over 4 years. He gives up 4 hours of his time each fortnight to contribute to Council's revegetation/Bushcare program. He works hard carrying out weeding, planting, litter collection and basic landscaping works. Jan is a very hard working, charismatic person and lifts the mood of working bees which increases the good motivation and success of the group. Jan frequently discusses plant identification and weed treatment, consulting reference books and web resources where required. This inspires other volunteers in the group to take a more active role in our project. Jan is a leader and is very good at steering other volunteers toward a greater application of the importance of revegetation projects in an urban context. He is always the first to lend a hand with new or less experienced volunteers and has made a series of educational videos in his own time that assist other volunteers with plant ID, motivation and adds momentum to bushcare projects. Our community benefits greatly from Jan's contribution to increasing our urban forest and supporting connected habitats for flora and fauna.

COTYALVA21 Marie-Christine SanchoMarie-Christine Sancho

After completing a "Social Connections" course (run by BBGL21C, Sydney Local Health District and Inner West Council) at the height of COVID in 2020 Marie-Christine Sancho recognised that there was a vital need for the course, and the human connections it provided, to continue. Appreciating that many older people feel isolated and understanding the benefits of mindfulness, mediation and social connections Marie-Christine started a new online group called "Growing Older with Attitude and Gratitude" on 11 January. The group is open to all older people and meets on Zoom every Monday at 10am. The group augments the online get together with face-to-face meetings now that the environment is safer. Marie-Christine has brought together older people who are benefiting from the regular practice of mindfulness and gratitude and above all, being in a group. She has grown the group to up to 10 people and is happy for the group to keep growing and welcomes everyone. Some of the people in the group have experienced poor mental health and some have experienced loneliness. All are now able to catch up with others from the comfort of their own home every Monday. One member of the group, with an ambition to run art classes for older people, ran an art class for the group. All the group benefits from hearing from guest speakers that Marie-Christine invites to present to the group. The practice of the group is backed by the science of positive psychology. Marie-Christine also lets the group know of other groups and events of interest giving everyone a capacity to make further connections. Marie-Christine has had to innovate and use initiative to get the group going and functioning well - she has called on the expertise of Diego Didier a design and technology expert from UTS. The group met with Diego who is putting in for a grant to help support them with technical matters. Over time the group has gained confidence in using ZOOM. Marie-Christine has dedicated not only 2 hours every Monday to the group itself but countless hours preparing material for the group and to promoting it. The broader benefit of the volunteer role is that it has increased Marie-Christine's own connections and has drawn on her teaching skills. It has also provided the opportunity for Marie-Christine to draw on her mindfulness practice. Teaching other people and helping other people brings rewards to the person giving the help.

COTYALVA21 Mary SavvasMary Savva

Mary Savva is an integral part of the Addison Road Community Organisation. Mary's main role is at reception -meet and greet and taking phone calls but she also supports the Food Pantry team and plays a significant role helping at events. Mary trains new volunteers and her can do attitude makes her an essential member of the Addi Road team. Mary enjoys the social aspect of volunteering at Addi Road. She is a much loved and valued member of the Addi Road family. Because she has such a 'can do attitude' she is often called on to do other tasks eg helping with pricing for the food pantry and ad hoc duties required by any of the staff. When Addi Road has events Mary always puts her hand up to assist in any way, particularly if it is an event where someone with RSA is needed, which she has - events are usually on weekends and she gives her time to be on the bar or serve tea and coffee if required. She trains other volunteers and goes 'above and beyond' on a weekly basis.

COTYALVA21 Jody ToomeyJody Toomey

Jody has been a volunteer with Inner West Council LGBTIQ Working Group for over three years now, becoming chair this year. During this time, she has been absolutely committed to improving life for the local LGBTIQ community.

