2015 Volunteer Awards

On 13 May 2015 at the Abbotsford Convent, the Minister for Health, the Hon. Jill Hennessy MP, presented 16 awards for outstanding volunteer achievement to individuals and teams.

As part of National Volunteer Week, Minister Hennessy honoured the many dedicated Victorians who selflessly give their time to others at health services across the state.

The 2015 Minister for Health Volunteer Awards received 94 entries from 57 organisations including hospitals, ambulance services, community health, mental health and aged care services.

Minister Hennessy said, ‘I congratulate and thank all health volunteers on their kindness, generosity and willingness to step forward to help others in need. You are an inspiration to us all.’

The following volunteers were recognised for their outstanding achievements:Volunteer Awards Group 2015




Outstanding achievement by a young volunteer

Opal Gallagher

Barwon Health

Opal Gallagher is 24 and volunteers at the Swanston Centre, which offers short-term treatment for people with a severe episode of mental illness. Opal’s role

as a volunteer is to provide direct support to clients, families and carers as part of an interdisciplinary team. Opal has demonstrated an exceptional work ethic, actively seeking extra training wherever possible to build on her knowledge of mental health. She has participated in discussion-based groups and then independently undertaken research to be able to present clients with a departure recovery strategy. She has researched nutritional recipes and healthier choices for the BBQ program and created posters and flyers for the music program incorporating client feedback. Whether working independently or as part of a team, Opal brings dedication, care and compassion, making her a role model at Barwon Health.

Kylie Lewis

Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre

For the past seven years, Kylie has promoted awareness of the unique needs of young people diagnosed with cancer, through ONTrac at the Peter Mac Victorian Adolescent and Young Adult Cancer Service. Kylie is also the co-chair of the Victorian and Tasmanian Youth Cancer Advisory Board, and has volunteered her time on a number of projects including advising on a youth-friendly environment as part of the Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre Project and reviewing the curriculum on Adolescent Health and Wellbeing, Oncology at the University of Melbourne. Kylie has helped develop resources for young people on cancer survivorship, fertility preservation, family, friend and carer support and has advocated for access to affordable fertility preservation options for young people diagnosed with cancer. Kylie’s unwavering commitment to the voice of young people being heard and included has ensured that we can make better decisions by accessing young people’s skills and knowledge to build new approaches to care.

Outstanding lifetime achievement

Maurice Williams

Ambulance Victoria

For more than 65 years, Maurice has displayed his commitment to Bairnsdale ambulance station and patient care in his community. Throughout this long period of service, Maurice has worked in all positions within the ambulance auxiliary, including as president. Maurice continues to show his commitment to the auxiliary by contributing to the monthly committee meetings and helping out at working bees. Maurice spent countless hours working to establish the op shop and was involved in the purchase of the new land and in fundraising to build the new $1 million ambulance complex. Today, the op shop raises more than $40,000 each year to upgrade and supply new equipment to help Ambulance Victoria. The local community and the East Gippsland area have benefited from by Maurice’s dedication.

Elsie Ferguson

Monash Health

Elsie Ferguson has devoted more than 30 years to volunteering for Monash Health, Monash Medical Centre and their predecessor the Queen Victoria Medical Centre. Among her many achievements are founding the Clayton Auxiliary and acting as treasurer until 2014, the formation of Season’s Group (which organised Christmas cards to be sold by the auxiliaries), working as a gift shop volunteer for 16 years, serving on the Friends of Queen Vic Auxiliary, including 25 years as secretary and being an active member of the Patchwork Group, which made quilts to donate to Monash Kids Support Group. In 1991 Elsie was a key driver in the formation of the Monash Kids, established to raise funds and encourage community support for the development of children’s services at the Monash Clayton site.

Outstanding achievement by a volunteer: innovation award

The Ark Toy and Activity Centre Team

East Grampians Health Service

The Ark Toy and Activity Centre operates solely through community support, fundraising and donations. It is a unique facility that has grown and changed with the needs of the community over the past 33 years. It was set up as a centre to cater for all children, in particular, those with special needs, but now also provides access to speech therapy and early intervention for children and their families. The team members work tirelessly to ensure that everyone is catered for and to meet the special needs of the individual. They provide a safe, friendly and inviting place to visit where children are encouraged to explore and learn through play while meeting and socialising with other children.

Watermark Charity House Committee

Western District Health Service

Construction of the Watermark Charity House began in April 2013 following three years of planning by a small group of local community members to raise money to support healthcare in the Hamilton region. The Watermark Charity House Committee asked tradespeople to donate their labour, businesses to donate or provide discounted materials and volunteers to donate their time. In response to their calls for support, more than 270 individuals and businesses donated materials, services, cash and time to the project. Not only was a beautiful house built but the landscaping of the house also provided an opportunity for school children to become involved in the project with planting the gardens. The finished house was auctioned in November 2014 and raised a staggering $600,000 for the Western District Health Service.

Hazeldean Transition Care Unit Volunteer Team

Western Health

The Transition Care Unit volunteer team are recognised as real change management leaders within Western Health. Through their innovative adaption of their activities and interaction with the staff, visitors and patients were greatly assisted through the change from a nursing home to Transition Care Unit. The team ranges in age for 19 years to 68 years of age and speak five different languages. They have honed their engagement skills to be appropriate for both group and individual activities. The volunteer team attends the unit seven days a week to support patients and their families with a range of different activities and opportunities to prepare for the time when they will be going home.

Outstanding achievement by a volunteer: supporting diversity

Masha Zeleznikow OAM

Jewish Care Victoria Inc.

