2016 Minister for Health Volunteer Awards winners.

Read about the individual and team honours and all those nominated in the 2016 Minister for Health Volunteer Awards.

Outstanding achievement by a young volunteer

Julia Gorton and Benjamin Sutu, Melbourne Health

Julia Gorton and Benjamin Sutu, Melbourne Health.First volunteering for the Royal Melbourne Hospital music therapy department in 2011, Julia Gorton and Benjamin Sutu are the team leaders for 24 volunteers for the Medical Students for Music and Wellbeing @RMH program. In the program, medical and science students donate their time and skills to perform soothing and uplifting music in the hospital's foyers and hallways. They provide more than 30 hours of live music each week, positively influencing the hospital environment and bringing joy to patients, staff and visitors.

Ben and Julia are both advocates for music therapy, as well as avid fundraisers for the Royal Melbourne Hospital through concerts and annual fundraising events. They recently raised $3,000 in the RMH Royal Walk.

From a professional standpoint, their dedication to music therapy means that the health service is fostering a new generation of doctors who are more open to holistic care for patients, which will have positive long-term effects on patient wellbeing. Ben and Julia's leadership gives medical students a unique opportunity to be part of a vibrant music therapy program. The ripple effect of Ben and Julia's commitment and inspiration has the potential to positively affect the lives of many Victorians to come.

Tess Darlington, Self Help Addiction Resource Centre

Tess Darlington, Self Help Addiction Resource Centre.Tess Darlington has been volunteering with Family Drug Help's Self Help Addiction Resource Centre (SHARC) Helpline since April 2015. In her role on the helpline, Tess builds rapport with family members who call about a loved one who is struggling with drug or alcohol misuse.

Problematic drug use does not discriminate by class, education or location. And no one understands that better than Tess, who has been inspired through her own journey coping with family substance abuse to help others. By the time family members call Family Drug Help many are desperate for guidance, extremely anxious and stressed, and in emotional crisis.
Offering empathy, being non-judgmental and actively listening are key to Tess's role as a telephone support worker, as well as providing strategies, information and referral both internally to SHARC programs and to external agencies.

While volunteering for the helpline Tess has completed a degree in counselling, worked with young people with autism, and worked part time in another organisation that focuses on family members.

Dedicating around 220 hours just in this past year, Tess's commitment is testament to her character, using her personal experience and insight alongside her professional skills.

Outstanding lifetime achievement

Iean Lewis, Ambulance Victoria

Iean Lewis, Ambulance Victoria. Iean Lewis was a founding member of the Beaufort Ambulance Auxiliary, which started in December 1971. He recently retired from the auxiliary having served as a general member for five years and as president for an impressive 39 years.

During Iean's time there, the auxiliary was responsible for purchasing its own ambulance vehicle, raising money to build the first Beaufort Ambulance Station, supplying the ambulance with state-of-the-art equipment and ensuring the best training possible for the volunteers who operated it.

Iean's impressive volunteering record includes 44 years at the Beaufort Ambulance Auxiliary, 40 years as a volunteer ambulance community officer, 15 years on the Ballarat and District Ambulance Service board of management, nine years on the Western Region Ambulance Service Board of Management, 20 years on the Ripon Peace Memorial Hospital Beaufort board of management, 35 years on the Waterloo Cemetery Trust, 28 years as a committee member for the Beaufort Country Talent Club and six years as a member of the Beaufort Business Association.

In his 40 years serving as a volunteer ambulance community officer, Iean has seen many lives both leave and arrive in this world. He has undoubtedly been responsible for saving many and improving the quality of countless more.

Margaret Redmond, Northeast Health Wangaratta

Margaret Redmond, Northeast Health Wangaratta. Margaret Redmond has shown a lifetime of commitment to serving her community, unselfishly and willingly, without complaint and with humour and a constant smile. A cheeky, funny, caring and passionate 94-year-old veteran of the volunteering sector, Margaret is still as hard working and dedicated to volunteering as she was when she started more than 50 years ago.

Through Northeast Health Wangaratta's Meals on Wheels service, every fortnight Margaret delivers meals to approximately 15 residents in the community. When Margaret's late husband was moved into residential aged care, Margaret saw another opportunity to add to her community commitment. She began playing cards as diversional therapy with the residents, providing a fun, entertaining and social outlet for many people there.

Margaret has always put the needs of others and her community first. This is evident through the many organisations she has committed decades of service to including Northeast Health Wangaratta, the RSL and the Anglican Church.

Margaret is a true example of the community spirit, her spunk, zest for life and determination to continue even when things may not be going great in her own life is commendable.