Jody also volunteers with Heartland Project, an organisation seeking to link LGBTIQ refugees with peer appropriate accommodation. She uses her safety management and policy development experience to ensure the organisation provides a best practice service. Additionally, Jody is a volunteer with the Board of Directors of the Red Rattler Theatre, a local not-for-profit venue that is dedicated to the queer arts community. In this capacity she has used her WHS experience to improve the workplace culture and general safety of both the venue and the organisation. She also runs an event, Queer Daze, which raises much needed funds for LGBTIQ organisations and has raised money for, amongst others, ACON, Refugees Resource Centre, Trans Pride Australia, and Black Rainbow.

Jody's passion is creating positive cultures and communities that provide equity for all members; a passion gained from the corporate world in safety management. She applies all her knowledge to everything she does as part of a holistic "continuous improvement" ethos. Jody has experienced oppression and bigotry first hand and refuses to accept such things in the Inner West, believing no one should be vilified for any reason. She is an avid supporter of the arts and, through the Red Rattler, runs events to promote local queer artists that, most importantly, are paid gigs.

COTYALVA21 Gordon YeeGordon Yee

Gordon Yee is Desk Coordinator for the NSW Justices Association, Ashfield and Burwood JPs. He has been a JP for over 30 years, including volunteering at Ashfield community desk since 2017.Provision of JP services as a volunteer is a much-valued service to the community, witnessing statutory declarations and affidavits and certifying copies of original documents. There is considerable need for this service within the community.

Gordon has liaised with the Branch Librarian at Ashfield Library to enable the recommencement of JP services following a suspension due to COVID-19. This has been a considerable task due to the need for a COVID Safe Plan and changes in the normal running of JP desk services. Gordon has shown significant support, high level communication skills and a strong commitment to ensuring the JP service at Ashfield is run according to COVID Safe measures. Gordon Yee approached obstacles in the running of JP services at Ashfield Library in the time of a pandemic with a positive attitude and liaised with the Branch Librarian to organise the start-up of the service in a COVID Safe manner. He provided a signed Venue Provider Agreement and NSWJA Questionnaire for JPs to ask clients, making sure the clients were well and not attending with possible COVID symptoms. Gordon and the library ensured a cough screen, hand sanitiser and wipes were supplied for the rostered JP. A new system was established where client numbers were limited to 15-minute time slots, booked in via an electronic booking system. This required good communication between Gordon, his JPs and the library and Gordon showed considerable support as the JP service was set up and recommenced in late November 2020. Gordon demonstrated dedication to the JP service, recognising its importance to the community.

Senior volunteers

Our Senior Volunteer recipients are:

  • Stephen Christian for his support of the Asylum Seeker Centre
  • Anne Craig for training athletes in the Balmain Para-Rowing Program
  • Cliff Gerhart for his work with the Newtown Neighbourhood Centre
  • Stephen Harman for his work with the Asylum Seekers Centre
  • Ann Lockie for her work with the Asylum Seekers Centre
  • Magdolna Nyiri for her work with the Bill Crews Foundation
  • Nooi Wai for her with the the Chinese Australian Services Society>
  • Robyn White for her support of the Addison Road Food Pantry

Read their inspiring stories below. 

COTYALVA21 Stephen ChristianStephen Christian

Stephen Christian for always going the extra mile in his support of the Asylum Seeker Centre, helping create a place of welcome and provide practical and personal support for people living in the community who are seeking asylum. Stephen is a hard worker and a great leader who always has a smile on his face. Through his extensive work over 4 years with the centre’s Foodbank Stephen brings hope and support to others. 

COTYALVA21 Anne Craig Para Rowing LogoAnne Craig

Anne Craig for dedicating over a decade to help train athletes in the Balmain Para-Rowing Program and manage all aspects of its finances as the Honorary treasurer from virtually the inception of the organisation. Anne can be found on most days at the shed with the athletes in a tinnie coaching them on the water, or on the land with the rowing machines. When she is not at the rowing shed, she is managing the accounts for the organisation and assisting in its critical fundraising. 

COTYALVA21 Cliff GerhartCliff Gerhart

Cliff Gerhart for volunteering as an English teacher with Newtown Neighbourhood Centre for 6 years. Students are often with older people from Asian communities that have been in Australia for many years but never learnt English. Through Cliffs English classes lives are changed and communities are built, it is essential work that strengthens our community.