Masha Zeleznikow has dedicated her life to volunteering and advocacy, supporting the disadvantaged and isolated Russian Jewish community through various Jewish Care programs for more than 43 years. In response to the depression and isolation that many new migrants faced, Masha established the Tuesday Club. Today, 37 years later, the Tuesday Club still operates as part of Jewish Care’s Healthy Ageing Program, providing ongoing support and community inclusion. The longevity of this club is a testament to Masha’s dedication and commitment to those that she serves. Masha has shown great tenacity, perseverance and commitment. She demonstrates a deep understanding of the culturally diverse needs of Tuesday Club members and advocates on their behalf in the broader Jewish community and external service system.

Refugee Health Volunteer Team

Monash Health

The Refugee Health Volunteer Team comprises 40 men and women from a broad range of cultural and linguistic backgrounds, speaking some 25 languages between them. The team primarily perform a concierge role within Monash Health Community, which services Victoria’s most multicultural region. The majority of the volunteers arrived in Australia as asylum seekers, with many still awaiting determination of their claims. Their willingness and enthusiasm to volunteer shows an eagerness to contribute to Australian society, develop English skills and make new friends outside their own culture. They consistently promote diversity and inclusion. They foster a strong team environment, ensuring all members feel included. This small, dedicated, team contributes more than 1,000 hours per month to the community.

Julian Conlon

Peninsula Health

Julian Conlon began his involvement with Peninsula Health in 2011 as a founding member of the Peninsula Health Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Queer Community Advisory Group. Julian advocates strongly for the healthcare needs of the GLBTIQ community in a sensitive manner. Julian is passionate about achieving the best healthcare for everyone, bringing humour and warmth, as well as his own healthcare experience to the role. He has been instrumental in increasing the GLBTIQ profile within Peninsula Health over recent years. Julian took a leading role in promoting World AIDS Day and International Day Against Homophobia, displaying AIDS quilts to promote diversity and working on a large mosaic rainbow mural that now welcomes the GLBTIQ community to Peninsula Health.

Outstanding achievement by a volunteer: improving public health

Reconnexion Support & Information Team

EACH Social and Community Health

Reconnexion is a unique not-for-profit organisation providing counselling for people experiencing withdrawal from tranquillisers and sleeping pills and is the only organisation in Australia that focuses on benzodiazepines. The telephone support and information line is operated by a team of volunteers who are dedicated, empathetic, caring and skilled in their approach to helping people on the telephone or via email to withdraw from tranquillisers and sleeping pills. The volunteers are heavily involved in activities that raise awareness in the community about benzodiazepine dependence, promoting healthy lifestyle choices to help prevent anxiety, and promoting evidence-based treatments for anxiety.

PANDA Volunteers

PANDA (Post and Antenatal Depression Association)

Post- and antenatal depression and anxiety affect more than 100,000 expecting and new parents each year in Australia. Up to one in seven new mums and up to one in 10 new dads are diagnosed with postnatal depression each year. Even more are thought to suffer anxiety. The National Perinatal Depression Helpline is an integrated workforce of volunteer peer and telephone support workers and professional counselling staff. PANDA’s volunteers primarily use their lived experience of perinatal mental health issues to provide callers with a strong message of hope and recovery. For many consumers, the volunteers have been a lifeline, a connection and a sense of hope.

VAC Outreach Team

Victorian AIDS Council (VAC)

The VAC Outreach Volunteers work to improve the sexual health and wellbeing of gay and other same-sex attracted men by providing a peer-based service in venues, clubs and online communities. The VAC Outreach volunteers are fully trained by the VAC Health Promotion Program and provide a visible presence in areas where risky sexual practices may occur, to promote and encourage open and non-judgmental discussions. One of the primary aims of the program is to promote safer-sex behaviours and reduced sexual risk-taking, as well as providing a greater understanding of managing individual sexual health and infection. The 14 volunteers are of different ages and orientations and are respectful, non-judgmental and continually demonstrate a willingness to contribute to the community. This peer-based model has had a remarkable impact on the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) community.

Outstanding achievement by a volunteer: improving the patient experience

Veteran Support Volunteer Program Team

Barwon Health

Volunteer support for Veterans Affairs patients officially began at Barwon Health in 2010 and has continued to grow to include eight dedicated team members. Many of the team volunteer up to three days per week, which over the last year amounts to an incredible 2,296 hours. Each week volunteers spend time visiting the hospital where they sit with, talk to, hold the hand of, offer support to, ease the troubles of and provide comfort to Veterans Affairs patients. Additionally the team extends their support through improving the veteran communities’ awareness and access to entitlements and ultimately works to improve the Barwon-South Western Region’s respect, compassion and appreciation of veterans, war widows, veteran carers and their families.

Hep Connect Team

Hepatitis Victoria

The Hep Connect Team is a diverse group of people who provide telephone peer support services through the Hepatitis Infoline. The team consists of people living with hepatitis C, with varying lived experience of liver disease, treatment success and failure, and differing experiences of hepatitis C stigma and discrimination. The diversity in the team extends to how they contracted the virus and this diversity provides the opportunity to connect clients with volunteers who have had similar experiences. Hepatitis Victoria provides information and support services for people with or concerned about viral hepatitis. The demand for their services varies day to day and each team member demonstrates non-judgemental, empathetic and caring qualities that encourage clients to be open about their situation and their specific challenges of living with hepatitis C.

Milan Gluhak

Western Health

Milan offers his time as a Therapy Garden volunteer in the secure GEM unit at Sunshine Hospital. The garden has been developed through community partnerships specifically for people with dementia. Being a passionate gardener, Milan understands the connection between gardening and wellbeing and was one of the first volunteers to start in this program. Milan speaks three languages and uses this skill to interact with the patients in the garden. He will often research and plant specific vegetables or herbs relevant to a patient’s cultural background to help assist with that patient’s therapy. He has also been known to sit with a patient and write out a recipe in the patient’s native language – just to satisfy a need that the patient has at that particular time.