Honour roll

The award ceremony also included an Honour roll, which our Master of Ceremonies read out to recognise and celebrate our volunteers with 50 or more years of service, including:

  • Elizabeth Murphy, a Pastoral Care Volunteer, from Barwon Health
  • Betty Millett, the President of the Maribrynong Auxiliary, from Western Health
  • Shirley Wragge, a Frankston Hospital Pink Ladies Auxiliary Member, from Peninsula Health
  • Margaret Redmond, a Meals on Wheels Volunteer and Lifestyle Program Volunteer, from Northeast Health Wangaratta
  • Iean Lewis, a founding member of the Beaufort Auxiliary, from Ambulance Victoria.

Outstanding achievement by a volunteer: innovation

Community Health Advancement and Student Engagement (CHASE) team

The team from Community Health Advancement and Student Engagement (CHASE). Community Health Advancement and Student Engagement (CHASE) has a unique and innovative program that delivers high-quality tertiary student mentors to Victoria Certificate of Applied Learning (VCAL) classrooms. It is run entirely by volunteer staff.

Now in its third year, CHASE is a not-for-profit charity that aims to improve community health literacy in the western suburbs of Melbourne through education. Born from the University of Melbourne's Western Clinical School, CHASE mobilises more than 50 student mentors every year to deliver its unique education program to disadvantaged secondary school VCAL students.

Since its inception, the program has expanded to five schools, reaching more than 200 secondary school students. The key innovative approach CHASE has implemented has been connecting tertiary students with secondary school students. Within the program, CHASE mentors encourage VCAL students to understand their own health as well as their communities'; this knowledge is applied in the 'action' phase of the program, where secondary school students lead community projects that address local public health needs.

The benefits flow both ways, as mentors are enriched with leadership skills and a holistic perspective on schools, communities and individuals in the west, empowering the students to make changes in their communities.

Donor Conception: Towards Openness exhibition volunteer team, VARTA

The Donor Conception: Towards Openness exhibition volunteer team, from VARTA.The Donor Conception: Towards Openness exhibition was a world-first exhibition exploring donor conception through art, photography and archival material. The exhibition's volunteer team consisted of four main members: Kim Buck, a donor-conceived woman who volunteered as artistic and photographic curator; Roger Clarke, a sperm donor who volunteered to be curator of the archival material; Myfanwy Cummerford, a donor-conceived woman who volunteered as exhibition designer; and Chloe Allworthy, a donor-conceived woman who created music for the exhibition's opening.

Each volunteer had already been helping out VARTA in various ways prior to the exhibition. But for this innovative idea, the volunteers gave more than 80 hours of their time, skills and knowledge to help produce the exhibition. They also brought the wisdom of their personal experience as donor-conceived people and donors to creating the exhibition.

The exhibition content included work that was thought-provoking and deeply personal, and the volunteers created a space that was safe for contributors and viewers while also highlighting the importance of the exhibition elements. The experience of many people touched by donor conception is deeply personal and, in some cases, emotionally difficult, and the contributions of the volunteer team should not be overlooked.

ReSPIN Gambling Awareness Speakers Bureau, North East Primary Care Partnership

ReSPIN Gambling Awareness Speakers Bureau, North East Primary Care Partnership.ReSPIN Gambling Awareness Speakers Bureau is a prevention project funded by the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation and run through the North East Primary Care Partnership. The project recruits and trains volunteers who have experienced gambling harm to share their lived experience through personal stories to community and professional audiences.

It is estimated that harm from gambling affects more than a million Victorians. Stigma associated with problem gambling acts as a major impediment to early help seeking and discussion of gambling issues within the community, and evidence reveals a strong need for innovative prevention approaches.

Each ReSPIN volunteer speaker commits about four hours a month to prepare and deliver talks. The focus of their work is on community education, and the narratives they share in their presentations work on many levels. In the past year they have given more than 55 presentations at more than 50 events.

ReSPIN volunteers have overcome the stigma and difficulty attached to their own gambling and recovery. They make a deliberate decision to reach out to others in order to prevent similar harm, and aid help seeking in others whom may be affected. This takes great commitment and bravery.

Outstanding achievement by a volunteer: improving the patient experience

Valerie and Peter Simpson, Melbourne Health

Valerie and Peter Simpson, Melbourne Health. Valerie and Peter Simpson are helping Melbourne Health move towards a truly person-centred model of care. Valerie's chronic condition has meant that she has spent many months receiving care as an inpatient and outpatient.

Despite these challenges Valerie and her husband Peter have committed to volunteering as consumer representatives for the Royal Melbourne Hospital in many capacities. Recently Valerie was filmed speaking with the executive director of nursing about her experience for inclusion in a person-centred care e-learning package, which is now mandatory for all Melbourne Health staff.