COTYALVA21 Stephen HarmanStephen Harman

Stephen Harman for dedicating two or three days a week to carefully erasing and refurbishing laptops, phones and tablets and preparing them for use by people seeking asylum in the community. With Stephen's help, the Asylum Seekers Centre has been able to increase the number of devices they provide asylum seekers by about two hundred devices per year. Each device makes a huge difference to the lives of the recipients, allowing them to contact family overseas, apply for jobs, complete schoolwork, attend university or TAFE or work from home. Stephen's dedicated support has enabled the IT Team to focus on other priorities as the program is in safe hands with him.

COTYALVA21 Ann LockieAnn Lockie

Ann Lockie for her long term and critical contribution to the success of the Asylum Seekers Centre's philanthropy team. Ann makes sure every donor enjoys a personalised experience with the Asylum Seekers Centre. She welcomes donors to the group of supporters, gets to know them, thanks them for their support and provides regular updates on the centres work. This has a significant impact on donor loyalty and extends the support the Asylum Seekers Centre can offer.

COTYALVA21 Magdolna NyiriMagdolna Nyiri

Magdolna Nyiri for service to our community's most vulnerable people through your work at the Bill Crews Foundation for nearly 2 years. Magdolna has contributed over 751 hours of service. Magda is a great all-round volunteer who is friendly and considerate of all Exodus volunteers and guests. Magda also volunteers for the Exodus Christmas Day special lunch.

COTYALVA21 Nooi WaiNooi Wai

Nooi Wai for her work with CASS - the Chinese Australian Services Society. Ms Wai leads the CASS Ashfield Environmental Group, performs in community events and participates in fundraising events benefiting Harcourt Public School, the Heart Foundation, the Special Children Services Centre and CASS Residential Aged Care Facility. CASS turned 40 years old in March 2021, and it is because of dedicated volunteers like Ms Wai that CASS can serve 3,500 families every week.

COTYALVA21 Robyn WhiteRobyn White

Robyn White for her magnificent support of the Addison Road Food Pantry as a Team Leader, managing a team of volunteers to run the Food Pantry retail operations. Robyn is calm in a crisis, leads by example and maintains excellent relationships with customers and volunteers alike. Robyn plays a key role in the success of Addi Road which has fed over 250,000 people in the past year, expanded operations to include an Emergency Food Relief Hub that packed over 16,000 food relief hampers during Covid and opened a second pantry to combat food insecurity and rescue over 200 tonnes of food from landfill.

Volunteer Teams

Our Volunteer Team recipients are:

  • Addison Road Community Organisation Volunteers
  • Uncle Derek Wilson, Aunty Tracey Bostock and Aunty Joanne Selfe
  • Inner West Local History Volunteer Group
  • Michael and Chrissy Banning
  • The Moonlight Weeders
  • Newtown Neighbourhood Centre Volunteer Counsellors
  • Roberta Flint and Charles Britton
  • Gunnawirra Mums

Read their inspiring stories below. 

COTYALVA21 Addison Road LogoAddison Road Community Organisation Volunteers

Celebrating over 200 Addison Road Community Organisation Volunteers for donating 6,000 volunteer labour hours to help Addison Road run its programs - in particular, the Food Pantry operations. Since March 2020, these volunteers have assisted ARCO to rescue over 220 tonnes of food, preventing it from going into landfill, and feeding over a quarter of a million people. When the majority of services shut down during the initial COVID lockdowns, ARCO responded by setting up an emergency food relief hub in our hall that packed over 16,500 hampers for over 120 charities and NGO's in greater Sydney. Additionally, from 1 September 2020 Addi Road opened a second pantry in Camperdown to help provide affordable groceries to people in need in that area. Without this volunteer team, it would be impossible to offer these services to the wider community. ARCO and volunteers always work collaboratively to achieve our greater social and environmental justice goals.

