Promotional logo for the 2019 Minister for Health Volunteer Awards

These awards highlight and celebrate volunteering and its significant contribution to public healthcare in Victoria. The awards recognise the individuals and teams who demonstrate outstanding dedication and commitment to public healthcare through volunteering.

Congratulations to all of our nominees for 2019

Read about the individual and team honours and all those nominated in the 2019 Minister for Health Volunteer Awards in the showcase booklet.

Outstanding Achievement by a Young Volunteer Award

Jamilla McCoy receiving her award from the Minister for Health, the Hon. Jenny Mikakos.Jamilla McCoy, Very Special Kids

Very Special Kids (VSK) supports families caring for a child with a life-threatening Condition. What sets Jamilla apart as a volunteer is her dedication in supporting families who have lost a sibling.

As part of the VSK Remembrance Day event in October 2018, Jamilla gave every family with one of her hand made Sunflower bags complete with memory stones and sunflower seeds. These seeds can be planted in memory of the child's brother or sister. When the plant flowers it gives the family another opportunity to talk about the deceased sibling, harvest the seeds and plant again.

Jamilla supplies these gifts to nine hospitals and has so far provided more than 1,500 bags to bereaved children. Jamilla brings a sense of enthusiasm, joy and excitement to her work, balanced with thoughtfulness, empathy and an emotional intelligence well beyond her years.

Outstanding Achievement by a volunteer: Improving public healthcare Award

Alan White receiving his award from the Minister for Health.Alan White, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre

As a vocal men's health advocate, Alan is dedicated to improving the experience of men living with prostate cancer. Since his own prostate cancer diagnosis in 2000, Alan's passion is to raise awareness about prostate health.

For more than seven years, he has been an active consumer advocate at Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre. His exceptional contribution has spanned three major research projects on prostate cancer, which has culminated in the National Health and Medical Research Council-funded trial of an online treatment decision aid called NAVIGATE - designed by men for men diagnosed with low-risk prostate cancer.

Alan facilitates a support group for the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia and is a Men's Health Peer Educator for the Department of Veterans' Affairs. At these talks, men often arrive looking anxious, but Alan's warm and amusing presentation style provokes laughter and builds comradery. By the end of the sessions, they are more often than not shaking his hand with a sense of relief.

He is genuine, personable and in his own words, "comfortable talking about the uncomfortable".

Outstanding Achievement by a volunteer: Improving the patient experience Award

Chon Witherden receiving her award from the Minister for Health.Chon Witherden, Barwon Health

Chon has been volunteering to support patients nearing the end of their lives for over ten years, and more specifically with the Barwon Health Palliative Care Unit for more than three years.

In palliative care, patients nearing the end of life often desire simple experiences that they once enjoyed before becoming unwell. Chon has been able to intuitively tap into their needs, helping them to sit outside in the gardens, listen to music or organise some other outing that connects them to the things they love.

Chon’s approach to her volunteer role has made her a key person to rely on for the palliative care team. Chon goes the extra mile by regularly vising patients at home and assisting with their every need. Whether it would be hand and foot massages to haircuts and gently conversation about funeral planning. Chon’s unique way with words have allowed people to live and die with dignity.

Outstanding Achievement by a volunteer: Supporting Diversity Award

Members of the Listening to Voices Theatre receiving their award from the Minister for Health.Listening to Voices Theatre, Gateway Health

The Listening to Voices Theatre is delivering powerful stories at a time when communities are grappling with mental health and suicide. The group is constantly shattering the stigma around mental illness, particularly psychosis and schizophrenia, and highlighting the impact of childhood trauma through raw and honest accounts that are hopeful and emphasise recovery.

Since early 2016, they have presented more than 20 community and health/education specific performances across regional Victoria and NSW, including Melbourne and Sydney. And large employers and health services have engaged them to help change the culture and understanding of people living with mental illness.

Their stories emphasise the shifting of paradigms, from 'what's wrong with you' to a greater understanding of 'what's happened to you'. The Listening to Voices Theatre group offer their stories, not as professional actors, but as people who came to this project hoping to see some changes in themselves - but amazingly, ended up being advocates for others.

Outstanding Achievement by a volunteer: Better Care Victoria Innovation Award

Members of the Peter Mac Radiation Therapy Mask Art team receiving their award from the Minister for Health.Peter Mac Radiation Therapy Mask Art, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and Koala Kids

The Peter Mac Radiation Therapy Mask Painting team was created by radiation therapist, Renae Thorson. The group, made up of volunteers from both Peter Mac and Koala Kids, work in their own time to turn kids' radiation therapy masks into works of art, which become a gift or a memento for them to take home after finishing their treatment. The mask, which is used to keep patients still during treatment, is transformed from something that has caused discomfort into something empowering that says, in effect: "I can achieve anything".

Once the kids have finished their course of treatment, Renae and volunteer artists from charity Koala Kids design and paint the masks according to the kids' requests. Barry Hay from Peter Mac's engineering department bring the masks to life, designing and printing 3D objects, including unicorn horns and even elements that glow in the dark. Barry even uses his personal 3D printer to create these 3D elements at home. There is no design too difficult for the team and they have created some incredible works of art -- from super heroes to story book characters.

Renae and her team have been putting smiles on the faces of so many children going through tough times. They light up when they see their mask transformed into the character that they've requested, and it has brought happiness and a little light to countless families during what can be the darkest and most uncertain times. This is a truly beautiful example of contemporary volunteering in action.

Outstanding Achievement by a volunteer: Lifetime Achievement Award

Emma Finch, Link Health and Community

Emma Finch channels her own experiences of mental illness into supporting others on similar journeys. She has volunteered countless hours running art therapy sessions with people who would be unable to afford sessions at private or commercial rates. Embracing a holistic approach to volunteering, Emma understands how to meet people "where they are", discover their gifts, and nurture their skills and talents. She constantly places the needs of others ahead of her own, going above and beyond to ensure they feel supported and safe.

Emma's 30 years as a volunteer have included roles with Wesley Do Care, Amaroo Neighbourhood Centre, Link Health and Community and Bethlehem Hospital. Over this time, Emma showed little regard for "9 to 5" work hours or seeking payment for her efforts - constantly reaching out to clients outside her program when she knew they were in need of support.

Emma is, in every sense, a champion for better health. Her ability to make do with what is available and then maximise its impact is both admirable and inspiring.

2019 Honour Roll Inductees

John Crennan, St John Ambulance Victoria

Rod Patton, Cowes Ambulance Auxiliary

Yvonne Josephine Henderson OAM, Robinvale Ambulance Auxiliary

Norman Wynne, Maffra Ambulance Auxiliary