Valerie and Peter's respectful and strong advocacy for continual improvement and the need to keep the patient experience central in decision making has helped to bring about changes in how the hospital provides services in many ways - particularly in the intensive care unit. Perhaps more importantly they have had a significant impact on the willingness to genuinely put patients at the heart of care at Melbourne Health. Melbourne Health says they are truly indebted to the commitment and care shown by Valerie, Peter and the other consumer representatives who volunteer their time in these challenging and often under-recognised roles to improve the patient experience.

Sunraysia Information & Referral Service Inc. team

The Sunraysia Information & Referral Service Inc. (SIRS) team. Sunraysia Information & Referral Service Inc. (SIRS) is a non-profit organisation run solely by volunteers. It began operation in 1972 and started helping patients with travel arrangements in 1999. SIRS volunteers strive to assist the most vulnerable in the community who are suffering an illness that cannot be treated locally.

Over the past 17 years, SIRS volunteers have helped more than 8,200 patients to travel from the Sunraysia district to Melbourne, Adelaide and country towns in between for medical appointments when specialists are not available locally. Each volunteer mans the office for two three-hour shifts every week, completing administration duties, helping with questions about accommodation choices and travel details and liaising with travel agents to make appropriate arrangements for patients to get to their appointments.

When patients first come to SIRS, many are stressed about their illness. They are worried about how they will get to their specialist appointments and how they will cover the cost of the travel and accommodation. It is then that the SIRS volunteers provide not only administrative assistance but emotional support. Feedback from local doctors suggests that without SIRS's help and support, some patients simply would not go to appointments in capital cities.

The Royal Children's Hospital emergency department team

The Royal Children’s Hospital emergency department team.The Royal Children's Hospital has been providing great care for Victoria's children and their families for more than 140 years. The staff, patients and families within the emergency department (ED) are supported by a team of 61 volunteers on a fortnightly roster. This volunteer team provides assistance in the ED from 3 pm to midnight on weekdays, and from 9 am to midnight on weekends.

Aged from 18 to 80 years and consisting of men and women from a range of cultural groups, many ED volunteers are in full-time employment or tertiary study. The total combined years of service accrued by this team is over a century.

The Royal Children's Hospital volunteers routinely go above and beyond in their family support roles. While they do not save lives in a literal sense, their unpaid work ensures the social and emotional needs of patients, families and staff are met. In a single shift, a volunteer might soothe an anxious father, sit silently with a parent who has received an unexpected diagnosis for their child, or distract siblings while their parents maintain a bedside vigil. These may seem small acts in isolation, but they mean so much to fearful families during an intensely stressful time.

Karingal Hub Walking Group, Peninsula Health​

The Karingal Hub Walking Group, Peninsula Health.The Karingal Hub Walking Group volunteers host four walks a week around the Karingal Hub Shopping Centre, benefitting a large number of participants from Karingal, Langwarrin, Carrum Downs, Seaford, Cranbourne, Baxter, Somerville and Mornington. The walks are now in their 16th year, and many of the current volunteers participated in the very first walk.

A group leader provides warm-up and cool-down exercises, and 10 volunteers provide the practical, motivational and emotional support that make this group such a success. Between 90 and 120 people participate in each session. People from all walks of life and ages participate - some with walking frames and others with prams.

Every new member is made to feel welcome and is assigned a buddy to help them settle into the group. The volunteers provide wonderful practical support by setting up registration tables, registering new walkers and keeping records for each participant. Birthdays and special occasions are acknowledged, and walkers are contacted when they are unwell. Carpooling is organised when transport is an issue, and each walk is followed by a cuppa in the food court, with volunteers making sure everyone is invited and included. Such dedication to their volunteer role and to the community is inspiring.

Outstanding achievement by a volunteer: improving public healthcare

Dr Brian McGuinness, North Richmond Community Health

Dr Brian McGuinness, North Richmond Community HealthAfter 25 years as an orthodontist Dr Brian McGuinness now volunteers his time and expertise at the North Richmond Community Health (NRCH) Oral Health Program. Since April 2014, Brian has volunteered for three hours, four times a month.

NRCH provides health and social support to marginalised communities, primarily to those living in the Richmond High Rise Housing Estate, including people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds and refugees and asylum seekers. The NRCH outreach dental program also provides preventive care to Aboriginal people living in Robinvale.

Oral disease disproportionately affects those people living in disadvantage, and badly positioned teeth can cause functional and psychological problems that would require private specialist care that many of the residents would never be able to afford. Brian soon recognised this and doubled his sessions, recruited another volunteer specialist, and encouraged suppliers to support his volunteer work.

Not only has Brian's volunteering helped to address inequity in oral health, through his involvement, NRCH has entered into a partnership with Melbourne Indigenous Transition School that will enable 22 remote Aboriginal children to receive ongoing oral and general healthcare. Without Brian's commitment to improving public health, many people would go without access to orthodontic care.