COTYALVA21 Uncle DerekCOTYALVA21 Auntry Tracey L BostockCOTYALVA21 Joanne SelfeUncle Derek Wilson, Aunty Tracey Bostock and Aunty Joanne Selfe

Uncle Derek Wilson, Aunty Tracey Bostock and Aunty Joanne Selfe - honouring these elders for going above and beyond. Volunteering their time to do workshops with community, attend cultural events and develop programming to strengthen community. Never walking in front or behind our young people but always along side them. Not teaching but letting us all learn from them. Providing the opportunity for those most vulnerable in community to access the cultural knowledge and support needed to lead Australia into a brighter inclusive future.

COTYALVA21 Inner West Library History Collection VolunteersInner West Library History Collection Volunteers

Inner West Local History Volunteer Group - formerly the Marrickville Heritage Society - is currently Vilma Bell, Paula Gard, Megan Hicks, and Mary Oakenfull. We celebrate them for their vital contribution to Council's local studies collection. These individuals and past group members have brought their local knowledge, their contacts with people with specialised knowledge, and their internet search skills to this important local history resource. They worked in pairs to examine, discuss, identify, describe, and research the context of the collection and then entered what information they could gather in the collection database. Their work makes the local history collection searchable and accessible online for researchers, heritage consultants, exhibition and event organisers, historians and the community in general.

COTYALVA21 Michael and Chrissy BanningMichael and Chrissy Banning

Michael and Chrissy Banning - for volunteering at the Bill Crews Foundation's breakfast every Tuesday morning for the last 3 years. Mick and Chrissy have clocked up more than 600 hours of volunteering between them. They are great support to the breakfast guests and always go out of their way to provide a friendly ear and a very open mind while dealing very well with some tricky situations! Both Chrissy and Mick are excellent volunteers who never let Exodus down and are always available to help out. They volunteer for the special Christmas day event and make a significant contribution to our community's most vulnerable people through their work.

COTYALVA21 The Moonlight WeedersThe Moonlight Weeders

The Moonlight Weeders - Karen Eldridge, Ginetta Balestrin and Dinah McClelland. Already dedicated Bushcare volunteers, Karen, Ginetta and Dinah ramped up their contribution to caring for our environment in 2019 in response to the drought. When they saw the 2019 National Tree Day plantings failing this extraordinary group used their own money to purchase equipment and a cart to transport watering and weeding equipment from their homes to a Bushcare site in a public park roughly 1 km away. During the drought, the group would regularly drag the cart down to the site and water the saplings in extremely trying conditions and intense heat. The group would then return the cart and equipment to their neighbourhood - up hill in the heat all the way.

COTYALVA21 NNC Volunteer Counselling TeamNewtown Neighbourhood Centre Volunteer Counselling Team

Newtown Neighbourhood Centre Volunteer Counsellors - these qualified volunteer counsellors provide a free counselling service to around 50 inner west residents per year, supporting clients who are experiencing mental health challenges, trauma, addiction, domestic violence, and crisis such as homelessness. The volunteer team consists of 3 counsellors and one supervisor and is experienced in areas such as trauma, drug and alcohol, relationships, domestic violence, youth, men's behavioural change and general mental health issues. A client who was an asylum seeker when he started counselling, credits this support with changing his life for the better. He arrived depleted and depressed after escaping war, persecution and living in a detention centre.

COTYALVA21 Roberta Flint and Charles BrittonRoberta Flint and Charles Britton

Roberta Flint and Charles Britton for revitalising the Marrickville Croquet Club. Roberta and Charles joined the Marrickville Croquet Club in February 2012. The club was almost defunct with only 2 playing members and the court was rarely used. They started a programme of ‘Come and Try’ days and Charles led a series of croquet lessons through U3A. This year the club has a membership of 43 and the court is used almost every day. Roberta and Charles' dedication and hard work have ensured the continuation of the 95-year history of this club and the care of its beautiful clubhouse. Significant improvements to the court surrounds and clubhouse amenity and provided opportunities for Marrickville residents of all ages to enjoy sport, exercise, and socialisation in a wonderful setting.