Chinese Peer Support Program, EACH Social & Community Health

The Chinese Peer Support Program team, from EACH Social & Community Health.The Chinese Peer Support Program supports members of the Chinese community and their families who are dealing with problem gambling. The service provides telephone support staffed by Chinese-speaking volunteers who have lived experience with problem gambling.

The program began as a pilot program in May 2009 and has grown to a group of 15 volunteers providing an average of four hours of their time each week. The majority of the volunteers have been with the program for four or more years. Although they primarily cater for the Melbourne community, the program's support stretches to interstate, with the volunteers going the extra mile to follow up and support people with referrals onto appropriate service in their area.

It took some time for the program to gain traction in a community that did not want to talk about gambling problems; however, 12 months ago the Chinese community was invited to take part in Responsible Gambling Awareness Week. To the program's delight more than 300 Chinese people from the community attended. Without the support of the Chinese Peer Support Program, the Chinese community would not have the much-needed support from this wonderful program that provides hope and encouragement to all those who experience gambling-related harm.

Outstanding achievement by a volunteer: supporting diversity

Edie Mayhew and Anne Tudor, Alzheimer's Australia Vic

Edie Mayhew and Anne Tudor, Alzheimer’s Australia Vic.Ballarat residents Edie Mayhew and Anne Tudor are tireless advocates for people with younger onset dementia, a form of dementia that presents before the age of 65. Edie was diagnosed with this progressively debilitating disease five years ago at the age of 59. She is cared for by Anne, her partner of 31 years. On receiving a diagnosis the couple became involved with Alzheimer's Australia Vic - the charity and peak body representing Victorians with all forms of dementia.

There has traditionally been a lack of programs and acceptance of the diverse needs of people living with dementia - particularly members of the LGBTI community. Edie and Anne provide a voice for both groups. Edie and Anne are dedicated members of the Alzheimer's Australia Vic Younger Onset Dementia Reference Group and Alzheimer's Australia National Dementia Advisory Group, where they provide feedback on programs and resources, present at conferences and use other forums to share their story.

Edie and Anne have travelled the country and the world contributing to a widespread conversation that will help Australians better understand what a diagnosis of dementia actually means. Their contribution in reducing the stigma will no doubt see an improvement in the quality of life of all people living with dementia.

Judith Jackson (Aunty Jacko) - Gunggari Elder, Inner South Community Health

Judith Jackson (Aunty Jacko), Inner South Community Health.Aunty Jacko is a well-respected Aboriginal Elder who has been looking after people for more than 40 years in Port Melbourne, St Kilda, South Melbourne and Prahran. Volunteering for Inner South Community Health (ISCH) since 2002, her role involves team leadership and mentoring to ensure a dedicated culturally safe space is provided to community members.

Aunty Jacko's most treasured role in the community is that of 'Aunty' to everyone, which she says is a very important honour. She loves and cares for everyone who seeks her out, providing a friendly non-judgmental ear, a shoulder to cry on and inspiration to others.

Aunty Jacko has contributed immeasurably to the growth of Indigenous access health services at ISCH and increased the ability of many of its services to respond appropriately and effectively to the Indigenous community. She helped initiate the Wominjeka BBQ for the local Aboriginal homeless community at the Veg Out Community Gardens in St Kilda and at Our Rainbow Place at Mitford Street St Kilda, which have helped build community capacity and connectedness for more than 10 years.

Without Aunty Jacko ISCH would not have been able to connect so successfully with so many members of the local Aboriginal community.

DanceWize, Harm Reduction Victoria

The DanceWize team, from Harm Reduction Victoria.DanceWize is a program that performs specialised drug and alcohol, holistic welfare and crowd care outreach at music events and festivals across Victoria. DanceWize volunteers, known as key peer educators, host the DanceWize 'chill space' and provide non-judgmental care, support and advocacy for people experiencing distress, particularly due to intoxication. They also provide on-the-spot health promotion and harm reduction education. DanceWize supports diversity by providing tailored services for the LGBTI community, young people and those living in regional Victoria.

DanceWize is the only program of its kind in Australia. In 2014-15, 65 DanceWize volunteers provided the program's services at 16 Victorian music events and festivals. With an average of six hours per shift, the DanceWize team volunteered a massive 2,328 hours. The key peer educators have established credibility within the communities they service, which are frequently exposed to marginalisation and have a reluctance to seek preventative health interventions.

The program uses a 'peer model' to deliver its health promotion and harm reduction services. This allows the DanceWize program to be free from the stigmatisation and discrimination often associated with getting support for substance misuse. Through its chill space and the development of resources, DanceWize promotes positive behavioural change to reduce all kinds of drug-related harm.


We thank and congratulate all the nominees and outstanding achievement awardees for the 2016 Minister for Health Volunteer Awards.