COTYALVA21 Gunnawirra MumsGunnawirra Mums

Gunnawirra Mums - These mothers turn up and show up for each other and their children. Stepping in and stepping up to support one another through hard times and good. Josh Staines - Council’s Aboriginal Community Development Worker says "When I look at these young women I see and know community and a wraparound support network."

For 60,000 years Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities have used native grasses to construct baskets, lines, nets and bags (Dili bags). The 2021 Amy Large Volunteer  and Citizen of the Year award recipients received baskets made by Boomali Aboriginal Artist and Wiradjuri woman Peta-Joy Williams. These baskets, traditionally woven with shell or bone needles, are a connection to our past, present and future.

Traditional native grasses such as Dianella Revoluta/Correlia and Lomandra longifolia would be used to make baskets in Sydney. You can find these plants in our Inner West Council native nurseries. There are over 6000 different varieties of native bush foods we can incorporate in our diets, let’s start today!

To find out more about the practise of basket weaving, Aboriginal history, culture and programs check out our Aboriginal Programs Unit.

A message from Amy's family

Amy and Geoff Large with their childrenVolunteering comes in so many forms and impacts all walks of life. For our family, it was sewn into the fabric of our everyday lives. As children, we grew up knowing & understanding that volunteering was something we just did. In our world it was through sports like rugby league.

Through Mum and Dad's efforts, we had an endless stream of people coming to our house to help out with various tasks. Many young men of the time were able to be part of a club, a community and enjoy a nice meal with a family they felt part of.

Award Categories

Young Volunteer

  • Aged 24 years old or under at time of nomination,
  • Must have undertaken the volunteer work in the previous 12 months,
  • Communities in the Inner West Council area must be significant beneficiaries of the nominee’s voluntary work OR the nominee must reside in the Inner West.

Adult Volunteer of the Year

  • Aged between 25 and 64 years old at time of nomination,
  • Must have undertaken the volunteer work in the previous 12 months,
  • Communities in the Inner West Council area must be significant beneficiaries of the nominee’s voluntary work OR the nominee must reside in the Inner West.

Senior Volunteer of the Year

  • Aged 65 years old at time of nomination or over,
  • Must have undertaken the volunteer work in the previous 12 months,
  • Communities in the Inner West Council area must be significant beneficiaries of the nominee’s voluntary work OR the nominee must reside in the Inner West.

Volunteer Team/Group of the Year

  • Team/Group to be made up of more than one individual,
  • Must have undertaken the volunteer work in the previous 12 months,
  • Communities in the Inner West Council area must be significant beneficiaries of the nominee’s voluntary work OR the nominee must reside in the Inner West.

Eligibility

  • Volunteers who live in the Inner West OR work for the benefit of Inner West Council local residents (excluding those primarily servicing and benefitting the local government area in political and/or lobbying activities) during the past 12 months or more may be nominated.
  • Previous award recipients are ineligible to be re-nominated.
  • Once three or more individual nominations are received for those volunteering within the same organisation/project, these nominations will then be considered as a group nomination.
  • Young Volunteer Award nominees must be aged 24 years or under at the time of nomination.
  • Adult Volunteer Award nominees must be aged between 25 and 64 at the time of nomination
  • Senior Volunteer Award nominees must be aged 65 or over at the time of nomination.

Further Information

All nominees who give their permission will be nominated by the Inner West Council at the NSW Volunteer of the Year Awards.

A separate nomination form for each group or individual is required. Four or more individual nominations received who volunteer for the one organisation will be regarded as a group nomination.

Copies of supporting materials, no larger than A4, may be submitted via email to sarah.harrison@innerwest.nsw.gov.au

Nomination Forms and supporting documents will become the property of the Inner West Council and information submitted may be used for publicity purposes.

Questions?

Contact Sarah.Harrison@innerwest.nsw.gov.au 02 9392 5813

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Page last updated: 23 Sep 2021